Hilton to open another Melbourne hotel
Hilton Hotels is accelerating its plans to grow in Australia, saying it is poised to make a major announcement in Melbourne as part of its program to double its existing operations of 23 Australian properties within five years.
“We are reformatting the Australian business for new opportunities for growth as I am also doing in various markets in Asia- Pacific,” Hilton Asia Pacific president Alan Watts told The Australian.
“The Hilton spotlight is turned very much on the Asia-Pacific markets, with my joining of the business I have a strong mandate to accelerate growth,” the Singapore-based Watts says, adding he has appointed a full-time Sydney-based operations manager in Heidi Kunkel to grow the Hilton business.
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Hilton Hotels has 200 trading hotels across Asia-Pacific and more than 400 hotels under development. “One in every four hotels under construction in the Asia-Pacific region is a Hilton hotel … in China it is one in every three hotels,” Watts says.
Hilton is eyeing Australia for more opportunities in Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra.
“We believe the cycle has begun to change. We have not seen a lot of new build construction in this market in the past five to seven years,” Watts says.
I do think Sydney is a place where we could launch luxury and bring the Conrad brand and there’s opportunities to bring a Double Tree to Brisbane
“There’s a combination of improving occupancy and yields and the attraction of some of the (high) transaction prices that hotels have sold for. We are seeing more appetite, we are reweighting the leadership team to catch the current market, we are capitalising on the opportunities.”
The world’s second-largest hotel company says it is not trying to compete with French giant Accor, which recently snapped up Mantra in a $1.4 billion deal in Australia, saying it has expanded during its 100 years of operation through ‘‘high-quality organic growth that sees us with balance sheet strength’’.
While it is poised to announce a new hotel in Melbourne, Watts says there are also opportunities in Canberra and Sydney.
“I do think Sydney is a place where we could launch luxury and bring the Conrad brand and there’s opportunities to bring a Double Tree to Brisbane. Generally we deploy a Hilton to a city and then we go above or below it with a Conrad or a Double Tree. To me the only aspiration for a Conrad is Sydney and you could also argue Auckland.”
But he does not think Sydney could command the rates required for a Waldorf Astoria, Hilton’s top brand.
Watts says Canberra needs a Hilton and while there are Hilton Hotels in Brisbane and the Gold Coast, both markets needed a Double Tree, which is a mid-scale brand that competes with Holiday Inn.
“There is enough supply coming into Brisbane. I would not put a Conrad in there (as) I would worry about rates,’’ he said.
We believe the cycle has begun to change. We have not seen a lot of new build construction in this market in the past five to seven years
“There’s opportunities to bring a Double Tree to Brisbane.”
Watts predicts there will be much rebranding of hotels in the Australian market, adding that Hilton is purely a hotel management company. Its last Australian-owned asset was the Sydney Hilton, which it developed and sold several years ago.
He says Hilton will not venture into the islands off Queensland because it is cheaper for Australian leisure tourists to fly to Bali, Koh Samui or Phuket.
Watts says Asian tourists will not venture to Australia’s islands because of their strong demand for shopping when holidaying.
This article originally appeared on www.theaustralian.com.au/property.