HILTON GROWS, RE-IGNITES

Hilton Corp. is moving quickly in the wake of its announced purchase of Hilton Group, the London-based company that controls the Hilton brands outside the U.S. Last month, Hilton launched a brand extension based on its legendary Waldorf=Astoria property in New York City and unveiled an ambitious physical upgrading and marketing program that it terms a “re-ignition campaign.”

Hilton hopes to add a secondary brand, The Waldorf=Astoria Collection, to a select group of luxury hotels and resorts — either independents, existing high-end Hilton or Conrad properties or some new-build hotels in gateway cities. Criteria for a property to be considered for the designation include architectural significance, unique décor and original artwork, historic or landmark status and a reputation for product and service excellence.

The company jump-started the program by acquiring the management contracts to three resorts owned by CNL Hotels & Resorts: the Grand Wailea in Maui, the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix and La Quinta Resort in the California desert. The properties will keep their high-profile names followed by the Waldorf designation.

The Waldorf sub-brand gives Hilton two flags in the luxury tier (Conrad Hotels is the other) and should help the company gain a much-needed toehold in the luxury resort market. In addition to the halo generated by the Waldorf=Astoria name, the properties gain access to Hilton's res system, frequency program, technology initiatives and worldwide sales and marketing efforts.

Centerpiece of Hilton's other announcement — the Reignition Campaign — represents a $1-billion investment by the company and its franchisees in physical enhancements to its U.S. properties. The upgrading covers everything from bedding to business centers, food and beverage to bathrooms. The chain will continue to roll out its Hilton Eat Right Menu, a partnership with Johnson & Wales University that has generated more than 50 healthy-diet menu items.

The company will back the program with a new print, TV and online ad campaign. Using the tagline “Travel Should Take You Places,” the program celebrates the ability of travel, and Hilton Hotels in particular, to create meaningful experiences and connections.

“This new campaign looks at what travel can be and how it should be,” says Jeff Diskin, senior vice president of brand performance. “Travel is about enjoying the journey and allowing travel to awaken the mind, spirit and senses.”

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