Hotel giant Hilton is planning to launch a boutique brand in the UK in an effort to tap into the lifestyle and leisure market, Caterer can reveal.
The company has poached Ross Klein and Amar Lalvani, who developed the premium W brand for rival group Starwood Hotels & Resorts, to head up the unnamed project.
As well as the new boutique venture, Klein is taking charge of the Waldorf-Astoria and Conrad brands, while Lalvani is also assigned to developing global luxury brands.
In an exclusive interview with Caterer, Simon Vincent, UK and Ireland vice-president at Hilton, said: "Bringing in Klein and Lalvani is a real coup and a major statement of our intent in the boutique sector."
The company owns the relatively non-branded Trafalgar hotel in central London and, according to Vincent: "New properties will be along the lines of our current boutique offering, with unusual buildings in major city locations."
Vincent admitted that Hilton had to target new customers to avoid overreliance on the business market. "Boutique is a growing market, and we want to reflect the fact that our customers are looking for something different to luxury, a new kind of brand," he said.
"Hilton is geared to a corporate market with banqueting and conference events, but we want to tap into the lifestyle and leisure market."
Michael Wale, director of operations for north-west Europe at Starwood, admitted that the departure of Klein and Lalvani was "disappointing".
"You never like to lose good people," he said. "But it's a big wide world out there, and we understand that people will be attracted to Hilton. The way we see the new brand is that imitation is the strongest form of flattery."
By James Aufenast
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