The grand opening of the Hampton by Hilton Warsaw City Centre in the Polish capital last month marked an important milestone in Hilton Worldwide’s development plan to build the Hampton name in Western and Eastern Europe. The 300-room hotel is the largest Hampton outside the United States.
Hilton began its expansion program nearly five years ago, when many economies in Europe were still coming out of the global recession. “So, given their price point, it made sense to concentrate on moving forward first with the focused-service brands, especially in Eastern Europe,” said Phil Cordell, global head for focused service and Hampton brand management, at the grand opening event.
When entering a new market, the usual strategy calls for opening the first Hampton by Hilton or Hilton Garden Inn in a central downtown location, establishing the brand there, and then progressing to suburban and airport locations in the market, explained Mark Nogal, Hilton Worldwide’s regional head for focused service brand management in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. “But in Poland, we actually reversed the strategy,” Nogal said.
The openings of Hampton by Hilton hotels in Swinoujscie, a resort destination on the Baltic Sea, and at Gdansk and Warsaw Airports preceded the debut of the Warsaw City Center property. Each has considerably fewer keys and a lower profile than the Warsaw City Centre hotel.
At 17 stories, the City Centre hotel is quite prominent on the downtown Warsaw skyline. The property features all the Hampton brand features, including a complimentary full breakfast, free Wi-Fi throughout the building, a 24-hour grab-and-go market, a fitness center, and a business center with a boardroom-size table suitable for small meetings. Guestrooms incorporate the latest Hampton décor package. “We think of it as a showcase hotel, meaning it’s a property we can bring developers to see as an example of what the brand is capable of,” Cordell said.
The hotel is owned by the S+B Gruppe AG, an Austrian real estate developer. An office building was being developed on the site when the project ran aground, in part due to the aftereffects of the recession. S+B Gruppe came in with new financing and resumed construction, scratching the original plans and building a hotel instead.
In the weeks since the hotel’s soft opening, the breakfast has been especially popular, said General Manager Jacek Jasinski. “If other hotels here include a breakfast, it’s much more modest. And for hotels that don’t include breakfast, but charge for it, ours can be a considerable saving, say, for a family of four,” said Jasinski, describing the amenity as a competitive advantage.
The hotel’s F&B offering extends into the evening, when the hotel serves a limited menu in an area off the lobby, known as The Hub. Through cross training, the front desk team doubles as the food preparers and waitstaff, which helps keep costs in line.
“Guest feedback told us that people wanted a place in the hotel where they could relax and socialize as well as have something to eat and drink,” Nogal said. Menu items reflect the local taste, which in Warsaw means cold cuts and cheese and cured fish, among other items.
Of the 20 hotels that Hilton Worldwide opened in Europe in the first half of the year, seven have been Hampton by Hiltons. In addition to Poland, the brand has made inroads into Turkey and Russia and continues to add units in the United Kingdom. And with Hampton by Hiltons in the pipeline in five more Polish destinations, the expansion strategy doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. (Hampton has roughly 2,000 hotels open worldwide.)
In all markets outside North America, Hampton Inn and Hampton Inn and Suites are known simply as Hampton by Hilton, a strategic decision that Cordell feels has paid off handsomely. “Hilton has been a recognized brand in Europe since 1955 with the opening of the Hilton Istanbul, and, consequently, the name carries a lot of goodwill with consumers here,” he said. “Adding the Hilton sub-brand transfers that goodwill to Hampton.”