14 April 2015 – Expansión
Growth / The US hotel giant, which is the second largest chain in the world, operates eleven hotels in Spain and is now backing its own growth in Madrid, Barcelona and Sevilla.
Hilton is redoubling its commitment to Spain. The US hotel giant, which is the second largest chain in the world by size (with 4,115 properties and 678,630 rooms at the end of 2013, according to the ranking published by Hotels magazine) manages nine hotels in Spain (66% through franchise agreements).
In addition, Hilton owns two other hotels, which are due to be incorporated into its network imminently, including the Reserva del Higuerón complex (in Málaga). Hilton will take over the reins there this summer and will thereby return to the Costa del Sol after (an absence of) more than 40 years.
“Our model is based on management; investment is undertaken by a partner, and it has been difficult to finance projects in Spain in recent years, but now the market is starting to open up and we have always been very interested in it”, says Simon Vincent, President of Hilton in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and a member of the chain’s Board of Directors.
“The market in Spain is very fragmented, but we believe that opportunities exist for refurbish existing hotels and incorporating them into our network; furthermore prices are beginning to recover”, he adds.
In terms of the numbers, Vincent’s objectives are clear: “Doubling our size in Spain in two or three years would not be unreasonable, since that is what we have done in Turkey”. In Europe alone, Hilton operates 353 establishments and will incorporate a further 447 hotels (into its network) over the next three years. Barcelona and Sevilla are both on its priority list, but its primary focus in Spain will be on Madrid. “We were the first international brand (in Madrid), when we opened the Madrid Castellana Hilton in 1953 (today the Intercontinental) and the capital city is a high priority for the group and all of its brands”, he says.
At this stage, a priori, Hilton has ruled out forming an alliance with a local partner to accelerate its growth, like Marriott did with AC Hoteles in 2010.
Vincent is very familiar with the travel sector; he has two decades of experience working for groups such as Opodo – today part of the eDreams Odigeo group – and Thomas Cook. He considers that if Spain lacks a large hotel group of its own, then “that is because the market is regional with strong (local) brands, which is precisely one of its strengths”. Nevertheless, “over time, there will be consolidation in the industry and the tour operators will want to participate and control the experience they offer their customers”.
In terms of the emergence of Socimis (Sociedades Anónimas Cotizadas de Inversión Inmobiliaria or Listed Real Estate Investment Companies), which are similar to REITs in the USA, the executive belives that “they may help to professionalise the sector, because that is how the funds that invest in hotels work”.
In his opinion, “the key (to success) in the hotel sector is size at the global level. For Hilton, the most important objective is not to have a presence in as many countries as possible, but rather to bring the greatest number of customers as possible to those countries through our (its own) system”. This is demonstrated by its loyalty program, which has more than 40 million users.
With 12 brands, Vincent argues that Hilton’s success is “based on our ability to convert revenues into profitability and growth, because our brands are in very high demand”. Thus, 19% of the hotels that the chain will open around the world over the next few years will bear one of the Hilton’s own brands. Nevertheless, the door is open to new brands as well. “We think that there is still space (in the market)”.
Over the medium term, Hilton’s route map includes increasing its scale and enhancing its geographical diversification and the appeal of its brands, as well as promoting the digitalisation of its content, and expanding its distribution channels.
Hilton recorded revenues of (US)$10,502 million and profits of (US)$673 million in 2014 and predicts further growth again this year, both at the operational level, as well as in terms of its share price, which is currently trading at $30.38/share. According to Vincent, “we are very happy with our IPO, the foundations of our business are solid and the market acknowledges that”.
Original story: Expansión (by Yovanna Blanco)
Translation: Carmel Drake