Hilton continues its dominion — more hotels and brands by 2021

The Hilton group will be introducing Conrad Hotels and Resorts, Canopy by Hilton and Curio Collection by Hilton

By LYDIA NATHAN / Pic By www3.hilton.com

THE Hilton Hotels & Resorts group is pulling out all the stops for its expansion plan in Malaysia, with three new brands expected to be introduced between now and the end of 2021.

The group’s regional GM Jamie Mead said the last three years were eventful as the group expanded from five to 11 hotels, while the 12th outlet would be launched very soon.

In Malaysia, there is a strong recognition of the brands and good geographical locations of the hotels, Mead says

Hilton currently has properties across three brands which are Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn and are located in Kuala Lumpur (KL), Sabah, Penang, Johor and Melaka.

“The expansion has been very rapid. The group’s plans are all under way and we will be introducing Conrad Hotels and Resorts, Canopy by Hilton and Curio Collection by Hilton,” he told The Malaysian Reserve in an interview recently.

Mead said Conrad will be launched via Conrad KL, which is expected to offer 544 rooms with an all-day dining restaurant, two specialty restaurants and a bar.

The group recently signed an agreement on Oct 1, 2019, with Permodalan Nasional Bhd which would pave the way for the hotel’s opening.

Mead said Canopy will be located in the vibrant area of Bukit Bintang in KL while Curio is an upscale hotel brand within the Hilton Worldwide portfolio.

“Canopy is a lifestyle luxury brand and will be the first of its brands to enter the South-East Asian market, so we are very excited about that,” he said. According to Mead, the robust expansion within the group is propelled by the performance of its existing hotels as well as future opportunities that look pretty good.

“We have a very concentrated business in terms of our hotels. In Malaysia, there is a strong recognition of the brands and good geographical locations of the hotels,” Mead said.

At its core, the group presents a beacon for today’s modern global travellers, transforming its properties into a leader in hospitality and service.

Mead said all hotels within the group across Malaysia may come in different formats but each will still have the unique elements that guests would identify with in line with the rest of the Hilton brand hotels.

“The aim is to be consistent in providing high levels of products and services to all our guests because the brand of hospitality is the same globally.

“This would include both the Hilton KL and Hilton Petaling Jaya (PJ). Both are doing very well and have strong occupancies but the business mix is vastly different and is driven totally by location,” he said.

Hilton PJ
Mead said Hilton PJ is testament to the group’s commitment, having been around for many decades as the longest managed Hilton property in Malaysia.

Hilton currently has properties across 3 brands which are Hilton Hotels & Resorts, DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn

The landmark hotel in PJ was initially known as Jaya Puri Hotel. Hilton took over the property in 1982. It was later closed for a RM40 million renovation project, and reopened in 1984 as Hilton PJ.

“It has a strong affinity with people who live in Selangor because it is a good fit for the environment. The hotel trades extremely well,” Mead said.

The hotel does see a lot of domestic and international leisure travellers, particularly from China, Australia and the South-East Asian region.

Mead said a big part of Hilton PJ’s success is from its emphasis on genuine hospitality and service.

“Our aim is to deliver a brand of hospitality that is welcoming and comforting so that our guests will feel recognised and be familiar to the brand even if it’s in a different location. We don’t want it to be austere or cold,” he said.

The hotel has five food and beverage (F&B) outlets which include Paya Serai, a well-established all-day dining restaurant which is also particularly famous for its Ramadan buffet.

“Japanese restaurant Genji is very popular for its buffet dinners as well as our Chinese Restaurant Toh Yuen for functions and birthdays. Caffe Cino has light snacks and great coffee while Uncle Chilli’s draws a music-loving relaxed crowd especially on the weekends,” Mead added.

Hilton KL
Meanwhile, Mead said Hilton KL is more of a landmark property, which is like a secondary downtown hotel that also operates as a “transit hub”.

Hilton PJ’s Japanese restaurant Genji is very popular for its buffet dinners

The hotel, previously located in Jalan Sultan Ismail, is the first five-star hotel to open in KL.

Many legends have stayed there including Margaret Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.

The hotel consists of 38 floors and has 501 rooms including the presidential suite, penthouse and other types of suites.

Mead said during the development process, the interior designers did an amazing job at creating bespoke experiences overall, from junior suites to the penthouse.

“For instance, the presidential suite is very spacious and unlike any other suites with amazing views. It almost feels like a home.”

“Many suites are duplexes with interior staircases and separate living spaces from the bedrooms for guests. It is all very well-designed,” Mead said.

He said adding a local touch is of utmost importance, which is aimed at connecting with the locals while providing a sense of place.

“We put in a lot of local artworks all around the hotel, like the sculpture in the main lobby and the large original artwork of KL city on the fifth floor. The guest rooms all have commissioned batik art inside,” he said.

Additionally, the banquet facilities are about to embark on a complete renovation.

“We will be launching possibly the most gorgeous ballroom in KL next year,” Mead said.

Vasco’s at Hilton KL offers a European buffet dining

He added that Hilton KL caters to all kinds of travellers in line with the core elements of the brand.

“It’s been a really unique hotel because of its full-service offerings. It combines many functions. It’s a business hotel and an airport hotel but also a resort in many ways.

“The railway link is only 28 minutes away from the airport which makes it incredibly convenient,” he said.

He added that the Hilton in Kuching, Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu, Sabah are quite similar in terms of character.

Hilton KL, however, has more independent travellers coming through, with a high proportion of corporate, international and domestic business travellers.

Some of its busiest times are on weekends and public holidays.

Hilton KL offers 11 F&B outlets, which make the property very much a dining venue which has also won many awards.

“It was in the initial brief from the start. Since the hotel is a landmark and destination venue, we knew that food would be a critical part of the local culture so we needed to have destination restaurants too.

“We are very proud to have the number one Japanese restaurant in KL, Iketeru, and our European buffet dining at Vasco’s,” Mead said.

Home-sharing Platforms
Mead said each Hilton hotel in the country has a clear distinction zone, which is always in a prime location.

“We see our competitors in the immediate vicinity as more of complementary than anything else because the hotels are actually very different from each other and trade in different segments of the market,” he said.

Mead said Hilton is a good, solid product while other hotels within the area may appeal to a different variety of customers. He said the hotels balance out each other in a good fit.

As for short-term stay platforms, Mead does not view them as rivals. Instead, the mode is a variation of what a guest might prefer.

“A hotel and home-sharing platform serve a different purpose and experience. Hotels provide a level of hospitality with support. For instance, a guest needs help booking a taxi or, perhaps, assistance with the wireless connection. I believe the hotel lines are definitely sustainable,” Mead said.

Future Plans
Mead said the group’s upcoming outlets will include Double Tree by Hilton Putrajaya Lakeside and Double Tree by Hilton Damai Laut Resort in Perak.

The Damai Laut property, which consists of 291 rooms, will be the first internationally managed resort by Hilton in the state. It is set to open its doors next year.

Light snacks and great coffee are available at Hilton PJ’s Caffe Cino

“The other anticipated Double Tree by Hilton launches will be in Shah Alam, Selangor, Kota Kinabalu and Miri, Sarawak. There will also be a Hilton Garden Inn in Johor. All the projects, including Curio, Canopy and Conrad, are currently underway and will be ready by 2021,” Mead said.

He added that there has been a mixture of construction for the projects with almost all of them using local talents.

“Malaysia is actually quite well-established when it comes to development. It’s a country that has changed quite a lot over the years and has seen many people developed. Most of the Double Tree projects are by local designers,” he said.

In anticipation for Visit Malaysia Year 2020, Mead said it would be a very exciting time with plenty of opportunities.

However, he said Malaysia has still yet to realise its full potential in terms of tourism.

“Malaysia is still widely known for being a transit location — not where one gets off. We are hoping the campaign helps dispel some of those myths. There has definitely been an increase in the number of travellers looking for a more unique or special experiences all across Malaysia and we have them,” he said.

Mead added that the opportunity lies in how to create more unique bespoke experiences for people that would become unmissable.

“We’d like to hear someone say, KL is a must-see for a certain drawcard which will be special,” he said.

Mead said the group has engaged with different tourism-related bodies in promoting KL and every other unique destinations around the country.