The Hilton group is in discussions with potential partners to bring its luxury brand, Waldorf Astoria, to India, Daniel Welk, VP, operations, luxury Asia Pacific, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels and Resorts, said.
India is now ready to have a luxury brand like Waldorf Astoria and Welk sees potential for the brand in Delhi and Mumbai. They understand luxury and opulence, Welk said. He said the company is in conversation with investors, but a Waldorf Astoria property cannot just be an investment strategy as it is an iconic brand and owners have to be committed to luxury.
Another Hilton brand heading to India will be the Hilton Curio – A Collection by Hilton brand, he said. This allows property owners to retain their name and essence with Hilton management at the back-end. This would work for many of the palaces being converted into hotels, he said.
After opening its first Conrad property in India at Pune, another Hilton will take this luxury brand to Bengaluru. The second Conrad hotel in India is set to open in Bengaluru in December. Hilton Garden Inn Lucknow is also set to open by this year.
The hotel business has started looking up in India with demand consistently beginning to outstrip supply, Welk said. The hotel industry is moving into a solid period for the next couple of years and the growth has been on a larger base, he said. Rise in domestic tourism, ease of getting visas for foreign travellers and business travel by MNCs into India were among reasons for the growth, he said. There are 18 hotels with 3,300 rooms in the pipeline in India, Welk said.
Globally, Hilton has a portfolio of 14 brands across different market segments. Five of these brands – Conrad, Hilton, DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton – are present in India with 15 hotels and 2,400 rooms across 11 cities. “India is a key market and we are strategically investing in infrastructure, people and operations,” he said.
The company is running a programme in India where management trainees are getting to work across different properties in south-east Asia.