Q&A with Hilton’s Andrew McLachlan
Q: What does your role at Hilton as Managing Director of development in sub-Saharan Africa entail?
A: I will be leading a team of developers to drive Hilton’s ambitious expansion plans across the sub-Saharan Africa region, partnering with local, regional and international investors to bring new hotels to the market or convert and reposition existing hotels to one of our brands. We partner with owners and investors where we brand, manage, market and administrate their hotel business and real estate asset under either a long term brand and management or franchise agreement, providing the right brand in the right market segment for guests in line with our strategies for individual countries, cities and brand segments.
Q: How has Hilton’s expansion strategy adjusted to address industry challenges that have arisen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa?
A: We are still fully focused on growing and expanding our portfolio across sub-Saharan Africa and see great opportunity to do so, given the underlying trends in the market and its economy. It is important to remember that when we sign an agreement with an owner for a new or existing property, these agreements are usually for at least 20 years, so it is absolutely a long term decision. So we look at fundamentals of any given market and assess its viability over the course of the coming decades rather than looking at short term conditions.
With versatile brands such as DoubleTree by Hilton, Curio Collection by Hilton and Tapestry Collection by Hilton, we are able to appeal to owners looking to convert an existing hotel to an international brand and instantly take advantage of our network of 100m+ Hilton Honors members. This can be an interesting and feasible option for some hotels which are well established products but are currently struggling to perform. Both Curio Collection and Tapestry Collection allow owners and hotels to retain their unique identity while leveraging the Hilton name and engine.
To meet evolving consumer expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hilton has built upon the already high standards of housekeeping and hygiene through launching CleanStay in all Hilton properties worldwide. CleanStay is an industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection to help Hilton guests enjoy an even cleaner and safer stay from check-in to check-out.
Q: What are some of Hilton’s most notable achievements on the continent since opening its first hotel in Africa, over 50 years ago?
A: Hilton reached the milestone of 100 hotels trading and under development in Africa last year which is a significant achievement and as of today Hilton Hotels & Resorts is the largest individual brand present on the continent in terms of number of rooms both open and in development. However, I think it’s important to look beyond the numbers and consider our role in pioneering the growth of travel and tourism in Africa as a whole. We were the first major international company to open hotels in Africa with landmark legacy hotels like Hilton Addis Ababa, Hilton Nairobi and Hilton Abuja and where Hilton goes, others follow. This is something still evident today as we break into new markets.
Q: Which markets in the region are you targeting for expansion?
A: We are committed to further growing our presence in Africa and are actively looking at opportunities across the region. Ultimately, we want to be in every major city and proven resort location where our customers need us. South Africa and Nigeria remain key strategic focuses where we can create scale across our brands and market segments in primary, secondary and tertiary cities, but strong emerging markets where we don’t have an existing presence, like Angola, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Mozambique, are also high on our priority list.
Q: Which brands are you aiming to develop in sub-Saharan Africa?
A: Hilton has 18 global brands, 12 of which we offer in sub-Saharan Africa. These range from luxury products (Waldorf Astoria, LXR Hotels & Resorts and Conrad Hotels & Resorts) and upscale (Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Curio Collection by Hilton, Tapestry Collection, DoubleTree by Hilton, Canopy by Hilton in the lifestyle segment and Embassy Suites in the aparthotel segment) right down to the mid-market (Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton and the lifestyle brand Motto by Hilton).
Brand Finance 2020 Hotels Top 50 ranked Hilton Hotels & Resorts as the worlds most valued brand and we strive to continue to drive the growth of the world’s most recognised hotel brand in gateway markets in Africa. Hampton by Hilton is ranked 5th and DoubleTree by Hilton 7th most valued hotel brand, so we will leverage their strong global brand value as we accelerate our growth of these brands in Africa.
Some of the greatest opportunity we see in the market comes in the midscale sector. Our Hilton Garden Inn brand, which fits into the mid-market segment offers enormous opportunity for investors and has proven to be a notable success story. Hilton Garden Inn is one of the top 10 largest brands on the continent and has also entered new markets in Southern Africa, namely Botswana, Eswatini and Zambia. We have positioned Hilton Garden Inn for success in Africa with a prototype developed specifically for the region. This prototype has been curated to meet the expectations of both travellers and owners throughout Africa, while maintaining the brand’s signature light, bright and airy design.
Q: What difference do you envision to bring to Hilton as the new head of development for sub-Saharan Africa?
A: With the benefit of a strong team already in place a lot of groundwork has been done in recent years to put the right structures and technical support in place to enable us to support our owners and other stakeholders from start to finish on a project. As an African with 30 years’ hotel experience and development knowhow across 32 different countries, I am excited to be joining a company committed to Africa at a time where we are looking to press ahead with our multi-brand hotel expansion and establish Hilton as the leading player within this important market.