We chat to Martin Rinck, Global Head of Luxury and Lifestyle Group at Hilton. He is responsible for all strategic development, brand innovation and leadership initiatives for the world’s fastest growing luxury hotel portfolio, including Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts.
- Tell us about Hilton’s luxury brands…
Hilton’s luxury brands, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts, make up nearly 65 properties in more than 30 countries around the world and growing.
While the Waldorf Astoria brand is most famously known for the Waldorf Astoria New York – which our founder, Conrad Hilton, dubbed “The Greatest of Them All” – our global portfolio of nearly 30 iconic properties all create a unique sense of place with a relentless commitment to personal service and culinary expertise in landmark locations around the world. Whether it is at the Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, the Waldorf Astoria Chicago, the Waldorf Astoria Chengdu, or the Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah, guests can enjoy truly unforgettable experiences all over the world.
On the other hand, with more than with 35 properties in 21 countries, Conrad Hotels & Resorts have created a seamless connection between contemporary design, leading innovation and curated art to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit of the globally connected traveller. Conrad’s Seamless Service is natural, anticipatory and enhanced by innovation. Guests can use Conrad as home base in destinations like Bora Bora, Tokyo, Dublin, Algarve, Cartagena, New York and Chicago – just to name a few.
- What was your background in the hospitality sector prior to working for Hilton?
While my career has largely been in hospitality, I have enjoyed the opportunity to hold a variety of diverse positions within the sector and around the world. Prior to joining Hilton in 2008, I oversaw the Asia Pacific region as president and managing director of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group; however, I started my career with Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group as the executive vice president and chief development officer for EMEA. In this role, I focused on driving unit growth for the company’s portfolio and the public listing of the company at the Stockholm Stock Exchange. Before Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, I spent my time as CEO for Mövenpick Gastronomy International in Switzerland, as well as at InterContinental Hotels Group in Europe and the United States, and Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in Indonesia. And of course, before leading our Luxury & Lifestyle business, I spent nine years as the area president of Asia Pacific for Hilton.
- What is your position within Hilton?
As the executive vice president and global head of the Luxury & Lifestyle Group at Hilton, I am responsible for all strategic development, brand innovation and leadership initiatives for the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands in addition to Hilton’s lifestyle brand, Canopy by Hilton.
- How have Hilton luxury and lifestyle brands grown over the past few years?
Both the Waldorf Astoria and Conrad brands have experienced unprecedented growth over the past few years with the opening of Waldorf Astoria Chengdu, Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills, Conrad Chicago, Conrad Cartagena and Conrad Bora Bora – to name a few. Our brands will continue to expand in the coming years with 35 properties in the pipeline or various stages of development across both Waldorf Astoria and Conrad in exciting destinations like the Maldives, Jakarta, London, San Francisco, Playa Mita and Shenyang.
- What differentiates Hilton’s luxury brands from others in the luxury sector?
Our two luxury brands are both unique when compared to each other and to other brands in the luxury sector.
From Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills to Waldorf Astoria Chengdu, our global portfolio is differentiated by the unique sense of place that is created at all of our iconic Waldorf Astoria locations. Credited with reinvigorating the Eggs Benedict and inventing the Red Velvet Cupcake, culinary expertise also continues to be a key component of the Waldorf Astoria brand. Today, some of the most celebrated and internationally-recognized Michelin star chefs lead the culinary innovation at our properties.
At Hilton, innovation is in our DNA. For nearly 100 years, our luxury brands have helped define the hospitality experience for the modern day traveller. Our Conrad brand is particularly ambitious when it comes to design and innovation, creating an environment that seamlessly combines contemporary style and the entrepreneurial spirit of the globally connected traveller.
- Are there any significant openings for Waldorf Astoria and Conrad this year?
Yes! We look forward to the grand opening of the highly-anticipated Waldorf Astoria Bangkok and Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas in late August of this year, as well as the opening of Waldorf Astoria Maldives and Conrad Washington DC early next year.
- How has the luxury sphere changed? What kind of experiences are your guests looking for and how has Waldorf Astoria and Conrad adapted to these new patterns of behaviour?
The luxury landscape continues to evolve as customer preferences change and new generations enter the luxury sector. And, while there are aspects of luxury hospitality that will never change – for example the importance of delivering personalized service – we understand that our guests are looking for unforgettable experiences that will create memories that last a lifetime. Whether it is dining at a Michelin Star restaurant on property, or joining a traditional fisherman on a clam picking adventure in Portugal, our hotels are rich with experiences and discoveries that help our guests create these unforgettable memories.
- In your opinion, how has technology played a role in Waldorf Astoria and Conrad improving guest service?
Simply put, technology helps facilitate personalized service at our properties. Conrad, for example, was the first brand to put personal luxury in the hands of our guests with Conrad Concierge, a service-enabled technology for smartphones and tablets available through the Hilton Honors mobile app. The Conrad Concierge allows guests to make reservations, order room service, book a spa treatment, and arrange an airport transfer (and more) all through their mobile device. In fact, Conrad Concierge was the first hospitality software platform completely integrated with hotel management systems across a whole portfolio of hotels within a brand, which again speaks to Conrad’s unwavering commitment to innovation.
- What is the biggest lesson you like to impart to any future leaders?
I always say to focus on three things:
- Be genuine and authentic – People will realize when you’re not true to yourself.
- Be grounded in a strong value system – Focus on doing the right thing, not just doing things right.
- Be passionate about the job at hand – When you’re passionate, you’ll be good at what you do. When you’re good at what you do, you’ll be recognized. When you’re recognized, your career progression will fall into place.
- What’s next for Waldorf Astoria and Conrad?
Growth! We are very excited about the tremendous growth of our brands, with 35 properties in the pipeline or various stages of development.
I am also eagerly awaiting the first-of-its-kind Undersea Residence that will open at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island later this year. As the first international hotel brand to enter the Maldivian market 20 years ago, not to mention Conrad Maldives Rangali being home to the world’s first undersea restaurant, this stunning resort continues create these one-of-a-kind innovations. Soon, guests will be able to sleep under the sea!
I would also be remiss not to mention how excited we are for the Waldorf Astoria hotel in the historic Admiralty Arch building in London, which will be making its debut in the next few years.