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Monday, 15 May, 2017, 17 : 13 PM [IST]

‘It’s vital to activate and nurture all channels to drive business to our hotels’

During his recent visit to India, Rupert Hallam, VP Sales (APAC), Hilton Hotels spoke to P Krishna Kumar about their portfolio in India, and the significance of the Indian market for Hilton properties overseas.
Q. How conventional sales missions are relevant in the new technology-driven global business environment?
A. Within Asia Pacific, we have five subregions – Australasia, Japan, India, SE Asia and China. We take our sales missions to all these sub-regions in the APAC once a year, except Australia. The mission is to introduce our international portfolio which are either receiving considerable amount of business from India or have the potential to get business from India to our customers here in India.

We have hotels from Seychelles, San Francisco, Prague, London, Italy, South East Asia, Middle East, Japan, pretty much from all the continents. India as a market is driven a lot by relationships; it is a high touch market. It’s vital for us to introduce hotels and help them take forward and maintain that relationship. For instance, our Hilton Prague hotel has been coming for the fourth year and has seen tremendous growth in Indian business year-onyear.

Q. How trade partnerships are important when business is moving online?
A. We know that all our business is not going to come from alone. We have to activate and nurture all the vital channels and partners to keep the business going. In more matured markets like the Europe and the US, online business is quite substantial. But in emerging markets like India, we know that we have to work with multiple partners who have their customer base. We cannot rely on online alone. We have to make sure that we nurture and get business from all these partners. It is important that we get a mix of business.

Q. Can you give a sense of your Indian portfolio and your expansion plans?
A. We have 15 operating hotels at the moment. The Conrad Bengaluru is expected to join our portfolio in Q3 this year and Hilton Garden Lucknow by end of this year. We have another 18 hotels in the pipeline in India. The growth we are looking is organic growth with good partners with good locations and great products.

Although we may not have the biggest footprint in the market, Hilton brand is considered an extremely strong brand in the market by the BDRC report released recently

It is not important to have all the 14 brands in one country to be successful. What is important is to have the right brand at the right places. We feel that we have brand portfolio which fits the India market. We have Hilton, Double Tree by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn and now Conrad in India, which are quite suitable for the market potential.

Q. How Hilton as a hotel operator adapting to the technological advancement in offering experiences to savvy customers?
A. Hilton has evolved as a hotel company for more than a century now. We have always been in the forefront of adapting to the changes. We are putting more and more focus on the Hilton app, which is the most popular booking app in the hotel industry today. We have also started rolling out digital keys for our guests. We were the first to do that, and these quick technology adoptions have helped us to enhance loyalty quotient in a big way. We have started rolling out digital keys even in Asia Pacific starting from two hotels in Singapore, and as times goes on we will get more and more hotels under digital keys even in India.

Q. What are your strategies to grow your Indian outbound share?
A. We are targeting multitude of travel segments from India market for our hotels outside India. We are seeing a healthy growth in leisure traffic and at the same time meeting and business travel from India to our hotels. There has been increasing traffic from India to our hotels in the Eastern Bloc in recent years because of the interest created by Indian movies. There is growing interest among Indian travellers to explore movie locations in places like Prague.

Q. How do you plan to strengthen your India sales team?
A. We recently restructured the sales team in India. We have doubled the number of people here, which shows the importance that we bestow to this market. It is not just domestic market that is important to us; we give equal importance to the outbound market – leisure, corporate and business. It is an incredibly important region for Hilton.
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