Interview with Marybelle Arnett – VP Development Central and Eastern Europe, Hilton

  • What is the existing presence of Hilton in the CEE, Baltics, SEE, Russia/CIS region, what is the pipeline for the next five years?

Hilton has over 430 trading hotels in Europe. Over 110 of these are in the Central & Eastern Europe region, with around 55 in the pipeline, reflecting our accelerating growth in those markets.

  • Ten years ago, all hotel groups were advocating management agreements. Is the focus still on management or has it shifted to franchising, and what is the expected growth path over the next five years?

Hilton works with a wide range of owners under either a management contract or a franchise agreement. Our focus is on finding the most suitable contract type that will deliver the best performance for owners while meeting the needs of travelers. Hilton expects rapid growth in the region in the coming years as evidenced by our growth in Europe during the last decade.

  • Has the growth in franchising been driven by the emergence of third-party hotel management companies or changes in banks’ financing requirements?

There are many reasons why Hilton’s franchising model is strong, not least because we have a finely tuned and highly successful franchise model which has been part of Hilton’s development strategy for many years. Hilton also continues to be a sought-after management company, given our global scale and depth of expertise, which is highly valued by investors and financing institutions.

  • As owners and developers mature through experience in this region, what is the value that Hilton can provide at the early stages and throughout the planning and development cycle? 

Hilton works with owners to create sustainable value and we take a long-term view in all of our partnerships. Our global scale and the strength of our brands allows us to work with a variety of owners with varying development strategies. By aligning our objectives from the outset we can help owners, no matter their experience, achieve their goals, from planning to construction, through to opening. Plugging into Hilton’s commercial engine and community of 100 million Hilton Honors members is incredibly attractive and delivers market premiums during the course of the contract.

  • Do you see any difference from one sub-region to the next in the greater CEE as cultural, historical and language differences could not be more diverse?

Naturally, there are market variations across Europe’s sub-regions, but Hilton welcomes these differences. We strive to work with the right partners in the best locations to develop properties to ensure a long and successful relationship. With Hilton’s diverse brand portfolio, owners can find a solution best suited to their opportunity and development objectives.

  • How do you anticipate the success of the new brands when the family of established Hilton flags still have relatively low penetration in this region? Which category/positioning of brands will have the best potential for growth, and has this changed from five years ago?

We’ve seen tremendous success with Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn, as well as DoubleTree by Hilton, in Central and Western Europe and the US. Growing the footprint of Hilton’s brands in the CEE region is a key focus. The right product, the right market, the right owner, the right opportunity – every day, everywhere is always top of mind for us.

  • Which part of Europe do you anticipate the Hilton brands to grow the fastest over the next five years?

There is great potential to bring additional properties to markets where Hilton has a strong presence, such as the UK, Germany, Russia, Turkey, and Poland. This momentum is being driven by the market premiums Hilton brands achieve. With 100 million Hilton Honors members worldwide and 80,000 bookings a day on, owners have immediately connected to a truly global marketplace and the potential is enormous.

  • If you could spend a day with all the bankers financing hotels in this region, what would you tell them? 

It’s simple really, Hilton’s brands are driving market premiums around the world. Hilton is the most recognizable name in the hospitality industry and with market-leading brands and 100 years of experience, we are well-positioned for success for the next 100 years.

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