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Hilton, Marriott go head-to-head on luxury and lifestyle

Monday - 6/2/2014, 3:38pm  ET

Two D.C.-area hotel giants tried to top each other Monday with news that they are expanding in the four- and five-star hotel space.

First was the long-awaited announcement of a new brand from McLean-based Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc., a collection brand to be called Curio. Later was news from Bethesda-based Marriott International Inc.: The company plans to open 200 new luxury and lifestyle hotels around the world during the next several years.

The new Marriott-branded hotels will include 15 new Ritz-Carltons, six new Edition hotels, 23 new JW Marriott Hotels and Resorts, 20 additions to the Autograph Collection this year and 30 AC Hotels in Europe during the next three years.

Both announcements were made in conjunction with the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York City this week.

Hotels under Hilton's Curio umbrella will maintain their existing identities, but will have the “Curio—A Collection by Hilton” branding attached to them as well.

The concept is similar to Marriott’s Autograph Collection, which encompasses distinctive hotel properties that are still known by their independent identities, including the Algonquin Hotel in Times Square and Turnberry Isle in Miami, Florida.

Curio — which Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta previewed last month during an earnings call — will allow the hotel company to bring more independent, unique hotel properties under its umbrella, said Rob Palleschi, global chief of the Hilton Hotels & Resorts brand.

“In the past we’ve done many deals like this where we brought these iconic, locally known properties into our brand, and we were pushing them either into our Waldorf, Hilton or Doubletree brands,” Palleschi said. “It stretches the brand a bit, but it also moves the hotel a little outside its individuality and its comfort zone.”

With Curio, Hilton hopes to attract more of the travelers who seek to stay in independent, locally tied properties. The company hopes to add 250 properties to the Curio collection during the next five years, Palleschi said.

“These travelers in many cases seek out these unique assets that celebrate that local flavor of the community. They want something that’s not prescriptive, that’s different and quirky, but at the same time, they want to benefit from a loyalty scheme, and knowing they’ve got the trust and confidence of a major brand behind them,” he said.

Hilton estimates that there are about 1,500 independent hotels worldwide that would fit the criteria to become a Curio Collection hotel. The company has letters of intent for four existing hotels and one yet-to-be-built independent hotel development in Portland, Oregon.

Most of the brand additions will be through acquisition of existing properties, although there are some opportunities for new hotels to come online under Curio, Palleschi said. The Portland example is one: A developer there already had plans for an independent, Portland-centric hotel and was interested in adding the Curio brand to its name.

Stay tuned for more announcements on the Curio front, including, possibly, some in the D.C. region.

“There are a number of assets that fit this classification in the D.C. area that we’ve targeted,” Palleschi said. “And now that this is out, we’ll being having discussions in earnest with many of those ownership groups.”

© 2014 American City Business Journals, Inc.

Tags: hotelshiltonmarriottmcleanbethesda