HILTON'S POST-PROMUS MILESTONE

The smartest thing Hilton Hotels ever did was purchase Promus Hotels in 1999 and integrate its high-powered brands like Hampton Inn and Embassy Suites into the Hilton family. That merger launched Hilton into a long growth phase that culminated last month with the opening of the 1,000th property since the merger in late ‘99.

Significantly, Hilton chose the Embassy Suites Fort Myers/Estero, FL to symbolize the 1,000th-property milestone. The 150-unit Embassy was built and is operated by the Carroll family, hoteliers who've been in the business for 40 years.

At the property's grand opening last month, the family showed its commitment to the southwest Florida community by donating $100,000 to the fast-growing resort and hospitality management program at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. The 8,000-student school is the only college in the region to offer a resort and spa management curriculum. The state of Florida provided an additional $50,000, and the two gifts will help fund construction of a classroom and laboratory building specifically for the hospitality program, which currently has 300 students.

James and Patricia Carroll started in the hotel business in the late 1960s with the construction of a property near the then-new Kings Island theme park in their native Cincinnati. Today, the family's companies operate hotels, marinas and RV parks in Ohio and Florida. In the six-and-a-half years since the Promus acquisition, Hilton has added 150,000 in the U.S. and Canada and has a full pipeline of development. More than 730 properties, including 680 in the U.S., are under development. More than 300 of them are under construction.

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