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Hilton leaders tease the company’s luxury hotel future, including a new brand

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The Beverly Hilton may have hosted the Golden Globes on Sunday, but that’s far from being the only luxurious happening taking place at a Hilton this year.

The hotel giant has a flurry of luxurious developments, openings and reopenings — welcome back, Waldorf Astoria New York ( more on that in a bit) — through the end of this year.

Further, the company is once again adding to its brand lineup, as recent earnings calls indicate Hilton is on track to announce a new luxury lifestyle brand — a term best associated these days with offerings from competitors like Marriott’s Edition, Hyatt’s Alila and IHG’s Six Senses — in the coming months.

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Last year may have seemed like the year of affordability at Hilton: The company launched the premium economy brand Spark as well as Project H3, the working title for the company’s extended-stay hotel brand. But fear not, luxe hotel fans: There’s still plenty of activity at Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts and LXR Hotels & Resorts, which all fall at the pricier end of the Hilton brand spectrum.

The luxury pillars of the Hilton ecosystem aren’t as pressured to show growth in massive numbers of new hotels like, say, Spark or Hilton Garden Inn. Luxury hotels are often passion projects that are more about perfect locations, refined service and ultimately getting it right so guests dream of booking their return as soon as they check-in.

“We’re in a really strong position. I think anything that we do is now completely additive,” said Dino Michael, Hilton’s senior vice president and global head of luxury brands, in an interview with TPG at last month’s International Luxury Travel Market conference in Cannes, France. “We feel really good about where we are.”

Waldorf Astoria Seychelles Platte Island. HILTON
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What’s coming up this year for Hilton’s luxury hotels

Some of Hilton’s most anticipated openings of 2024 involve Waldorf Astoria, including the Waldorf Astoria Seychelles Platte Island, a 59-villa resort expected to open in the next couple of months. Each of the hotel’s waterfront villas includes a private pool, and the property leans into nature vibes amid its surroundings of coral reefs, forest, a lagoon and an abundance of wildlife like eagle rays, manta rays and hawksbill turtles.

Further, the company plans on reintroducing travelers to the Waldorf Astoria New York, which is expected to complete its reportedly more than $1 billion makeover later this year. The hotel, closed for renovation since 2017, is slated to reemerge on the Big Apple’s luxury hotel scene with a slimmed-down room count — albeit with modernized accommodations.

Hilton’s Conrad brand will expand to Orlando this year — a move Michael says should accelerate the brand’s appeal as a resort offering to American travelers. The brand launched overseas, and it continues to have a larger footprint outside the Americas than within — but Conrad has expanded in recent years in the U.S. with locations in Los Angeles, Nashville, Las Vegas and Washington, D.C.

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LXR Hotels & Resorts, Hilton’s luxury soft brand that competes against Marriott’s The Luxury Collection, plans to open its first hotel in Hawaii next month following a conversion of what was previously the Trump International Hotel, Waikiki.

Wakea Waikiki Beach. HILTON

What will Hilton’s new luxury brand look like?

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta first teased a new luxury lifestyle hotel brand in the works back in August, and chatter only intensified in the months that followed.

“I think that the white space for us is luxury lifestyle. We’ve talked about it a bunch. We are doing a bunch of work in the space right now,” Nassetta added on a company investor call in October before noting he felt the brand would launch sometime this year.

Industry chatter swirled around the idea this might be Hilton’s way of showing it was potentially losing out on business that migrates to brands like Edition. The lifestyle hotel trend is driven by hotels with a mix of bars and restaurants that appeal to both hotel guests and local residents.

“We will enter the luxury lifestyle space. It’s a gap,” Michael added to TPG last month in France. “A lot of owners particularly think about the next generation hotel owners, the sons and daughters of our current owners. Lifestyle is becoming a very widely used word.”

Some might wonder why LXR Hotels & Resorts can’t fill that luxury lifestyle gap for Hilton, but the idea is that not every LXR property would fit the lifestyle hotel mold.

“What we don’t have is a programmatic, hard brand that takes that lifestyle sort of ethos and brings a certain element of programming that would be similar in different parts of the world,” said Feisal Jaffer, global head of LXR Hotels & Resorts. “That’s what a hard brand would allow us to do.”

Hilton’s bespoke luxury future

Brand continuity around the world doesn’t necessarily mean Hilton wants to have the same look and feel at every one of its luxury hotels, whether you’re in New York City or New Delhi.

Nassetta specifically noted on the October investor call the upcoming luxury lifestyle brand would be “a very bespoke thing” where “you’re not going to have thousands of these. You’re not even going to have hundreds of these.”

But it appears there’s even a degree of one-off vibes and guest experience at even a more established brand like Waldorf Astoria or Conrad.

“We’re regimented in the sense that we expect certain minimums. … Otherwise, you can’t get everything you want and have the space feel as though the premium you’ve paid is worth it,” Michael said. “It’s a market-driven approach.”

A studio one-king bedroom at the Conrad Los Angeles. MELANIE LIEBERMAN/THE POINTS GUY

Conrad hotels might have more of a mix of contemporary or midcentury modern design, but Michael points to the food and beverage programming at these hotels as where each property begins to have a unique identity.

Celebrity chef José Andrés garnered much acclaim for designing the culinary program at the two restaurants at the Conrad Los Angeles, where TPG was wowed in 2022 with dishes like Spanish-style fried eggs and striped bass crudo.

LXR hotels naturally have a bespoke offering since the collection is meant to feel more like one-off independent hotels that just happen to be a part of Hilton.

However, design independence and autonomy are clearly a luxury trend permeating beyond just the collection brand. That means Hilton luxury hotel fans can expect something different — albeit still with refined service, per the company’s baseline standards for a luxe hotel — at each property they check in to, whether it’s a hard brand like Waldorf Astoria or a collection of hotels like LXR.

“Luxury has always had the benefit of it’s never standardized, whether it’s the art selection, the music program [or the] the food and beverage development [that] has been done separately,” Michael added of Hilton’s overall luxury portfolio. “We don’t want the same venue in every hotel.”

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