Hilton Gets Aggressive in the Caribbean and South America

Hilton Hotels plans to quadruple its presence in the Caribbean and Latin America by adding 150 properties over the next five years. The company currently has 51 properties in the region, with 42 more in the development pipeline, but it is looking to ramp up.

"We are focusing on accelerating growth of our international management and franchise business," said Steve Goldman, Hilton's president of global development and real estate. Daniel Hughes, senior VP of operations for the Caribbean, Mexico, and Latin America, said Hilton is banking on success in the region through brand mixture.

The comprehensive plan targets four areas: Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and South America. In the Caribbean, Hilton said growth will be through slotting "focused-service" brands Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton Inn at commercial centers like San Juan, Trinidad, and Nassau, as well as through implementing luxury properties at high-end mixed-use developments in the Turks and Caicos, Lesser Antilles, and Bahamas. Already announced (among others): the conversion of three LXR resorts in Puerto Rico, the Conrad Bimini Bay Resort & Casino in the Bahamas, and the Hilton St. Maarten. In all, 17 properties will be introduced in the region through 2013.

In Mexico, Hilton's existing portfolio count is 19, and it will add 60 more throughout the country, covering large, capital, industrial, and border cities in 31 states. Hampton and Homewood Suites will be in play particularly; 20 now in the pipeline include Homewood hotels in Monterrey, and Hamptons in Guadalajara, Los Cabos, Cancun, and Tulum.

Hilton's strategy in the nascent Central American market, where it has seven hotels, will be to add 23 mostly Hampton and Hilton Garden Inn lodgings. The hotelier wants to forge alliances with local developers on multi-property deals in the region's big locations, namely Liberia, Panama, Leon, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica—where it recently debuted three hotels and resorts. But there also are upper-end market developments: a Conrad in Honduras, a Doubletree in Panama, and an Embassy Suites in Costa Rica.

Brazil, due to its "size and strength," is the linchpin in Hilton's South America eye. The company's regional headquarters is in Sao Paulo, and it will focus on that city, plus Rio de Janeiro and secondary cities such as Brasilia. Hotels in gateways Buenos Aires, Santiago (Chile), Lima (Peru), Bogota (Colombia), and Caracas (Venezuela) are planned. There will be 50 introductions on the continent.

Initially, development will be concentrated on Hilton Garden Inns and Doubletrees, in mid-market and conversion opportunities. Hilton introduced the latter brand in Central America earlier this year (in San Jose, Costa Rica, with 222 rooms and 10,000 sf of meeting space). Later this year, it will unveil the region's first Hilton Garden Inn (169 rooms in Liberia, Costa Rica).

Originally published Oct. 20, 2008