While the current travel media landscape is teeming with stories about disruptors, it’s easy to assume the hotel industry is facing a time of change and adaptation.
But not all members of the industry are feeling threatened.
In fact, according to the Hilton’s Asia Pacific president, Alan Watts, we are in the midst of a Golden Age, with the hotel giant recently emerging from it’s most successful decade.
We cornered Watts during a lunch last week at the Hilton Sydney to discuss the hotel chain’s continued success and see what they’re doing to give back to the communities they operate in.
Ok, so we didn’t corner him, we just sat next to him.
And we were a bit distracted by the delicious spread they provided, but here’s what we managed to jot down between courses.
Hilton is growing in a big way. Especially in the Asia Pacific region.
They’re building on their existing 220 hotels across 21 countries in the region with a further 415 currently under development.
And nearly a quarter of all hotels under construction in Aisa Pacific today currently carry a Hilton flag.
Watts told us Sydney, in particular, is experiencing a strong hotel boom.
“Yields in Sydney are the strongest they’ve ever been,” he said.
“It’s got upside demand now, with the new Convention centre, which makes it more attractive as an international destination.”
This is despite the industry’s fears over disruptors like Airbnb’s entrance into the market, which Watts said isn’t a threat to Hilton.
“What Airbnb has done is consolidate what was an existing home sharing market in Australia and they have disrupted what was a lot of small independent companies offering home sharing,” he told us.
“But the home stock itself hasn’t changed marginally and while Airbnb has been in the market for the last ten years, we’ve had our most successful decade.”
Something that Hilton prides itself on, according to Watts, is their focus on sustainability.
“We’ve got a responsibility to balance hotel returns with impact on the environment.”
“We’re focused on two things: one is the impact we make in communities in terms of local employment.”
“When we open a Hilton in Myanmar, when we open a Hilton in an emerging city in India we make a tangible impact on overall employment.”
“We give people opportunities, we train and we educate. We’re not just an employer and a job, we are for many people a pathway to a career that didn’t exist before we were there.”
The second focus on sustainability in terms of environmental degradation.
“We want to make sure we’re a responsible consumer and that plays back into the role we play in educating the industry.”
“In China, we have eliminated the use of plastic bottles in all meetings, events, gyms and spas in our hotels, preventing 13 million plastic bottles of waste annually,”
“And in April 2018 we will be eliminating the use of all plastic straws at our hotels across Australasia to help reduce the use of plastic which harms our environment.”
“Many people that come to work for us throughout the globe are perhaps not as focused on or not as aware of sustainability.”
“Plastics, in particular, is one example. We have the role to make sure that not only do we provide employment opportunities, we help educate the world as to what our values are and doing no harm in places that we trade.”