Rob Palleschi, DoubleTree by Hilton, Global Head: We Believe in Bulgaria's Potential
Rob Palleschi, Global Head at DoubleTree by Hilton, paid a visit to Bulgaria for the official opening of the brand latest destination - the DoubleTree by Hilton Varna – Golden Sands on the Black Sea coast, which represents the first global hotel brand in the popular tourism hub.
Mr Palleschi talked to Milena Hristova from Novinite.com just as the DoubleTree by Hilton Varna – Golden Sands commemorated the official opening of this first DoubleTree by Hilton hotel in Bulgaria for the spring and summer season with key business and civic leaders.
Why did Hilton decide to provide its brand to hotels on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, which has hardly seen global brands in this sector? Kempinski, for instance, eventually got out. What makes you believe your story will be a success story?
We are very confident in this region of the world, particularly in Bulgaria and Romania. The region will continue to grow and tourism is one of the fastest developing sectors. We feel very fortunate that our brand was invited here and I am sure you'll see even more global brands moving in.
DoubleTree by Hilton is a much larger brand than Kempinski, as well as the entire Hilton worldwide system with over 3,900 hotels doing business in 82 countries. We bring in not only the awareness of the brand, but also the tools, resources and systems to ensure that the hotel succeeds, to connect it with the world wide web, with the way business is done, with the new travel consortia. I think this is critical.
No matter where you go in the world, when you say the word 'Hilton' people know the hotel. It has been a trusted name for over ninety-two years. This awareness and recognition will help the new travelers to Varna and the Black Sea coast by giving them confidence that they will receive a consistent service and product.
There will be two Hilton-branded hotels on Bulgaria's coast - the DoubleTree by Hilton Varna-Golden Sands, and the Hilton Varna, which is to be opened in a year. Why did you provide the brand for two hotels?
This shows our confidence in this region and Bulgaria in particular, the vision and experience of the owner Dr. George Veltchev, as well as our experience with the Hilton hotel in Sofia and the new Hilton Garden Inn that we are building. It is my expectation that both hotels will be year-round.
How do your plans in Bulgaria fit in with your strategy for the region?
My colleague Jeremy Smith, Brand Manager of DoubleTree by Hilton, and I have just finished a tour of Slovakia, Romania and now we'll spend a few days in Bulgaria. I see and feel a lot of positive energy in all three countries – beautiful landscape, good infrastructure, very positive and energetic people that want to move forward. There has also been good news coming in from the industry sector –natural gas, minerals, automotive, tourism sectors. Those are the makings for a good foundation, a recipe for success. We want to be part of it. Not only DoubleTree by Hilton, but all our brands are aggressively looking to develop hotel opportunities in the entire region.
I guess you have conducted a detailed research on the likelihood of achieving a certain average daily rate and the types of tourists expected. What did it show? Aren't you scared of mass tourism?
We have a brand to serve every need – from the focused service brands to the luxury brand Waldorf Astoria. Mass tourism does not scare us because we play at every level. Travelers are familiar with our brands and besides we help educate them so that they know where they fit and how it works. I think that all travelers out there, no matter whether they travel for leisure, for business or with their families, recognize that today travel can be difficult. They are spending their own hard-earned money for a leisure destination like Varna. To know that they can get a good quality product - a good sleep, a good shower, a beautiful pool and beach area – is critically important and they will gravitate towards that.
Which will be the targeted markets?
I don't know whether the traditional target markets for tourists will change dramatically. I do know however that we will bring new customers from within these markets. These new travelers may not be familiar with the former brand or the independent brand, but will be familiar with the name Hilton. We have millions of loyal customers with a loyal card here in Europe, who are looking for destinations to travel to.
Some experts say that if large resorts do not feature any global brands, they remain marginal destinations. Do you agree?
I would like to send that individual a thank-you card! We believe that big global brands exceed owners' expectations in terms of occupancy, rate and ultimately profitability. Subsequently they want to develop and build more hotels within the big brand. Business now is not only local, it is expanding beyond borders. The owners' relationship with a big global brand allows them to expand into different segments and areas.
Dr. George Veltchev said negotiations with Hilton took almost four years. Which do you think was the decisive factor, which brought you together?
We pride ourselves on offering flexibility, competitive fees and pricing. Last but not least we pride ourselves on our partnership with owners. We own several hotels around the world and know very well how difficult it can be for owners to succeed despite the ups and downs in the economy
Will the entry of Hilton in Golden Sands break the existing mould where tour operators dominate almost every tourist destination in Bulgaria?
I don't know whether we will break the mould, but we will find new opportunities to partner with tour operators. Ultimately we share the success of the Black Sea and the city of Varna. Hilton Worldwide, the ownership of other hotels and tour operators are all aligned to ensure the success of this region, to make it a globally known destination.
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