The Hilton Garden Inn brand is making a number of large moves this year, such as opening two properties in Hawaii and building a sizeable international pipeline.
KAPAA, Hawaii—New prototypes are on the horizon for Hilton Garden Inn, as officials with the brand are looking to further boost international growth.
John Greenleaf, SVP and global head of Hilton Garden Inn, said Hilton Worldwide Holdings is not ready to announce the specific changes yet, but company officials will aim to refresh the brand and help it stay ahead of similar competitors.
Hilton has involved owners in its research about the changes coming to the brand, and Greenleaf said more details will be released later in the year.
“We find the things they’re looking for, ideas in markets they’re interested in,” he said. “It’s certainly not a good idea for those of us in Hilton Worldwide to sit behind closed doors and determine what’s best for the brand. We talk to our partners. That’s how we determine the best direction for the brand to go.”
Greenleaf said the refresh will help define Hilton Garden Inn’s place among the company’s 13 brands, which he believes is especially critical to make sure guests are clear on what each brands’ offerings are and which one meets their needs at their price point and reasons for traveling.
“It underscores the importance of clarity as to how we’re positioned,” he said.
The product will differ at the various locations around the world, Greenleaf said, but success lies in the guests’ experiences and the nurturing environment created by the staff, which must remain consistent. He believes the brand’s culture of service is something guests recognize and helps it outshine competitors.
“It really transcends any physical differences that may exist in the product around the world,” he said.
Hilton Garden Inn officials expect to make technology a focus in their refresh efforts. Greenleaf said the brand is trying to reconcile guests’ desire for new technology—namely mobile check-in so guests can bypass the front desk—with the brand’s style of service focused on building relationships with guests.
“We’re spending a lot of time with that,” Greenleaf said. “The traditional sense of where hospitality is comes from the relationship with the front desk or server. If those go away, how is hospitality defined by the guest?”
Expanding the footprint
Hilton will open nearly 60 Hilton Garden Inns this year, Greenleaf said. There are more than 250 deals in the pipeline right now, more than half of which are outside of the U.S.
“The growth and development activities are key focuses for us,” he said.
Greenleaf said the brand is seeing significant global expansion, particularly in Europe and Asia, where the brand just opened its fifth property. He said the growth of Hilton Garden Inn has been fueled by consumers’ perception of value based on the brand’s price point and ability to tie in to the larger Hilton system.
“We’re focused on the growth of the brand and increasing its international footprint,” he said. “There’s a realization by many that may not have been aware that half of our development is outside of the U.S. It really speaks to the appeal of the brand anywhere in the world we have entered.”
In all 50 states
Hilton Garden Inn passed a domestic milestone in mid-June with the opening of two properties in Hawaii, which extended the brand’s footprint to every state in the U.S.
The opening of the Hilton Garden Inn Kauai Wailua Bay on 17 June and the Hilton Garden Inn Waikiki Beach on 20 June cap off years of work to introduce the brand to the Hawaiian Islands.
Greenleaf said the brand has put a focus on developing in Hawaii recently because the area is an important link to Asia. Hawaii is a difficult market to enter, he said, and there are few opportunities, especially considering the brand was selective in finding the right property and location.
“It took a while to pick,” Greenleaf said, referring to the brand’s new properties on Kauai and in Waikiki Beach. “We’re thrilled with both our development teams and ownership that have worked on this.”