Hilton Expands Latin American Presence

Hilton Hotels Corporation is committing to Latin America in a big way. Not only is it opening new hotels and pushing through an ambitious renovation campaign, it's also finding fresh ways to market its hotels with culture-based packages and easily navigated web sites.  Rendering of Hilton Bogota

"We see tremendous opportunities for growth in Central and South America," says Danny Hughes, area vice president, Caribbean, Cancun and Central America, Hilton Hotels Corporation. "With the advent of Hilton Corporation's purchase of Hilton International, we now have more brands available to us."

Hilton will begin management of two resorts in Costa Rica. Beginning this December, Hilton will manage a 202-room Hilton property in Guanacaste and a 410-room, all-inclusive Doubletree in Puntarenas. These will be the first Hilton- and Doubletree-branded resorts in Costa Rica, respectively.

"Doubletree is custom made for Central America—it's a brand that can convert existing hotels," says Hughes.

Hughes gives Costa Rica high marks for its reputation for safety, its eco-tourism products and its popularity as a destination for land ownership by U.S. citizens.

"This gets more people talking about the country, which raises its profile and encourages family reunion travel." Hughes notes that family members visiting relatives often opt to spend some time exploring Costa Rica.

Hughes also sees potential in Hilton's re-branding of the existing Princess Hotels chain as Hilton Princess hotels. Hilton already has three Hilton Princess hotels, one each in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

"The free trade agreement with the U.S. has generated a lot of investment in all of Central America," says Hughes. "We've seen a lot of private equity money going down there."

Hughes says that Hilton Corporation is finalizing a deal for a Panama City Hilton hotel that he describes as "first-class."

The hotel will target business travelers, while also functioning as a gateway to exploring the country. Hilton hopes to have the hotel up-and-running by 2008.

Hilton has also completed a $10 million improvement campaign, with major renovations at Hilton Buenos Aires, Hilton Cartagena, Hilton Colón Guayaquil and Hilton Colón Quito.

Pool area at the Hilton Papagayo in Costa Rica

Hilton's development strategy in Central and South America also includes:

The opening of a $27 million hotel in Bogota, Colombia, the company's second hotel in the country. The 245-guest-room Hilton Bogota is scheduled for completion in mid-2009.

A 150-room hotel in Ushuaia, Argentina, the world's southernmost city, is scheduled to open in 2009.

In 2008, Hilton will open a 158-room resort in Puerto Iguazu, on the Argentinan side of IguazuFalls. The resort will be one of the first to offer direct access to IguazuFalls through boat tours departing from an onsite marina.

Hilton is offering new programs inspired by the culture of Latin America. An example is the new "Mis Raíces" package, which offers travelers a chance to revisit their roots.

"Mis Raíces" provides guests with a map of the city, a book on local customs and an ethnic welcome gift. Participating hotels' concierge will also help interested guests connect with a local genealogy expert.

Participating hotels offer the "Mis Raíces" package at the starting rates below (breakfast is included), with a minimum stay of two nights: Hilton Buenos Aires $230, Hilton São Paulo Morumbi $215, Hilton Belem $210, Hilton Cartagena $245, Hilton Barquisimeto $195, and Hilton Margarita & Suites $220.

The package is available through December 31. For reservations, guests should visit the participating hotel's "hotel specials" page on www.hilton.com or call 1-800-HILTONS and request booking code PR50MR.

Hilton São Paulo Morumbi's "Live Like A Mogul" package features transfers on the newly expanded helicopter shuttle between Manhattan and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), roundtrip helicopter transfers between the hotel and São Paulo's GuarulhosInternationalAirport, Presidential Suite accommodations and daily spa treatments.

The package costs $5,500 a night. For an additional $675 an hour, guests can get around in style with their own personal helicopter for the day.

The "Live Like a Mogul" package is available through Dec. 31. To book the package, call the hotel directly at 011-5511-6845-0000.

Hilton Hotels Corporation: 800-HILTONS, www.hilton.com

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