Hilton brands’ chief says balancing consistency with local flavour essential

Multinational brands now need to balance consistency of customer experience with local flavour, says Hilton executive vice president and global brands Jim Holthouser

Hilton Jim Houlthouser
Hilton executive vice president and global brands Jim Holthouser.

Hilton Worldwide is evolving its 11 brands to meet new customer expectations and has just launched Curio, a collection of hotel properties that have their own individual identity.

Read a full Q&A with Jim Holthouser here

Holthouser, speaking to Marketing Week, says the Curio brand was developed because “customers want more bespoke, unique localised lodging experiences. We are bringing together products that are distinctive and unique – they have their own story and history.”

The Curio collection properties already exist in the US and include SLS Las Vegas – they open under Hilton’s ownership in late August. A new site development in Qatar will join the collection in 2016.

Holthouser explained that Hilton branding will be low key at Curio hotels but the HHonors loyalty programme badging will be visible at the front desk to “reassure” members that standards and service are Hilton approved.

“It’s a very different way to approach branding for our industry. From our own customer standpoint we can start adding these hotels to our inventory – they are cool aspirational places where our members can stay and use their HHonors points.”

He said that the secret to staying competitive is being able “to balance consistency of brand with local elements that bring in a flavour of the local market – to capture a sense of place while still working within the parameters of what your brand is. All our brands are going through evolution,”

Holthouser stressed that Curio was not a “lifestyle” or “boutique” brand. Hilton is working on a brand for this market – its original plans for a lifestyle brand named Denizen were scuppered in 2010 after a legal challenge from Starwood and only recently has it been allowed return to this sector.

However, Holthouser says: “The silver lining is that our thinking has moved on this. You will see a lifestyle brand emerging very different from what we would’ve done three to four years ago.

“It seems to me everyone is trying to launch brands that position upscale to where Starwood’s W brand sits. But the further you go up the fewer customers and fewer developers [of hotels] are available. We see a concept and opportunity called ‘accessible lifestyle’.”

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