Launched 30 years ago, Hilton Worldwide’s focused-service Hampton brand celebrated a milestone last Thursday that few brands can lay claim to: the opening of its 2,000th hotel worldwide. The 128-room Hampton Inn & Suites Bellevue Downtown-Seattle is owned by Palmetto Hospitality and managed by its affiliate OTO Development.
The challenge for any legacy midscale brand with such significant distribution—both in the United States and, increasingly, international—is how to remain fresh and relevant to consumers at a time when new competitors in this already crowded industry tier continue to enter the marketplace.
“The service standards that are at the core of our brand—things like the complimentary hot breakfast, complimentary Wi-Fi, the 100 percent satisfaction guarantee, many of which we pioneered—are still in demand today,” explained Phil Cordell, Hilton Worldwide’s global head for focused service and Hampton brand management. “But in terms of the style and ambience of the hotels, from the curb appeal of the exterior to the design of the guestrooms and public spaces, we’ve added touches to ensure we remain contemporary and even stylish.”
Consistency has always been a calling card of brands like Hampton, and that remains the case today. But Cordell expressed pride in the steps the brand has taken lately to underscore each hotel’s individuality, such as by adding local foods to the breakfast offerings at many properties, especially in international markets.
Less visible to guests are changes back of house, such as increased wireless bandwidth at the new Seattle suburb hotel. Considering Bellevue is a base of operations for many high-tech companies, including Microsoft, business travelers booking the hotel are likely to have higher expectations for fast, reliable Wi-Fi.
The 2,000-hotel milestone notwithstanding, Cordell and his team still see room for growth. Roughly 400 hotels and 40,000 rooms are in the final stage pipeline, meaning they’re either in construction or approved. Distribution is greatest in the U.S. market, but occasional milestones are still possible there regardless. “We just approved a hotel in Oahu, our first Hampton in Hawaii, which means we’ll be in all 50 states,” said Cordell, whose career with the brand goes back to the mid-1980s, when he was general manager of the second Hampton.
Meanwhile, there are considerable international growth opportunities. In the past few years, Hampton has made significant inroads in the U.K., the Netherlands, Turkey, Russia, and Poland. A 300-room property, the largest outside the United States, opened in downtown Warsaw, Poland, in September.
Cordell is particularly excited about an exclusive licensing agreement the brand unveiled in October that will accelerate growth in China. Under the agreement, China-based Plateno Hotels Group will build 400 Hampton properties throughout that powerhouse market. “The first hotel is expected to open by year-end 2015,” Cordell said.
Going forward, he estimated that roughly 75 percent of those developing Hampton properties will be partners the brand has already worked with. OTO Development is one of these. In addition to the new Bellevue property, OTO operates 11 Hamptons in six states and the District of Columbia, a third of its portfolio. Two more are in development.
“We have many opportunities right now in a variety of markets,” said Corry Oakes, OTO CEO and founder. “We obviously have tremendous confidence in Hampton. In our experience, it’s a brand that continually delivers on its promise.”