Hilton launches meetings-focused Signia brand

Hilton President/CEO Christopher Nassetta announces the company's 17th brand Friday in New York. Photo credit: Jena Tesse Fox (Hilton Signia Launch Chris Nassetta)

NEW YORK — And then there were 17. Four months after announcing the hostelesque Motto brand, Hilton has launched yet another: Signia Hilton. The megachain's 17th brand will be focused on high-end meetings and events, and be positioned between the luxury-level Conrad brand and its flagship Hilton properties.

At a launch event in New York City, Hilton President/CEO Christopher Nassetta noted the announcement comes less than 100 days before the company celebrates its 100th anniversary, and emphasized Hilton is not resting on its laurels. “Signia Hilton is a spectacular example of this drive to innovate,” he told the assembled media and owners. “There is a gap, we believe, in the upper end of the meetings and events space. We spent a lot of time with a lot of the people in this room talking to our customers about what they wanted, talking to meeting planners that do so much work in this space, about what they wanted.” 

The Hilton team talked with owners and developers of meeting-focused hotels for several years to get a handle on the brand. “And they told us very loud and clear that Hilton had an opportunity to create a brand that was above their flagship brand but not quite into the luxury space,” said David Marr, SVP/global head of full-service brands at Hilton. While luxury hotels may be popular for some events, all of the details and fixtures that separate an upper-upscale hotel from a five-star property can push the price point out of reach. 

Signature Elements

With that input in mind, HIlton decided  a new brand was necessary to capture the shifting market. Talking with partners who handle meetings and events (along with some Hilton Honors loyalty program members), the development team zeroed in on three key details for the new brand. “First was modern design,” Marr said. “They’re used to hotels that are 20 years old, maybe 30 years old, and they're now known as big boxes. They wanted more flexibility, much more daylight, modern architecture, an impressive space.”

Technology also was important, Marr said, but not “flashy” technology that costs a fortune and then disappears in a year. “[They wanted] the type of technologies that will help them run their meetings much more efficiently and make it better [and] more customizable for their meeting attendees.”

Third, the planners and Hilton Honors members asked for an upgraded culinary experience—“not only in the banquet and catering spaces, but in the restaurants and the grab-and-goes and the destination bars,” Marr said.

And then there was the name. The invented word Signia, Marr said, is meant to evoke an insignia—“which is obviously power, status, office,” but it also connotes the word “signature,” he added. “Like the best of what we have to offer.” 

This was the right time for a new brand, Nassetta said, because customers have been demanding a product like this. “Every time we look at launching a brand, it always starts with a very customer-centric approach,” he said. Over the years, the team talked to existing customers, members of its Honors loyalty program and even travelers who aren't part of the program, asking what it would take to get them into the ecosystem. “This is one thing resoundingly we'd been hearing,” Nassetta said. From there, the team focused on finding the right opportunities for development.  The more customers we talked to, the more they say that they think a premium meetings and events product would really be something that would resonate for them.”

The New Brand’s Look

To capture upscale business travelers, the team focused on six design pillars for the brand. The arrival space will have “modern architecture [and] manicured landscaping” while the lobby will double as a social hub; the guestrooms will have “innovative technology” (including the brand’s digital key); the bar will reflect each location; the signature restaurants will be “chef-driven” for locals and guests; the wellness experience will include infinity pools, spas and fitness classes; and the meeting spaces will include large ballrooms and pre-function areas with next-gen technology. Moreover, the smaller event spaces will have little localized touches that will help the hotels compete with independent event venues in the city each hotel is located. “We’re creating spaces with a story to them,” Marr said.

With a focus on urban and resort spaces, each Signia Hilton will have a minimum of 500 guestrooms and 75 square feet per room of meeting and event space, guaranteeing at least 37,500 square feet of event space at any given Signia.

Three properties already have been signed for the brand: The 1,009-guestroom Signia Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek will be a conversion of the existing Hilton in Bonnet Creek, Fla., while the Signia Hilton Atlanta and Signia Hilton Indianapolis will be new-build properties, with approximately 900 and 815 guestrooms, respectively.

Looking ahead, the team sees international potential for Signia Hilton, particularly in Asian countries that are looking to host large-scale events in upscale spaces, said Danny Hughes, EVP/president, Americas, who will be overseeing the brand's growth. “When we look at Indianapolis, when we look at Atlanta, these are destinations that need ascendency in the meetings market,” he said. “These are places that really are exciting, that our guests want to go. So this is perfect timing because [we'll] introduce this spectacular brand to a city.” Most Signia Hilton properties, he added, will probably be new-build, and the team will work with both existing partners and new developers alike as each opportunity comes along.