Following the major renovation and re-opening of the Hilton Barcelona, Breaking Travel News catches up with Andrew Flack, vice president brand marketing, Hilton Hotels & Resorts to discuss Hilton’s innovative lobby design narrative which is being implemented in new Hilton hotels and renovated properties as the group continues its phenomenal growth across Europe.
Breaking Travel News: Hilton Barcelona has just finished a full hotel refurbishment – can you describe elements of the refurbishment?
Andrew Flack: The Hilton Barcelona has just reopened following a major refurbishment which coincides with Hilton’s new design guidelines which were launched last year. We have been working with hotels around the world to put that design to work and this is the first hotel in Europe to re-open with a design that is in accordance with our new lobby design.
It is a great showcase for us. The vision that we have to today’s hotel lobby experience is linked to things like the importance of access to technology, the importance of access to contemporary food and beverage and the importance of multiple use spaces that make it easy to engage with each other; sometimes to work, sometimes to socialise and sometimes to meet.
We’re finding that with mobile technology hotel lobbies have gone through something of a renaissance where people like to hang out in the lobby for many reasons.
Our lobby design guidelines are built around nine different elements of the lobby experience which includes; the salon – the area where you can sit casually but still have access to food and drink; the connectivity station with computers provided; also we are bringing food and beverage to the centre. A golden coloured bar has been built into the centre of the lobby which sits under a very impressive ceiling sculpture making that the centre point at the property. The check in is now off to one side so is still important but is no longer the main focus.
All the bedrooms have also been renovated in this hotel which has allowed us to bring contemporary design into the bedrooms as well as upgrading. Effectively we’ve created a new hotel.
BTN: How many hotels will undergo this renovation in line with the new guidelines?
AF: We will be applying this new design approach in all new Hiltons going forward. We open around 30 hotels a year worldwide and our new bedroom design guidelines will be applied in new hotels and when we have significant renovations taking place. Each hotel is at a different stage of its life but this will give us a common design thread to link together new openings and major renovations.
We have other projects going on in hotels in Milan, Glasgow and Rotterdam which are under renovation with a big focus on the lobby.
BTN: What has been the investment for the Barcelona property as well as other properties across the group?
AF: In this hotel the investment has been 23 million euros and the combined value of current investment projects worldwide across all the Hiltons is $3 billion.
BTN: There seems to be a focus on enabling guests to be more productive with a large focus on some of the social aspects with bars, is this in line with consumer trends you are noticing?
AF: Barcelona is a social city with a great nightlife and we really try to bring the energy of the city into the hotel.
Our research shows that even when people are working they like to get out of their room and find a space in the lobby. Even if they are working in isolation they like to be around other people and it can be relaxing to be amongst others at the end of a long working day rather than being alone.
BTN: Which types of travellers are you expecting to attract?
AF: This particular hotel is in the financial district so it has a high corporate travel market.
The core demographic for Hilton tends to be people aged between 30 and 50 which is when people travel the most over the course of their careers and lives. At Hilton we continue innovating to make sure we are relevant for today’s travellers. It is important to keep innovating and communicating to people why they should chose Hilton.
BTN: What are the top five items that today’s travellers are looking for what are they?
AF: We did a huge piece of global research recently and spoke to 19,000 travellers and there were three things that came out as being key to their stay:
1. The bedroom experience came out as number one as the core purpose for stay.
2. Food and beverage, with variety of food options
3. Relevant services such as spa services and technology. People also have high expectations around problem resolution, so that plays into our staff training to be highly responsive to guests needs.
BTN: What is the vision for the Hilton Brand?
AF: Hilton is the most recognised hotel brand in the world and we are in more countries than any other upscale brand.
Our goal is to be the first choice of today’s travellers so we need to be in the places where people are travelling. That means continuing to open in new destinations. Development areas include Southern and Central America, Eastern Europe and China.
People enjoy having the excitement of exploring a new destination but the comfort of travelling with a brand that is familiar to them and reliable.
BTN: What are the challenges of marketing the brand in new and emerging destinations?
AF: Getting a consistent global story for Hilton and regional execution that is relevant is the greatest challenge. We have a global marketing team for Hilton, but then we have regional directors whose job it is to execute marketing in a way that is appropriate to that region.
BTN: Going forward these new properties will incorporate this new design but will you keep them market specific?
The lobby will be different according to the building and the destination but these common themes and zones of experience will be the consistent element. The basic needs of travellers are the same, it’s how you execute it.
BTN: With 20 years’ experience in the travel and tourism industry can you comment on how customer demand has evolved?
AF: I think what has changed is the way we all multi-task our lives the whole time. The blurring of working time and leisure time means that now people work in a much more flexible way.
Even when people are on vacation they will stay in touch with their office, therefore need good internet access at their hotel. We have changed to match the way that consumer patterns have moved on.