Klein on Denizen: "Smart is the new cool"

By: Paul J. Heney

Following today’s launch of Denizen Hotels, Ross Klein, global head, luxury & lifestyle brands, Hilton Hotel Corp., sat down for an exclusive first interview with the HotelWorld Network.

Klein stressed that Denizen has many international stakeholders, and thus launching the brand at the International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) in Berlin was a calculated move.

“We truly want to be a global brand, said Klein. “There’s a difference between being a domestic brand with international distribution and being born global—and we had so many international stakeholders on our developer advisory board. When we were doing our cultural anthropology on what the brand would be, and how it would convey around the world, we thought that it was a very important statement to launch at Berlin in an international forum.”

Klein also explained that this was a way to further solidify the fact that Hilton is one company, comprised of the former Hilton and Hilton International.

Denizen rounds out Hilton’s portfolio of brands—now numbering 12—for both owner/developers and guests, according to Klein. And at this time when companies might be expected to hunker down, Klein said that this sends a positive message of innovation and invention.

“Doing things at this time makes you sharpen your pencil and sharpen your mind,” he said.

Klein also reiterated a point made by Amar Lalvani, global head, luxury & lifestyle brand development at the brand unveiling—that had Hilton launched at an earlier time, the company would be doing recalibrating to the concept, due to the economic situation. Thus, the timing works out well.

And Klein explained that Denizen fits in well with Hilton's other Luxury & Lifestyle brands. He said that the four brands in the collection sit “shoulder to shoulder.”

“I think that we’re blessed at Hilton to have very distinct brands, but we’re very cognisant of how travel personas change within our Hilton loyalists and how we have presence in the marketplace against the competition,” said Klein.

Guest-focused style

Klein estimates that 70 percent of the design of each property will be brand-specific, with about 30 percent of each property wired in to vibe of the location.

Denizen, which means citizen of the world, will reach across cultures and generations, Klein said.

“There are no typical guests,” he said. “We feel that there is a terrific opportunity for us to launch a brand and reintroduce the initial concept of a lifestyle and boutique brand, which was that intimate relationship that you would have at a boutique hotel, but with the function and accessibility of … a fully distributed brand.”

Klein feels this new brand is disrupting the category, marrying boutique and business.

“Today’s guests want everything, they don’t want any sense of compromise … at the end of the day, one of the key things going forward … is really working on the cultures of hospitality. Hospitality is an art. And our takeaway for Denizen is to be smart, and not necessarily just cool or hip. And I think that being smart is cool. I think smart is the new cool. They continue to blur the line between business and pleasure and personality and performance—and we’re not blurring it, we’re eliminating the line.”

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