Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Nothing is permanent: Paul Brown of Hilton Worldwide, says guest expectations are changing constantly. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Nothing is permanent: Paul Brown of Hilton Worldwide, says guest expectations are changing constantly. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Reserving room for growth is a challenge

The Life: Hilton's president of brands and commercial services, Paul Brown, discusses the hotel industry and how the company is trying to compete with its rivals.

Paul Brown, the president of brands and commercial services at Hilton Worldwide, talks about the hotel chain's ambitious expansion plans and the challenges the industry is facing in the Middle East.

What is Hilton doing to keep up with, and get ahead, of competitors?

International growth is a key element of our overall strategy and it's more important for Hilton than it is for several of our competitors because until five years ago we were prohibited from growing a lot of brands outside of the United States.

Why was that?

Because Hilton International and Hilton US were two separate companies. Some of the brands [such as] Hilton Garden Inn, DoubleTree, Hampton Inn, Waldorf Astoria were brands that we could only do in the United States. When the companies merged it opened up a huge opportunity for us to take these brands outside the United States. Four years ago, 15 per cent of our rooms under construction were outside the United States; today 80 per cent of our rooms under construction are outside the United States.

What are the biggest challenges you face in the hotel industry?

Guest expectations are changing constantly. Just staying up with and hopefully one step ahead of what customers are expecting across 3,800 hotels in 88 countries is a challenge. In fact, that challenge becomes a greater and the larger and larger we get. Then, there are always events happening in certain markets that we have to make sure we overcome. There are always things happening in the macroeconomic environment that we have to make sure we [cope with]. That's just part of being a very big, very distributed, very complex company.

In the Middle East many people still seem reluctant to make hotel bookings online. Have you noticed growth in that area in the region?

There's certainly a lower percentage of total bookings that we see coming through online channels in this region of the world than you would see in the United States, or Europe and even, in some cases, parts of Asia. That is changing rapidly. If we look at the growth rates, the percentages are at the same rate, if not higher in the Middle East, so it shows signs of catching up.

What are you doing to encourage more online bookings in the region?

Part of it is making sure that the websites are also in the local language and support local currency, which is one of the reasons we're making the investments in our infrastructure. For instance, we will have our websites available in Arabic within the next 12 to 14 months. When we launch it, it won't be just the hotels in this region that will be translated into Arabic, but every single hotel in the world that we offer will also be in Arabic. It's a huge investment.

rbundhun@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 The Greens, villas: Q1 no change. 3BR - Dh210-250,000. 4BR - Dh210-260,000. 5BR - Dh220-300,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 5% rise. Pawan Singh / The National

In pictures: Where Dubai rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Dubai have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

 The cooling towers of the Temelin nuclear power plant near the Tyn nad Vltavou in Czech Republic. The country wants to continue expanding nuclear energy capacity despite cancelling a tender to build two new units. David W Cerny / Reuters

In pictures: Best business images for the week to April 17, 2014

Here are some of the best business images for the week to April 17, 2014.

 A sign points the way to an outdoor market popular with German visitors on the Polish side of the German-Polish border. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

In pictures: A decade since the European Union went east

May 1 will mark 10 years since the European Union expanded east, taking in countries like Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states as new members. And though the border region between Germany and Poland is flourishing with trade and cultural exchange, the open border has also brought a sharp rise in crime.

 The Wind, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition takes place from April 14 to April 16. Above, the Dewa showroom during last year’s Wetex. Jaime Puebla / The National

April corporate and economic calendar for the UAE and overseas

From Cityscape to Wetex to stock-market holidays to nations reporting first-quarter GDP figures, here is our helpful calendar of April's business events in the UAE and internationally.

 Get the latest information on credit cards, bank accounts and loan products in the UAE. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Rates report: Latest on UAE loans, accounts and credit cards

Souqamal.com brings you the latest interest rates on banking products in the UAE.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National