Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Rate and name change plan at Hilton Maldives

Hilton Maldives Resort & Spa is set to undergo several changes in the next few months as it prepares to roll out a new rate structure and re-brand to a Conrad property.Most Maldives properties are accustomed to altering rates several times a year in order to adapt to peaks and troughs in demand."Some properties have seven different [seasonal] rates and then 19 room rates, so it's confusing for the customer, particularly if they are not booking through a travel agent," explained Hilton Maldives' revenue manager, Amila Handunwala.

"We currently have five different rate structures, but we will be changing this to three to simplify the situation."The three rate structures will apply to three season types: the first and second structures will apply to Christmas and New Year and then April/Easter respectively, regarded peak season due to the large influx of guests from Europe. The third will cover off-peak and shoulder seasons.Unfortunately for travel agents, the simplified rate structures are designed to attract more direct business, according to Handunwala."We currently have the highest direct booking percentage of any Maldives property," he claimed."At present, 18% of our business is direct and 82% through tour operators, but by the end of the year we expect this to be 20/80 and by the end of next year, 23/77."Handunwala revealed that occupancies during peak season typically hovered around the 92.5% to 94% mark, which is deemed a "full house".He conceded that although this year's low season - June and July - had witnessed average occupancies of 80%, this was 6% below the rate Hilton had anticipated."With two new Four Seasons properties and The W opening, we have seen supply at the top end increase by 42%, but demand has remained static," he explained.Tour operator-driven traffic filled rooms during the week he said, but there were gaps at the weekend, hence Hilton's strategy to target "short haul markets" such as the Middle East, Japan and Korea."But arrivals for the Middle East are actually down this year," he disclosed. Increased arrivals from emerging markets such as India, Korea, Russia and Australia, as well as established markets such as the UK, had replaced them, he said. "Although the number of guests from Germany is down 12.3%, from Switzerland, 16.3% and from Italy, 4%," he added.Handunwala said the re-branding of Hilton to a Conrad, a project set for completion on December 18, would see the new rate structures remain unchanged."The new rates and the re-brand are all part of a three-year plan," he said.Conrad is the Hilton group's luxury hotel brand and will not only see the Hilton Maldives Resort and Spa renamed to the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, but will involve upgrades carried out to F&B outlets and across most accommodation categories.Amenities and services will also be enhanced."We will extend the personal butler service to all of the villas, for example, which definitely provides added value," said Handunwala.

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