Interview with David Kelly, senior vice president for continental Europe at Hilton as the U.S. border reopens to EU countries.
Hilton had important ambitions to develop its presence in the European market and in particular the French market, has there been an impact on your development plan? On the situation of your partners ?
Despite a difficult year, Hilton has maintained considerable growth momentum in Europe, with 25 new hotels opening on the European continent by 2021.
France is a market of high strategic importance for Hilton's development. This year, we launched several new brands for new target markets, including our first lifestyle hotel with a view of the Eiffel Tower - Canopy by Hilton Paris Trocadero. Elsewhere in Paris, we opened our first Tapestry Collection by Hilton hotel - Hotel Camille Paris Gare de Lyon, Tapestry Collection by Hilton. In Tours, we added two new hotels: Hampton by Hilton Tours Centre and Hilton Garden Inn Tours Centre. Later this year, we plan to open another hotel in central Paris - Le Belgrand Hotel Paris Champs-Elysees, Tapestry Collection by Hilton.
We are particularly proud of the strong partnerships we have built in France - and our recent growth has been supported by strong partnerships with leading real estate experts.
As a result, over the next three to five years, we plan to more than double our business portfolio in France, with 22 hotels in the pipeline.
How did you, as an operator, manage this period of crisis in your main European markets?
Hilton has adapted to changing customer expectations with the launch of Hilton CleanStay, Hilton EventReady and WorkSpaces by Hilton. Consumers looking for quiet, distraction-free workspaces to telework have been able to book rooms in our hotels throughout France with our WorkSpaces packages. Specifically, the Hilton Paris La Défense hotel remained open throughout the pandemic and experienced high demand from Hilton Honors members who needed suites to stay overnight, or hold extremely important meetings. The property also saw strong demand for WorkSpaces by Hilton from Parisians and business travelers looking for a quiet place to work between meetings.
In France, leisure destinations performed well this year, with French and continental European customers offsetting a decline in American and Asian travelers.
This summer, we launched "Family Experience" packages for smaller travelers at 250 of our EMEA hotels, and for the first time in the industry, families and groups can now confirm connecting rooms at the time of booking, an innovative solution to a problem travelers have faced for decades.
Throughout the pandemic, hotels continued to support their local communities. For example, the Hilton Paris La Défense offered its meeting space for free to donate blood and donated pillows to the Red Cross. The Waldorf Astoria Versailles donated food to Restos du Coeur and delivered a gourmet dinner to hospitals and frontline firefighters.
European borders with the U.S. reopened on November 8. How much business growth do you expect from this and have you seen bookings change since the announcement?
In a normal year, European and British guests account for more than 3 million room nights at Hilton's U.S. hotels (3.3 million in 2019). Since news of the planned reopening of U.S. borders broke, we've seen a 63% increase in digital bookings from European and U.K. travelers.
We've seen similar trends across Europe, with inbound demand from U.S. customers increasing as travel restrictions are lifted. The reopening of the U.S. border marks the next major phase of recovery for the industry, and we look forward to welcoming a new era of international travel.