At Hilton Worldwide's Media Marketplace 2013 (hiltonworldwide.com), held this week in the Mercury Ballroom of its flagship Hilton Midtown Manhattan, Conrad Hilton strode onto the stage, his trademark Stetson hat in hand, to thunderous applause.
OK, it wasn't the fabled hotelier, who died in 1979, but actor Chelcie Ross, a dead ringer for Hilton, who played him in a memorable plot line on Mad Men, the cable-TV drama series. But the crowd ate it up all the same. And the message from this 94-year-old company, which branded its first hotel in 1925, was clear: While 2013 has proved a banner year, strap on your seat belt, because the next five years are going to be a wild ride.
The Hotel Insider joined a bevy of journalists who gathered to rub elbows with global representatives for the company's various regions and get up to speed on all things Hilton -- expansions, renovations, green initiatives and more. Its two luxury chains, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria, have forged ahead with projects, primarily in the Asia Pacific region, and both have a healthy pipeline of major developments scheduled to be rolled out in the next seven years.
This year's highlghts incuded the March opening of the 289-room Conrad Beijing, featuring five meeting rooms and a nearly 6,000-square-foot ballroom. And in September, the 554-room Conrad Dubai opened in a 54-story tower overlooking the Dubai World Trade Centre. Hotel executives say the company has 10 more properties in development, includng hotels in Mumbai, India, and Manila, Phillipines, and an additional five in China.
Also expanding its footprint into key international markets is the company's uber-luxury chain, Waldorf Astoria. This year, the chain planted flags in Berlin, Dubai and Panama, bringing its global portfolio to 23 hotels. Next year, three more properties will be added, with one each set to open in Amsterdam, Netherland; Bejing; and, in May 2014, Jerusalem. Indeed, the $150 million, 220-room Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem marks a return to the city for Hilton, which has not had a hotel there for more than a decade.
Safe to say, Conrad Hilton would be downright proud of his company's strides.