HM Exclusive: How Hilton built a new look for its Hampton brand

As the Hunter Hotel Investment Conference kicked off last week, Hilton announced a new prototype and refreshed global brand identity for its Hampton Inn and Hampton Inn & Suites brands in North America. The updates are the result of a two-year, multimillion dollar project that sought to keep one of the company’s most popular flags at the top of its game, Shruti Gandhi Buckley, senior vice president and brand leader of  Hampton by Hilton, told Hotel Management. 

Buckley said that Hilton is “continually looking at ways to invest” in Hampton to keep the brand at the top of its game in the midscale space. As travel resumed after the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, hotel rates are higher than they have ever been before, Buckley noted—“which is fantastic, but guest expectations have also risen as a result.” With Hampton hotels often charging 20 percent more than other properties in its competitive set, the team was looking for ways to keep guests coming back and paying that premium. “It's almost harder to keep a brand on top of its game because all the competition is following you,” Buckley said.

The team, she continued, has not had a chance to take a “deep dive” on the Hampton brand identity for some time—“not just the logo, but the color palette, the font, the photography, style, the animation style—all of that.” The new prototype and brand standards incorporate “nods and winks” to that identity in the design elements, including shower curtains with an elongated hexagonal shape (evoking the exterior sign) and coffee cups with a signature mustache logo. 

Design Elements

While maintaining signature elements like the illuminated red sign that can be seen from a distance, the new prototype incorporates elements that appeal to emerging traveler demands. “We have two packages that are very unique, but give the owner some choice,” Buckley said, noting that the team sought to make the new look “as cost efficient as possible.” The team sought out guest feedback to determine what they could safely change. “[We] can give confidence to our owners that they're making the right investment in those items that are going to drive performance and keep the brand competitive.” Elements of the new prototype can be incorporated into existing buildings as part of normal property improvement plan upgrades, she added, so established hotels will not look out of date.

Guestrooms will have a “lightened overall design” with larger windows to bring in more natural light. The furniture, fixture and equipment packages were developed with up to 6 percent cost savings compared to the previous packages. 

The studio suites in the former Inn & Suites prototype have been rotated for improved efficiency with separate shower and toilet compartments in the bathroom and replacing the previous two small windows with one large one. When owners complained that the suite design was “not as efficient as it could be,” the team found a way to rotate the shape while maintaining the square footage. The new orientation will mean that future buildings will not need to be as long as the previous prototype required. “We just made a better, more efficient room design.”  

Notably, the ceiling height in the Inn & Suites lobby has been lowered to add three guestrooms to the second floor of the building. A semiprivate space off the lobby lets guests gather away from the crowds, while the retail area was moved to a “more prominent” location. 

Investment & Growth

Hilton expects the cost to build for the new prototypes, exclusive of land, will range between $164,000-$179,000 per key. The Inn & Suites properties will have a higher overall development cost, but because of the similar footprint but higher number of rooms, it has a lower development cost per key.

The Hampton brand is celebrating its 40th anniversary and recently made its debut in its 40th country—Kuwait. It also recently opened its 3,000th property, a milestone Buckley does not take for granted. “My goal is to continue that legacy,” she said. “How do we continue to evolve—keep this brand relevant, keep it healthy, work with our owners to ensure that they're going to continue to renovate? …  How do we give them a product they're excited about [and] feel good about investing in—because we're asking them to do things that will ultimately drive the performance of the brand.”