In the hot seat: Hilton Worldwide’s Tom Potter

Hotel growth and expansion in Latin America and the Caribbean region continue to make headlines as opportunities for investors, developers and global hotel companies, open up for more properties and brands. Tom Potter, senior vice president, operations, Latin America and the Caribbean, laid out Hilton Worldwide’s expansion plans for the region with senior editor Gay Nagle Myers.

Q: Hilton recently announced a sizable expansion in the Caribbean and Latin America this year as well as projections for accelerated growth in the next two years. What accounts for the growth spurt?

A: We are reaching a milestone this year as we top 100 hotels in Latin America and the Caribbean. Our plans call for an accelerated portfolio growth rate of 60% expected through 2017. The momentum in the region’s expansion is underscored by nearly 20 new hotels that have opened in 2015 to date. Finding the right partners and the right contacts in this region are key. More and more are coming to us, looking for partnerships. Performance builds upon itself. 

 Q: What’s the future for Hilton here?

A: Hilton’s momentum is underscored by a consistently robust development pipeline and the introduction of new brands to open the region. We’re using 12 different brands in the region, and that follows six to seven years of actively looking for opportunities for all of these brands. Capital is available. We have a strong product line, and we have 60 projects going forward in this region.

Q: Where did growth take place in 2015?

A: As of the second quarter of 2015, Hilton Worldwide had approximately 20,000 rooms at more than 90 hotels and resorts throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, including the 298-room Hilton Barra Rio de Janeiro; Anselmo Buenos Aires, the first Curio in Latin America; Hilton Garden Inn Guatemala City, the first Hilton Worldwide hotel in the country; and the 355-room Hilton Aruba Caribbean Resort & Casino. We added nearly 20 hotels and approximately 3,000 rooms to the portfolio, including Double Tree by Hilton Santiago Vitacura and Hampton by Hilton Rancagua in Chile; three Hamptons in Colombia; a Garden Inn in Costa Rica; five properties in Mexico under three brands; two Curios in Jamaica; and Hiltons in Aruba and the Bahamas. Ten more hotels and more than 1,200 rooms will open by the end of the year in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Uruguay and four in Mexico. 

Q: What challenges does Hilton face?

A: We have to be accessible and available to travelers and meet or exceed their expectations. We have to continually enhance and develop the skills of our employees. There is tremendous potential for portfolio growth in this region. We’re committed to expanding our footprint in the region and meeting the needs of our guests by delivering the class of service they have come to expect from Hilton. The Latin America and Caribbean region is a key contributor to our success, and we’re steadfast in our efforts to ensure that this growth continues. Our development team is exceptional in partnering with owners and properly identifying the right brand for the market and development opportunity.

Q: What about Cuba? 

A: We’re very interested. As Ted Middleton, our senior vice president of development in Latin America, said, when legally allowed to do so we all want to be at the start line ready to go.

Posted on Oct 10, 2018