How niche concepts are driving the expansion of the Hilton Group in Portugal, Spain and the rest of the world
There used to be a time when a Hilton was a Hilton; the brand is the surname of one of the greatest hoteliers who ever lived and what is officially the world’s most recognised hotel brand. I remember an old print ad campaign showing someone hailing a cab and saying, “Take me to the Hilton”, a phrase that became the company’s official slogan back in the ‘80s. But to make the same request to a taxi driver today in most cities would be to invite the reply, “Which one sir?”. These days, most major cities have multiple Hilton and DoubleTree by Hilton hotels and are likely to be home to numerous other hotels carrying different Hilton Group brands.
Conrad Nicholson Hilton Sr. opened his first hotel in Texas, USA, in 1919, but it was not until 1985 that the next brand was born, when his Christian name was emblazoned across the façade of the world’s first Conrad Hotel, on the Gold Coast, in Australia. More brands have been added over the years, and today there are 19 that make up the group, comprising over 6,000 hotels in more than 100 countries.
Here in Portugal, there are currently six Hilton Group hotels, with six more due to open over the next three years, whilst in Spain, there are currently 17 hotels and another six in the pipeline. This will bring the total number of Hilton Group hotels in the two countries to 35, with a total of some 5,700 rooms. Regional operations for the Iberian Peninsula are headed up by Joachim Hartl, a man familiar to many of us here in the Algarve.
In 2012, Joachim arrived in the region to open the Conrad Algarve, in Quinta do Lago, where he spent six years as general manager before moving on to head up the group’s operations for the Iberian Peninsula. Today, he is based in Barcelona, where he is also general manager of the Hilton Diagonal Mar hotel.
As a longstanding member of Hilton’s loyalty scheme myself, I have been following with interest the introduction of the new brands, so I met up with Joachim recently to find out where the group is heading and what guests can expect from the different brands and new hotel openings. I started by asking Joachim about some of the newest brands, specifically LXR, Curio, and Tapestry. “These are all what we call Collection brands,” he explained. “They are hotels with their own identity, their own character, and their own story to tell.”
Here in Portugal, there is already one of these brands operating with two properties; Boeira Garden Hotel Porto Gaia, Curio Collection by Hilton inaugurated in 2020, and The Emerald House Lisbon, Curio Collection by Hilton which opened in January this year. Portugal’s first Tapestry Collection property is set to open in Porto this year.
Curio and Tapestry hotels fit into the upper-scale and mid-upper scale categories respectively. Curio Collection is for the guest who prefers a curated experience inclusive of high-end, on-property amenities, like a Michelin-star restaurant or premier spa. For example, The Higueron Hotel Málaga, Curio Collection by Hilton has six restaurants and bars, including one with a Michelin star. On the other hand, the Tapestry Collection is for the guest who is looking to explore and independently discover off-the-beaten-path destinations, envisaged as a launchpad for local exploration beyond the four walls of the hotel.
LXR now sits at the top of the pile of the group’s premium luxury brands along with Waldorf Astoria. This is however a versatile brand that can be used on luxury hotels that have their own identity, like The Biltmore Mayfair – LXR Hotels & Resorts in London, or luxury resorts, such as the recently opened Mango House in the Seychelles. Waldorf Astoria however is reserved for heritage-style properties in major cities. I asked Joachim if he could see either of these luxury brands fitting into the Portuguese or Spanish portfolios. “We plan to keep growing and, in any destination, it is just a case of the right opportunity presenting itself. I would also love to see another Conrad in the region,” he said. But he also stressed that it is not all about luxury. “We have brands such as Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton, both already operating in Spain, and Portugal’s first Hilton Garden Inn will open in Évora next year, in May.”
But moving forward, Joachim sees great potential for further growth in Portugal with the Collection brands. “There are many privately owned properties in Portugal that are ideal to be developed for brands such as Curio, Tapestry, and LXR, where the owners can see the value in maintaining the identity of their hotels whilst becoming part of the global Hilton network.”
The next new opening in Portugal however will be the aforementioned Sé Catedral Hotel Porto, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, in the historic town centre, in March this year. Next year will see the opening of the DoubleTree by Hilton Lagoa Açores, and the Legacy Hotel Cascais, Curio Collection by Hilton.
New general manager for Conrad Algarve
Marco Cogollos is the new general manager at Conrad Algarve, replacing Katharina Schlaipfer, who took over from Joachim Hartl five years ago. Katharina moves on to manage one of the most luxurious city hotels in the Hilton Group’s European portfolio — the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam.
A Spanish national, Marco Cogollos has worked in multiple destinations with the Hilton Group, most recently as general manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Minsk, in Belarus.