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Hilton’s bold Sydney launch sends industry a signal of hope

November 30, 2020 Headline News, Hotel News No Comments Email Email

When one of the world’s leading hospitality and accommodation providers hosts a real, person-to-person event in the heart of Sydney – as opposed to a virtual event via Zoom – it sends the industry a signal of hope, signifying that the end of pandemic-related disruption is in sight.

Hilton Australasia’s Vice President of Operations, Heidi Kunkel

Hilton took this step last Thursday, inviting travel industry media to the Hilton Sydney for a briefing about latest developments, including the roll-out of EventReady with CleanStay, a global meeting and events program that lets organisers create clean, flexible, safe and socially responsible event experiences.

The briefing began in the historic Marble Bar, a Sydney icon, which was cleaned and sealed in line with the CleanStay program, with chairs arranged in a socially distanced way. Once a supervisor certifies a room is clean and fully sanitised according to CleanStay protocol, it is sealed to prevent any unauthorised entry.

Hilton Sydney’s Commercial Director, Blair Weir, broke the seal and media entered to hear Hilton Australasia’s Vice President of Operations, Heidi Kunkel, and Australasia Commercial Director, Shaizeen Contractor, outline the new program and discuss the landscape of the MICE industry in Australia, which has been significantly impacted by social distancing measures, leading to the cancellation or postponement of large-scale events.

EventReady with CleanStay provides a way forward. 

Hilton Sydney’s Commercial Director, Blair Weir

Some encouraging signs generally, raised at the briefing:

  • New Zealand and the Northern Territory have effectively beaten the virus and life in both jurisdictions is, to all intents and purposes, back to normal, without need for special measures.
  • Weir says Victoria’s defeat of the coronavirus and its emergence from lockdown will bring major benefits for NSW, potentially. “They are the biggest market for this state.”
  • Vaccines are on the way and are performing better than anyone had hoped.

Kunkel said Hilton enjoys massive brand recognition, which is helping the hotel and resort group weather the storm.

“Despite how heavily the hotels sector has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Hilton remains the world’s most valuable hotel brand, up an impressive 35% in brand value to US$10.8billion,” she said.

“Hilton’s year-on-year success is due to strong revenue growth and a solid reputation, making Hilton a firm-favourite with holiday-goers around the world.”

Hilton is on track to double its existing Australasian footprint in the next five years, with 16 properties in the pipeline, including six openings set for 2021. These are the Doubletree by Hilton Perth Waterfront, Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street, Hilton Garden Inn Albany, Doubletree by Hilton Noumea Illot Maitre, Hilton Tahiti and Doubletree by Hilton Karaka.

Meanwhile, the pandemic is providing a measuring point that lets consumers judge how hotel companies perform.

“Consumers will remember how brands responded to the crisis, affecting their trust for those brands,” Kunkel said. “This will ultimately impact their purchasing decisions moving forward. In the near-term, consumers are more likely to book a stay with a national hotel brand than an independent hotel.”

She continued: “Consumers have already punished brands that did not respond well to the pandemic. They will remember the bad decisions companies made during this time. Customers will assess their future purchasing decisions based on how companies responded during this crisis.”

Following the Marble Bar briefing, we proceeded to Hilton Sydney’s renowned glass brasserie restaurant for lunch. Both the Marble Bar and the glass brasserie are open and fully operational. Hilton is fortunate because both venues have separate entrances, which allows them to operate without guests needing to pass through the main hotel lobby. They cannot do this at present because Hilton Sydney is serving as a quarantine hotel for the duration of the pandemic. Hotels cannot host regular guests as well as people undergoing quarantine (for obvious reasons).

Hilton EventReady with CleanStay was designed to meet the changing needs of meeting planners and attendees, while ensuring the safe resumption of MICE events. As such, new measures have been introduced to deliver safe experiences for everyone.

The key tenets of the Hilton EventReady with CleanStay program include:

  • Cleanliness Protocols: The program expands on the elevated sanitation standards of the recently announced Hilton CleanStay program, addressing every touch point of the meeting experience. This includes room seals for guest and meeting rooms, sanitizing stations in public areas and meeting spaces and EventReady Room Checklist.
  • Book-to-Billing Flexibility: Understanding the importance of flexibility, Hilton Teams will work hand-in-hand with customers to align on shared objectives, providing:
    • Flexible pricing, space options and contract terms;
    • Responsive offers to meet the needs of customers, like simplified agreements for small meetings;
    • Hilton EventReady Playbook, which delivers expert guidance and curated resources for solutions, such as Hybrid Meetings that seamlessly combine on-site attendees with those in remote locations, Room Sets and Creative Networking.
  • Safe and Socially Responsible Solutions: To responsibly host meetings and events, Hilton Team Members will partner with their clients to achieve the meeting’s objectives while addressing both health and environmental concerns.
    This includes presenting creative physical distancing meeting sets and meal service, developing inspiring food & beverage options and sharing environmental impact solutions measured by LightStay, Hilton’s award-winning corporate responsibility measurement platform.


Written by Peter Needham


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