In an exclusive interview with Christopher J. Nassetta, President & Chief Executive Officer, Hilton and Chairman-Elect for WTTC, TRAVTALK gets insights on the hospitality brand’s expansion plans in India and WTTC’s main focus for 2018.
Plans for India
With the Indian economy rapidly progressing, Hilton President and CEO, Christopher J. Nassetta continues to see great potential for the travel and tourism industry, which accounts for 9.6 per cent of the country’s GDP. With India as a key market, Hilton has dedicated the last few years to establishing its infrastructure and building a strong reputation to drive rapid expansion in the country.
As a truly global company with more than 5,100 properties that welcomed a record 150 million customers last year, Hilton is committed to sharing its unique hospitality with travellers all around the world. In India specifically, the company has a multi-brand, multiple partners and high-growth strategy that has positioned it to more than double its footprint in the short term – from 15 hotels currently open to 34 total hotels operating once it brought its current pipeline to life. The global hospitality brand boasts of its presence in several major cities in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune, and looks forward to opening many more properties in the future. In fact, it will close 2017 with two very exciting openings- Conrad Bengaluru and Hilton Garden Inn Lucknow.
“India will continue to be a market of interest for the global hospitality industry in the years ahead. In addition to the positive trends, the business travel, MICE and luxury segments along with its incredible destination appeal also looks promising”
Overall, India will continue to be a market of interest for the global hospitality industry in the years ahead. In addition to the positive trends, the business travel, MICE and luxury segments along with its incredible destination appeal also looks promising. From its rich cultural and historical heritage to the many natural wonders across the country, to its booming wellness tourism sector, India has countless experiences to offer visitors. This is why last year alone, the country welcomed almost nine million foreign tourists, a nearly 10 per cent increase over 2015. And domestic tourist visits are growing even faster, with 1.6 billion domestic trips within the country last year.
In terms of targets, last year the nationwide occupancy in India at Hilton crossed the 65 per cent mark for the first time in nearly a decade. The brand’s priority is to stay focused on driving occupancy, particularly as average room rates continue to climb upward, having grown by 2.4 per cent in the last fiscal year to a four-year high.
Nassetta feels honoured to have been named Chairman-Elect for the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), and looks forward to beginning his official role in early 2018. Encouraging international travel in a safe and secure way remains his top priority. He believes that WTTC can play an important role in bringing governments and industry together to deliver smart plans that support travellers’ safety, without hindering their travel experiences. Additionally, the unique scale and reach of WTTC members can be used to address significant global topics, such as climate change and providing youth opportunities globally.
Attracting and retaining talent across the industry continues to be a challenge, and it’s something that Hilton is very focused on. One of the brand’s biggest priorities is combatting people’s notions about working in this business. “It’s all about helping potential team members understand that working in a hotel isn’t a low-end service job. This is especially important in countries like India, where a growing technology-centric workforce can truly thrive in an industry like hospitality,” Nassetta says. “In fact, our industry offers upward mobility unlike any other, and we have a wide range of opportunities available – from data and analytics to marketing, to the front office, to finance, and so much more,” Nassetta says.
Hilton brand believes in sustaining its talent pool across a wide range of functions and capabilities and within a multinational, multicultural setting. The company is hugely focused on creating a diverse and inclusive culture around the world, and particularly promoting gender diversity in regions like the Asia Pacific, where it’s most needed. “By investing in our team members, we’re able to not only attract and retain the world’s best talent but also able to inspire them to deliver exceptional hospitality for our guests,” Nassetta adds.
Expectations from 2018
“We’ve had a fantastic year at Hilton – thanks to the incredible contributions of our 360,000 team members around the world. Looking ahead to 2018, we’ll continue to innovate across every level of our organisation, always with our ultimate goal in mind: to be the most hospitable company in the world. From launching unique new brands, to rolling out exciting technologies that give our guests unprecedented levels of choice and control, to growing our global footprint – 2018 promises to be another outstanding year for us,” he concludes.
- Hilton in India
The global hospitality brand boasts of its presence in several major cities in India, including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Pune, and looks forward to opening many more