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Hilton banks on luxury
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Hiltom Hotels Corp announced yesterday it will soon expand its luxury Waldorf Astoria brand to Shanghai despite a tough environment that many hotel operators are presently facing as a global financial turmoil curbed travel demand and slashed accommodation budgets.

The United States hospitality giant has signed an agreement with Shanghai New Union Building Co Ltd to manage the Waldorf Astoria On The Bund Shanghai, as part of the company's strategy to strengthen its luxury and lifestyle portfolio around the globe, Hilton said in a statement e-mailed to Shanghai Daily yesterday.

The 266-room property, comprising two buildings, is scheduled to open in 2011.

"This is an extraordinarily exciting project that epitomizes our commitment to expanding our luxury offerings in the region,'' said Martin Rinck, president for Hilton Hotels Asia Pacific operations. "We are very excited that we have been able to find such a perfect location for our first Waldorf Astoria hotel in Asia - on the famous Bund in Shanghai.''

He said that the fundamentals of the China hotel market are strong, and ''Hilton is positive about the long-term viability of its business model in China due to the huge middle class population, strong infrastructure and firm domestic travel as well as being very attractive to international business and leisure travellers.''

A latest industry report by real estate firm Jones Lang LaSalle has found occupancy at the city's five-star hotels fell by an average 9.1 percentage points to 59.1 percent by the end of 2008 while revenue per available room shed 16.6 percent to 911 yuan (US$133).

(Shanghai Daily March 5, 2009)

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