Hilton Looks to Expand Luxury Waldorf Astoria Brand.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Weekly Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 28th March 2012
The Waldorf Astoria is synonymous with New York luxury, but Hilton Worldwide, the parent company of the century-old hotel brand, is looking to bring the Waldorf name to Europe, Central America, the United Arab Emirates and Southeast Asia.

Hilton announced that Southeast Asia's first Waldorf Astoria hotel will open in Bangkok in 2015.

The 170-room Waldorf Astoria Bangkok will be located about a mile from the city's business district, including five restaurants and bars, two ballrooms and a spa. Prior to the Bangkok opening, Hilton plans to open the 94-room Waldorf Astoria in Amsterdam in 2013.

According to a report in Travel Weekly, John Vanderslice, Hilton's global head of luxury and lifestyle brands, told Travel Weekly Hilton's plans are "to be the fastest-growing, most innovative luxury hotel company."

But can the Waldorf name survive outside of America?

The hotel, which currently resides at 301 Park Avenue in Manhattan, was one of the first luxury hotel brands to grace the city block in New York City. It was the first hotel to offer room service, setting the stage for a long list of luxury amenities that would inevitably be introduced from hotels.

The New York City Waldorf Astoria housed famous faces including U.S. president Herbert Hoover, musician Cole Porter, and actress Marilyn Monroe, who stayed at the hotel for several months.

The hotel is the namesake behind the Waldorf salad (a popular salad made with apples, walnuts, celery, grapes and a mayonnaise-based dressing), and was the backdrop for the Ginger Rogers-headlined 1945 movie Week-end at the Waldorf.

The Waldorf-Astoria became part of the Hilton family in 2006, and today serves as the company's flagship luxury brand. So what's to come?

Hilton hasn't taken its eyes off U.S. expansion for the brand. It recently converted Chicago's trendy Elysian into a Waldorf-Astoria, and opened a hotel among the family-friendly resorts in Orlando. Today, Hilton's luxury chain has 23 hotels under its sub-brand, with more on the way. In addition to Bangkok and Dubai, Hilton plans to open Waldorf-Astoria brands in Berlin, Panama City an Dubai.

My prediction: If the Waldorf Astoria maintains the same fascination it did when it first opened in New York City in 1893, it will do quite well with American tourists in international destinations.

As for international travelers, it might take a while to get the brand name up to the same recognition standards as with other luxury hotels like Ritz-Carlton and Mandarin Oriental, but with enough amenities offered (and the famous Waldorf salad on menus worldwide), Hilton's luxury brand certainly stands a chance.

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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