Hilton Airport Concept Takes Flight

The Squaire, featuring a Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn, is located on top of a rail station and next to the Frankfurt airport and two of Germany's busiest highways. Beyond the forest, you can also see the city center, a mere 10 minute-train ride away.

Standing in the nearly 1,500-square-foot presidential suite, I can’t even hear the two planes that look close enough to touch. They’re the only reminder I’m at the Hilton Airport Frankfurt and not a five-star resort. If I look further down from the ninth-floor window, as instructed by the hotel’s GM and our tour guide, Charles Muller, I see the crossing of Germany’s two busiest highways (the A3 and A5) and several train tracks side by side that direct 190 high-speed trains daily back and forth to the city center just eight miles away and across the entire continent.

The presidential suite at the Hilton.

“Location, location, location,” says Muller, reminiscing about the philosophy of company founder Conrad Hilton, during a phone interview a month after hosting a group of travel journalists and several hundred others at the March 8 grand opening celebration of the Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn Frankfurt Airport at the futuristic Squaire complex. “He was very right. That’s more true than ever here — from plane, train and car, we’re easily accessible for leisure, corporate and meetings travelers.”

The first dual-branded Hiltons under the same roof opened on Dec. 20, built directly on top of the ICE Railway Station as part of the massive mixed-use complex called The Squaire. The hotels are a skywalk away from the airport and an escalator ride down to the rail station and then less than 15 minutes by train to downtown Frankfurt, the financial capital of Germany.

From the spectacular architecture of the oval-shaped Squaire to the Hilton’s high design, expanded meeting offerings and resort-like amenities, the hotel is a far more luxurious version of the airport hotel concept pioneered by Hilton in San Francisco in 1959.

“While our airport portfolio has always offered quality, convenience and thoughtful touches for travelers around the world, our new wave of airport hotels is transcending the traditional airport hotel concept,” says Dave Horton, global head, Hilton Hotels & Resorts.

The Squaire
Hilton Worldwide has had previous dual-branded projects, but this is technically the first under the same roof. That’s only because the roof is so massive: the building is 750 meters long, or 2,460 feet. Put another way, it’s as long as the Eifel Tower is tall.

Built from the outside in and cutely called New Work City, The Squaire sits on a platform directly over the rail station and includes the two hotels, restaurants, meeting space, retail and offices. When fully occupied, more than 10,000 people will fill the space. German real estate company IVG Immobilien AG developed the complex for approximately a billion Euros (roughly $1.3 billion).

The Hilton Garden Inn here is the brand's third largest.

The full-service Hilton offers 249 guestrooms and suites, all-day dining at restaurant Rise, The FIFTH lounge and bar, and a spacious 24-hour fitness room with steam room and sauna. Two executive floors feature the enormous and luxuriously appointed presidential suite fetching from €2,500 to €5,000 a night, an executive lounge and 10 meeting rooms. A grand ballroom in the lobby level can accommodate 570 people.

The 334-room Hilton Garden Inn is the brand’s third largest and features a bar, restaurant, the brand’s signature Pavilion Pantry and three small meeting rooms. Hilton Worldwide manages both properties for IVG.

Rates at the Hilton Garden Inn range from €119 up to €350 depending on the season, while the Hilton’s prices go from €189 to €499. “We’re able to cater to a very broad market,” Muller says of the different price points and shared space.

Groups and corporate clients can mix and match. Muller says some reserve rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn and meeting space at the neighboring Hilton, while many combine room blocks at both hotels. “That’s a major advantage,” he says. Business obviously comes predominantly from corporate travelers, but Muller notes the Hilton Garden Inn does better business than the Hilton on weekends from a bump in leisure travelers.

Through the first three months of operation, Muller says the hotels have exceeded everyone’s expectations. They’re both already the market leaders in revenue per available room in their competitive sets.

“The ramp up process has been phenomenal,” says London-based Mark Nogal, the regional head of Hilton’s focus-service brands. Hilton Garden Inn now has 21 properties open in Europe. Nogal says flagship locations like this will help expand the brand and airport locations in Russia, Istanbul and Paris are currently in the works.

London and More
The Frankfurt property wasn’t the first in the new wave of Hilton airport locations. The Hilton London Heathrow Airport Terminal 5 opened last August, and although it’s also a more luxurious version of the typical airport hotel, it’s not done in the same way as Frankfurt.

The Hilton Heathrow Terminal 5 in London is another example of the brand's new airport concept.

The Hilton T5, as it’s called, isn’t connected to the airport. In fact, it’s a good 10-minute shuttle ride (on the Hotel Hoppa) away, but that’s partly by design, says General Manager Greg Place. “We’re positioned away from the strip of hotels,” he says, “because this is uniquely high end.”

The hotel features 350 spacious guestrooms with free WiFi, almost 5,000 square feet of meeting space, a signature restaurant from celebrated local chef Cyrus Todiwala, an Italian coffee shop, a three-meal restaurant, two bars and Imagine, a five-star spa (and not the Hilton-branded Eforea spa). The Hilton is the first franchised in the U.K., owned and operated by Shiva Hotels.

Like its peer in Frankfurt, the Hilton T5 could easily be mistaken for a resort until you notice the planes overhead. Much of its business to the conference center, spa and trendy and tasty restaurant (Mr. Todiwala’s Kitchen) comes from locals. The meeting space also attracts out-of-town and foreign groups who fly in and never leave the area around Heathrow.

For those who do want to venture out, the Hoppa affordably gets you back to the airport and then an all-day pass on the Tube — London’s subway — allows easy navigation throughout the city and its attractions.

Hilton now has airport locations at six of Europe’s seven busiest airports (London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and Rome). Hilton’s evolving airport concept also recently debuted with the Hilton Beijing Capital Airport and Hilton Mumbai International Airport. The Hilton New York JFK opened in February after a $20 million renovation and conversion and airport Hiltons in Atlanta and Miami completed major renovations in January.

More high-profile airport openings are coming soon: Accra Airport in Ghana next year, and then at the Calgary Airport in Canada and the Lagos Airport in Nigeria in 2014.

“The new airport hotels in London and Frankfurt are visionary examples of how our brand continues to evolve and innovate in the airport hotel space,” Horton says. “We are upping the design quotient and implementing more of a leisure experience at properties proximate to airports.”

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