Deep dive with Pablo Maturana, vice president, development, Caribbean and Latin America, Hilton

With Hilton Worldwide revealing this year that it intends to double its Puerto Rican portfolio, we grilled the major group’s vice president of development for the Caribbean and Latin America about its regional plans.

Pablo Maturana also outlines how Hilton is planning to double its Carribean hotel system.

Why has Hilton decided to rapidly increase its development in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico represents an integral part of Hilton’s history and our growth strategy in the Caribbean and Latin America. In 1949, Hilton opened the iconic Caribe Hilton, marking its first hotel outside of the continental United States and kickstarting our expansion in the Caribbean and Latin America. 

Since planting our first flag in Puerto Rico nearly 75 years ago, we’ve remained committed to growing our presence on the island, where we currently have eight hotels and resorts, and across the broader Caribbean and Latin America region, where we currently offer a diverse portfolio of nearly 210 hotels to cater to our ever-evolving guest needs. 

Why is the country the group’s largest Caribbean growth market?

Our in-market expertise and strategic alignment with owners has helped spur this steadfast momentum in the vibrant destination. 

Hilton’s current hotel supply in Puerto Rico consists of eight hotels and resorts. Our Puerto Rico pipeline includes nine hotels featuring four new-to-market brands with plans to introduce the first Curio Collection by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Tru by Hilton and Homewood Suites by Hilton to the island. 

With these additions, Hilton’s portfolio of hotels would more than double by the end of 2025, bringing the company’s supply to 17 hotels across eight brands in Puerto Rico. 

Which other Caribbean nations will Hilton be focusing on to double its portfolio in the whole region?

While Hilton’s plan to double our Caribbean portfolio includes many Caribbean destinations in our pipeline, from Bermuda and the Cayman Islands to Dominica and Jamaica, we are seeing tremendous growth potential in the Dominican Republic. In May, we announced the signing of Zemi Miches All-Inclusive Resort, Curio Collection by Hilton (expected to open in 2024) and in July, we debuted our first Hilton Garden Inn with Hilton Garden Inn La Romana. With this growth, Hilton plans to nearly triple our portfolio in the country over the next five years.

Hilton currently welcomes guests at five hotels in the Dominican Republic and has 10 projects in various stages of development across the country. 

How has the regional pipeline progressed over recent years?

Across the Caribbean, Hilton’s presence is vast with nearly 30 hotels welcoming guests throughout the region, in some of the most sought-after destinations such as Aruba and Jamaica. These hotels complement our diverse presence in the region with other properties open and welcoming travellers in Barbados, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and more.

We are continuously looking for areas of opportunity to grow that number and our pipeline in the Caribbean that includes approximately 30 hotels of our nearly 110 hotels across the Caribbean and Latin America that are in various stages of construction and design. Much of the company’s expansion in the Caribbean has taken place in the last decade, with more than 60% of the current portfolio of hotels added during that time.

Within the last couple of years in the Caribbean, we’ve entered new markets such as the Cayman Islands following the Hampton by Hilton opening in 2021. We also saw the arrival of new brands in markets like Curaçao, St. Kitts and Anguilla. We also look forward to introducing Hilton in new markets including Bermuda, Dominica and the United States Virgin Islands, among others.

Which hotel segments do you think hold the most potential for development in the Caribbean?

In the Caribbean, we see immense opportunity with the all-inclusive segment, where our footprint continues to grow organically, our lifestyle brands which are great for conversions, and demand for our focused service brands.

The all-inclusive segment offers us a great opportunity to meet increasing travel demand and deliver valuable returns for owners, as we provide our guests with a collection of premier hotels in the most sought-after beachfront destinations, delivering an unmatched travel experience for all types of travellers. Through this segment, we are hyper-focused on offering world-class service, high-end accommodations, elevated food and beverage, a variety of on-property cultural activities and entertainment, and more for our guests so they don’t have to worry about planning or ever having to leave their resort. Hilton has nine all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean and Latin America welcoming guests. Recently we announced the conversion of Hilton Cancun Mar Caribe All-Inclusive Resort, expected to open in November of this year.

For the lifestyle segment, we’ve had great success in introducing our lifestyle brands to the Caribbean through strategic conversions. We also see demand with our focused service brands including Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton and Tru by Hilton.

Which countries or regions in Latin America are you currently focusing on for hotel development?

We are always looking at opportunities to expand our portfolio across Latin America. We’re looking to double our presence in destinations such as Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Peru just to name a few and see continued growth in Colombia, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Brazil.

In the region, Mexico remains a cornerstone of our growth strategy with one of the largest collections of Hilton properties in the world. In Mexico alone, guests are currently welcomed at nearly 90 hotels, accounting for almost half of our portfolio in the Caribbean and Latin America. We also recently announced the signing of Waldorf Astoria San Miguel de Allende, expected to open in 2025, which will represent our third Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts property in the country. Across Mexico, Hilton has more than 25 hotels in various stages of development.

In addition to Mexico, Brazil has also been a key area of accelerated growth. Hilton has nearly tripled its footprint in the last five years. We currently have a portfolio of 19 hotels welcoming travellers in Brazil, and 10 projects in its development pipeline. Hilton has used the country as a catalyst for the debut of new brands in the region and we’ve also entered new markets in the country including with last year’s debut of Hilton Porto Alegre and DoubleTree by Hilton Foz do Iguacu Brazil.

In addition to these markets of focus, we’ve seen opportunities in other parts of Latin America such as Ecuador and we are the first international hotel brand in the Galapagos.

Are there significant differences in pipeline composition in Latin America compared to the Caribbean?

A significant amount of Hilton’s portfolio and pipeline is in Latin America, which includes Mexico. This is due in part to the depth of the region, size of the region, number of countries, population, and travel demand. The cultural diversity throughout Latin America is continuously generating opportunities for growth potential.

With that said, we see opportunity across both the Caribbean and Latin America, and Hilton is always looking at opportunities to expand our portfolio and put the right hotel in the right place at the right time, and with the right owner, to ensure we can meet guests in the destinations they want to travel.

In both regions, is Hilton typically focusing more on newbuilds or conversions?

In the last decade, we’ve tripled our portfolio across the Caribbean and Latin America with 75% of our current hotel portfolio added within the last 10 years. This growth is a result of our team of in-market experts focused on organic growth, strategically introducing our portfolio of brands, pursuing both newbuild and conversion opportunities, and expanding into sectors such as all-inclusive, all while aligning with owners who shared our vision. Pursuing both newbuilds and conversion opportunities is essential to our growth strategy.

What criteria do you use to choose hotel suppliers in your regions?

Our overall approach is to support the design and delivery of a truly exceptional property that delights our guests, rewards our partners, delivers optimal returns for our hotel owners, and reflects and respects the unique cultures and communities where we operate.

To that end, we seek suppliers that are aligned with our values and complement Hilton’s commitment to our guests, team, owners, and community. And our teams help ensure standards are in place so that properties can operate economically and efficiently, while creating memorable and unique design solutions that reflect our brand philosophy and exceed our guests’ expectations.

How do you think the Hilton portfolio in the Caribbean and Latin America will look in a few years’ time?

Looking ahead, we’re not slowing down anytime soon and we are continuing the momentum with our development pipeline. Nearly 20 hotels are currently expected to open in 2023.