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In this second part of our interview with Candice D'Cruz, we have a closer look at Hilton's strategy in Asia, focusing on the growth of its luxury brands in the region and initiatives to transform the guest experience.


In this second part of our interview with Candice D'Cruz, we have a closer look at Hilton's strategy in Asia, focusing on the growth of its luxury brands in the region and initiatives to transform the guest experience.

Category: Asia Pacific - Industry economy - Careers - Appointments Hotel opening Hotel projects - Interviews
Interview made by Vanessa Guerrier-Buisine on 2024-04-12

Candice D'Cruz Hilton vice-president of Luxury Brands for Asia Pacific

Candice D'Cruz, Hilton vice-president of Luxury Brands for Asia Pacific
Photo credit © TAN ENG / Hilton Worldwide

The appointment of Candice D'Cruz in January this year was in response to a very clear ambition to develop the Hilton Group's luxury brands in the Asia Pacific area.
In this interview, the Vice President of Hilton's luxury brands in the region explains what sets each of the three brands she represents - Conrad, LXR and Waldorf Astoria - apart, illustrating the exclusive experiences offered at these properties.

Candice D'Cruz also discusses the short- and medium-term objectives that have been set for her, which include doubling Hilton's portfolio of luxury brands in the APAC region. In particular, she gives us an overview of the forthcoming openings of luxury properties in the Asia-Pacific region.

Finally, she shares her vision of travel and its impact on communities and human connections, exploring the concept of transformative travel, so dear to the Hilton Group brands.

Journal des Palaces: What short- and medium-term objectives were set for you when you were appointed?

Candice D'Cruz: I am proud to work with the Luxury Brand Management team to develop compelling new offerings and creative strategies that bring our brands to life for guests and truly make an impact in Asia Pacific. I hope to leverage on my strategic leadership to position Hilton as a key luxury player, extending beyond traditional hospitality boundaries.

With Asia Pacific as a clear engine for growth in luxury travel, I aim to continue differentiating and uplifting our luxury brands, creating unique and compelling luxury guest experiences, and growing the best talents within our luxury team.

I’m excited to share that earlier this month, we announced an exclusive and strategic partnership with Small Luxury Hotels, which allowed us to dramatically expand the luxury experiences offered by Hilton. Though this partnership, which will ramp up in the months ahead, Hilton’s customers will be able to book, earn and redeem points for stays at participating properties in the SLH community spanning 90 countries. These locations are highly complementary to Hilton’s vast network of hotels, and will give guests access to additional luxury accommodations in hundreds of new destinations.

Could you tell us about the upcoming openings in the Asia Pacific region? What are the development ambitions of the brands you manage in this region?

Hilton is Asia Pacific’s fastest growing hospitality company and offers immense opportunities for luxury travel. 40% of our luxury portfolio is in this part of the world, and we expect to double our luxury brand presence in APAC in the coming years. Hilton’s luxury brands make up more than 30 properties with 28 more in the pipeline across Asia Pacific.

Waldorf Astoria will triple in presence in APAC over the next five years, from six to 19 hotels across Kuala Lumpur, Osaka, Sanya, Shanghai Qiantan, Sydney, Tokyo, Jaipur, Jakarta, Hanoi, Xi’an and more. These properties will join other iconic hotels including Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, with Ithaafushi – the Private Island, and our award-winning hotels in Bangkok, Shanghai, Beijing, Xiamen and Chengdu.

More than half (56%) of the current global Conrad estate is located in Asia Pacific, and this will grow even further with new openings in Malaysia, China, and Japan. In addition to Conrad Singapore Orchard, our second Conrad in Singapore, other upcoming openings include Conrad Chongqing (2024), Conrad Kuala Lumpur (2025) – the first Conrad in Malaysia, Conrad Nagoya (2026), Conrad Xi’an (2027), Conrad Nanjing (2027), and Conrad Qingcheng Mountain (2027).

We’ve debuted the first LXR Hotels & Resorts property in South East Asia with Umana Bali in December 2023, the latest addition to the exclusive collection of independent properties, following ROKU KYOTO in Japan, our first LXR in APAC.

Our luxury growth momentum demonstrates the strong interest and confidence from owner and investment communities in the strength of our brands and our industry-leading capabilities in successfully managing iconic properties in key gateway cities and destination resort locations. We look forward to expanding our luxury portfolio with the right partners, at the right locations, at the right time.

How do the Group's luxury brands stand out from the competition within the region?

Hilton will continue to understand the needs of our luxury guests across the region and ensure our brands continually innovate to meet evolving preferences. We are committed to providing exceptional experiences and lasting memories for guests.

We have observed a notable shift towards transformative travel experiences. Beyond experiential elements, travellers today seek destinations, locations, and encounters that not only enrich their journeys but leave them feeling distinctly elevated. The emphasis is on a transformative impact, where guests aim to depart with a sense of personal improvement. Hilton’s luxury brands will always seek to provide opportunities where travellers can invest in the “health of self”, whether through personalised, unique travel experiences; holistic wellbeing or sustainability and purposeful travel.

Can you give us some examples?

At Waldorf Astoria Maldives Ithaafushi, we are seeing interest in the Stella Maris duplex villas, which are completely surrounded by the sea. It's truly magical and exclusive. Guests can also take over Ithaafushi – The Private Island, the largest private island in the Maldives which spans over 32,000 square meters.

At Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, THE MURAKA is a first-of-its-kind, two-level underwater residence with a master bedroom submerged over 16 feet below sea level in the Indian Ocean with a dedicated viewing tunnel. This is the absolute pinnacle of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

At Conrad Bali, full moon ceremonies incorporate traditional Balinese rituals and meditations for self-fulfilment alongside an authentic tasting experience. Guests staying at ROKU KYOTO can learn how to make traditional artisan crafts guided by Japanese masters – taking back home a slice of history.

At Umana Bali, guests can go stargazing with a resident astronomer, kite-making with a master kite builder and attend cooking classes within a home kitchen. A wealth of holistic, spiritual and wellness experiences include ceremonies and rituals to purify, bless and celebrate, as well as medications and consultations with priests and temple elders that forge meaningful connections to the Island of the Gods.

Conrad Singapore Orchard has thoughtfully curated a host of holistic wellness programmes designed by local artisans to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul. Thoughtful wake-up rituals and conscious practices nurture mindfulness and connection.

Conrad Koh Samui launched an on-site farm in the midst of the pandemic. The Iris Farm has become a massive draw for visitors of all ages who love meeting the animals, learning about composting, collecting eggs and harvesting vegetables. The farm produces 1,300 kg of food and processes 2,400 kg of compostable waste per month, recycling organic resources while conserving landfill space.

How will you strengthen the positioning of each brand in APAC?

Each brand has a distinct story and personality that is brought to life through different brand pillars, architecture and design, customer touchpoints, and service delivery. I am eager to leverage their intricacies and brand values to showcase the breadth and depth of our luxury portfolio.

Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts properties offer a unique sense of place with a relentless commitment to elegant service and culinary expertise in landmark locations around the world. The luxury hotel brand began in New York City with a single property in 1893 that Conrad Hilton dubbed, “The Greatest of Them All”.
In 2022, we announced a partnership with Proof & Co to cultivate an unforgettable beverage experience across all Waldorf Astoria Peacock Alley locations globally.

Conrad Hotels & Resorts properties create a seamless connection between bold design, impactful experiences and curated contemporary art to inspire the conscientious traveller.
Piloting in select properties soon, Conrad Art Encounters is a curated guest experience that empowers guests to explore and support art both within and beyond its hotels. The program will enable guests to draw connections between the hotel’s art, design, and location, with self-guided tours designed to immerse guests in the hotel’s on-property art collection as well as the vibrant art scene of each destination and the heritage of the locale, past and present. This includes visits to local art museums and opportunities to support local creators.

LXR Hotels & Resorts is a hand-picked collection of independent and spirited luxury properties celebrating the timeless pursuit of personal adventure. Found in the world's most alluring destinations, LXR connects legendary properties into an exclusive network of hotels that are set apart by individual design, an unrivalled commitment to personalised service and elegant, yet locally immersive, experiences for guests. Building on the success of the brand's regional launch in Kyoto, the unveiling of another remarkable LXR resort in Bali underscores our dedication to extending our world-class luxury brands to the most sought-after destinations.

You mention the fact that travel defines us more than our nationality. What impact does this have on the way we manage travellers?

I believe travel changes lives and unifies communities and I aim to harness the power and purpose of travel to create meaning for our guests. Travel is a key cultivator of shared interests, broadened minds and an appreciation for the undiscovered. It fosters tolerance, kindness, and inclusiveness that build a kindred human connection.

This will impact the way we manage travellers and, in that time, we will all become global citizens – regardless of where we come from – who understand the wider world and our personal place in it. We’ll seek to always provide opportunities where they can take an active role in exploring our common cultural connection.

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About the author

As a journalist and luxury hotel expert inspired by the men and women who embody it, Vanessa aspires to enhance and sublimate the beauty and elegance of palaces through her writing. "In a palace, simplicity serves the quest for excellence" she admires.

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