Hilton Worldwide’s strategic approach towards its luxury brands – exclusive interview

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed exclusively Mr John T. A. Vanderslice, Global Head of Luxury & Lifestyle Brands of Hilton Worldwide.

How would you define the DNA of each of your luxury brands? (Waldorf Astoria & Conrad)

From classic elegance to modern grandeur, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts focuses on landmark hotels designed for wealthy customers who want to feel rich in life with memorable, authentic, and exclusive travel experiences. From rejuvenating spas and culinary excellence to world-class golf, each property offers the exquisite accommodations and signature accoutrements that embody refinement and sophistication. The brand’s DNA is embodied by its True Waldorf Service, inspirational environments, and authentic moments that make each guest’s stay unforgettable.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts is the destination for the new generation of smart luxury travelers, for whom life, business, and pleasure seamlessly intersect. Conrad offers its guests an innovative way to Stay Inspired through a curated collection of 1, 3, or 5 hour experiences, available through www.StayInspired.com or through the intuitive Conrad Concierge mobile app. A global luxury brand consisting of 26 properties across five continents, Conrad Hotels & Resorts connects guests to people and places around the corner or halfway around the world. The brand’s DNA is embodied by its intuitive service, infinite connections and a world of style that provides discerning guests with an opportunity to immerse themselves in the local destination.

To what extent do your brands relate to luxury lifestyle?

For 96 years, Hilton Worldwide has been dedicated to continuing its tradition of providing exceptional guest experiences. Highlighted in the company’s portfolio of 13 world-class global brands, Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels continue to offer guests unforgettable and inspired guest services that tailor to the luxury consumer. These touchpoints allow guests to partake in experiential travel experiences beyond the hotels’ high service standards to position the brands as leaders in the luxury industry.

How do you ensure consistency from property to property, both in terms of service and product?

Hilton Worldwide prides itself on having the closest working relationships with our ownership groups. Through these relationships, each property can develop meaningful hotel programming, set high standards in guest service training and carefully select brand elements that make sense for each individual hotel to truly embody the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands.

Has brand loyalty changed nowadays in luxury hospitality?

Now more than ever we see the luxury traveler set expecting new experiences from the hotel brands they are accustomed to. Our luxury brands create impactful programs year after year to engage with both loyal and new customers and we continue to see a positive response from travelers who book these packages. Additionally, Hilton Worldwide offers a portfolio of brands that appeals to every type of traveler and vacation. Hilton guests can easily translate between brands with the backing of Hilton Worldwide’s exceptional service depending on the type of vacation, who they’re traveling with and what milestone they’re celebrating. And there’s the added benefit of our Hilton Honors program, offering free nights and exclusive benefits at Hilton Worldwide hotels to unforgettable adventures across the globe. With HHonors, guests can achieve elite status faster than with any other guest loyalty program, so whether it’s a brand loyalist or someone who wants to try various Hilton hotels, Hilton Worldwide offer one of the best loyalty programs in the business.

How would you differentiate between the consumer profile of the two brands?

Waldorf Astoria guests are filled with the excitement of being in the world’s most magical locations. They are seeking rejuvenating spas, culinary excellence, world-class golf, and the exquisite accommodations and signature accoutrements that embody refinement and sophistication. Waldorf Astoria is the new destination for discerning travelers as while these guests still want to relax and indulge, they have become very sensitive to authenticity.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts cater to guests who seek to travel to gateway cities and the most desirable leisure destinations are the world. Conrad Hotels & Resorts places a precedent on offering outstanding service that is uniquely tailored to each customer. From the Conrad Concierge mobile app to the culture of curators, the Conrad brand provides flawless and discreet personalized service this is accessible at guests’ fingertips. Each hotel connects guests to the destination by granting access to local, cultural experiences and offering luxurious environments conducive to connecting with others.

What are the competitive advantages of Waldorf Astoria and Conrad as hotel operators?

As leaders in the luxury service platform, Waldorf Astoria and Conrad hotels offer guests the utmost in service. From high-touch service at Waldorf Astoria properties where guests experience True Waldorf Service, to high-tech offerings at Conrad Hotels & Resorts where the service culture is embraced by the Conrad Concierge mobile app, each hotel brand offers a competitive edge to other luxury hospitality services.

Which are the most successful regions for each of the two brands?

For Conrad, Asia is the most successful region with 16 properties and a 17th opening in the near future. As for Waldorf Astoria, the most successful region is North America, with 14 properties and a 15th opening next June.

What type of locations are you targeting for future developments for both brands? Any specific geographical areas?

Both Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties are located in iconic landmarks and sought-after destinations. Our pipelines reflect our development strategy, to attract discerning and smart luxury travelers to the world’s most desired locations.

Which are your top consumer nationalities? Have you noticed a particular increase or slowdown from certain regions in the past years?

While we have seen a recent influx in luxury travelers from China and Dubai, each individual hotel property attracts luxury sets from a variety of different markets. While Brazil may be a top luxury market for our southern Florida properties, the same competitive set would differ for our New York properties.

How has the internet influenced your marketing & sales strategy?

For luxury brands, online marketing is just as important as offline messaging as high-net worth individuals continue to trust online sources and use their digital devices more than ever. With each brand campaign, we employ a 360-degree marketing strategy so guests can easily transfer what they’re experiencing on-property to online or to their smart phones. For example, guests staying at Conrad Algarve can spend an afternoon on the beach with Portuguese water dogs followed by easily accessing itinerary options for that evening at www.Stayinspired.com. Likewise, guests can sit behind the wheel of the newest Automobili Lamborghini supercar model and later book their next trip to one of the Waldorf Astoria Driving Experiences locations, listed at www.waldorfastoria.com/drivingexperiences.

Which are the highlight new openings of 2016?

In seven short years since its inception, the Waldorf Astoria brand has experienced unprecedented growth to 27 distinctive hotels and resorts in some of the world’s most sought-after destinations. In the coming years, the brand will add nine properties in iconic locations including Doha, Bangkok, Beverly Hills, Bali, and more. In 2016, the brand will be introduced to Chengdu, China.

Conrad hotels span the globe with 26 properties in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East/Africa. As Conrad grows, the brand is committed to a presence in the most desirable business and leisure destinations around the world. In the coming years, the brand will add 23 new hotels and resorts in unique locations including Chicago, Xiamen, San Luis Potosi and more. In 2016 alone, Conrad has already opened properties in Manila, Makkah, and Pune.

John T. A. Vanderslice, Global Head of Luxury & Lifestyle Brands of Hilton Worldwide