Hilton notebook: Curio, all-suites brands show growth
Hilton notebook: Curio, all-suites brands show growth
14 FEBRUARY 2019 10:06 AM

This series of Hilton brand updates from the recent Americas Lodging Investment Summit includes news about Curio Collection, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites.

LOS ANGELES—Hotel News Now caught up with leaders of several Hilton brands during a break at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit. Following are updates for Curio Collection by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton.

Curio Collection and Virgin Hotels
During Hilton’s 100th year, Curio Collection by Hilton will celebrate its fifth year this June. To kick off this milestone year, the collection brand announced its biggest hotel to date: the Virgin Hotels Las Vegas, Curio Collection by Hilton.

“It’s the brand’s biggest hotel yet,” said Mark Nogal, global head of Curio Collection by Hilton. “We’re entering a market that is really important to be in to help expose (the brand) and (with) a unique deal as well.”

Hilton partnered with Juniper Capital Partners on this deal. Juniper was repositioning the hotel from the Hard Rock Hotels brand into Virgin Hotels as operator when Hilton, with its reservation engine, attracted the company to create a different kind of deal.

Juniper was looking to become part of something that could help fill the property’s 1,500-plus guestrooms and more than 110,000-square feet of meeting and event space, Nogal said. Although the hotel is not directly on the Las Vegas Strip, it’s the closest big property to the airport, he said.

The hotel will close for a few months for significant renovations and should reopen in mid-2020, he said.

Nogal said that from Hilton’s standpoint, adding unique hotels to the collection is important.

In addition, having representation in Las Vegas helps meet demand from Hilton’s loyalty members, as that program continues to grow, he said. Hilton has the Tropicana as a DoubleTree and recently introduced the Waldorf Astoria brand to the market along with other select-service brands in the area, but this is a first for Curio.

“Being in Vegas will help us from an exposure standpoint,” he said. “It will help travelers have a unique experience when they’re in Vegas. It’s a great time for us to be signing this.”

Curio has a number of other properties in the works. Its last opening of 2018 was its first in Austria, the Grand Tirolia Hotel Kitzbühel. In early February, the company opened Baker’s Cay Resort Key Largo in Florida.

Excluding the new Vegas property, the smallest property in the Curio portfolio is the 32-room Madison Beach Hotel in Connecticut, and largest is the 1,000-room Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood in Florida.

At the time of this interview at ALIS, the collection was approaching its 70th opening, and is on pace to open 20 to 25 hotels this year, Nogal said. The collection will likely cross the 100-hotel mark in 2020, he said.

The brand is currently in 23 countries and has a growing international footprint, including multiple hotels in the United Kingdom and Italy. In 2018, Curio opened its second property in China, the Joyze Hotel Xiamen, as well as its Kyukaruizawa Kikyo hotel outside of Tokyo and the West Hotel Sydney in Australia.

Embassy Suites

The first Embassy Suites in midtown Manhattan opened in January 2018. The 310-room hotel was developed by Buccini/Pollin Group and Hidrock Properties. (Photo: Hilton)

Eleven Embassy Suites hotels opened in 2018, including a couple “key openings” for the brand, according to Alan Roberts, VP and global head of Embassy Suites.

The 310-room Embassy Suites by Hilton New York Midtown Manhattan opened in January, developed by Buccini/Pollin Group and Hidrock Properties. In March, the 282-room Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square, owned by American Life, opened.

It’s not all urban for Embassy Suites, Roberts said. Resort properties are in the mix, too. In December, the company’s Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Beach Oceanfront Resort opened in Florida.

The brand also is at the halfway point of its Atrium Refresh renovation program, and last year rebooted its evening reception and launched a new food-and-beverage program.

As of the end of 2018, the brand had 253 hotels and 58,858 guestrooms open. The brand signed 13 new deals in 2018, and its pipeline as of January was 46 hotels, Roberts said.

In addition to developing in the U.S., the brand is looking at several other regions, he said.

“I want to focus on the Caribbean and Latin America,” he said, citing projects in the Caribbean and Colombia, and a desire to “get back into Mexico.” The Middle East is another focus area, he said. Plans call for an Embassy Suites to open in Qatar before the 2022 FIFA World Cup, as well as deals in place in Saudi Arabia and Dubai.

“There’s an appetite for upscale all-suites,” he said. “That to me is a foothold into other markets that could expand into Asia and maybe Europe.”

Homewood Suites

The dual-branded Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn Monterrey Apodaca opened last year, representing Hilton’s second dual-brand hotel in Mexico. (Photo: Hilton)

The November opening of the Homewood Suites by Hilton Pleasant Hill Concord, in Pleasant Hill, California, marked the 1,000th opening for Hilton’s portfolio of all-suites brands, which includes Homewood, Embassy Suites and Home2.

Rick Colling, global head of Homewood Suites, said the opening came at the right time for the brand, which enjoyed “a nice trajectory of growth in California.”

As of the end of 2018, the brand had 482 hotels and 54,836 guestrooms open, which capped off a year of highlights for Homewood, Colling said.

In December, Homewood opened a dual-branded property with a Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Ottawa, Ontario. June marked the opening of Hilton’s second dual-branded property in Mexico, a combination Homewood Suites and Hampton Inn in Monterrey.

“It’s an absolutely gorgeous product, highlighting the next prototype,” Colling said.

On the renovations front, the brand executed 67 of its “Take Flight” renovations in 2018, and Colling said he expects all to finish in 2019.

In addition to more openings and signings, the brand will undergo “a lot of research,” on everything from F&B to operations, he said. He cited the brand’s “exceptional (key performance indicators)” and said “it couldn’t be a better time to evaluate the opportunities and challenges here.”

“We’ll be looking at the financial model behind Homewood,” he said. “We’re looking at costs associated to build … and we’re looking at the operational efficiencies.”

Overseas, Colling said the company is doing due diligence on expanding Homewood and/or Home2 into the EMEA region.

“We have to make sure the infrastructure is in place,” he said. “You can’t just implant a brand. I think it will be a challenge, but we’re looking into it.”

Home2 Suites

A Home2 Suites is part of Hilton’s first tri-branded property, which opened in 2018 at Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center, shown here in a rendering. (Rendering: Hilton)

As the youngest Hilton all-suites brand, the 7-year-old Home2 Suites hit some major milestones in 2018, according to global brand head Adrian Kurre.

One was Hilton’s first tri-branded property, a combined Home2 Suites, Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn, connected to Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center and developed by First Hospitality Group.

The Home2 extended-stay product is a big part of Hilton’s dual- and tri-branding strategy, said Dianna Vaughan, global head and SVP of Hilton’s all-suites brands.

“We have 50 (dual-brand) hotels open (as of January) and one tri, and another 100 in the pipeline; this is something we’re very focused on,” she said. “The Home2 and Tru combination is the most popular, and 10 percent of the entire (Hilton) pipeline is dual-brand.”

Modular construction is another focus for Home2, Kurre said. In June, the company began construction on the Home2 Suites by Hilton San Francisco Airport North, which is slated to open this year.

“We’re embarking on the process to see how to help others down that (modular construction) road, and see what we can do to add expertise so it’s easier for our owners to do it,” he said.

As of the end of 2018, the brand had 290 hotels and 30,125 guestrooms open, and Kurre said expansion is happening at a fast clip.

“We have tremendous opportunity in North America, and I’m not going to take my eye off North America,” but he still sees potential for international expansion in the future, he said.

Renovations are another priority for Kurre.

“I need to take a brand that’s 7 years old and understand the nuances of the renovation process,” he said. “We’ve implemented a renovation program—I’ll have the first six Home2 hotels that are now 7 years old going through this renovation cycle in 2019, another 10 to 12 in 2020, then 40 in 2022 and so on.”

Revamping Home2’s breakfast is another priority for Kurre, but as with all initiatives the all-suites brands go through, it’s important to everyone that each brand stays within its differentiated swim lanes.

“We’ll revamp our breakfast, but it’s not going to infringe on what Embassy and Homewood do,” he said. “I can revamp my breakfast and increase scores without doing that, because we talk to each other all the time.”

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