BY BESTENIGAR KARA
The U.S.-based multinational hospitality company Hilton plans to bring four new brands to Turkey in the upcoming period, according to Armin Zerunyan, Hilton Turkey Country General Manager, Full Service & Luxury Hotels. “We have an additional four brands in the pipeline, including the Canopy by Hilton brand, which we will bring to Turkey with the upcoming opening of Canopy by Hilton Istanbul Taksim,” Zerunyan said in an exclusive interview with TR MONITOR.
Founded in 1919, or 104 years ago, Hilton is considered one of the world’s largest and fastest-growing hospitality firms. The international hotel chain operates in 123 countries and territories with 22 brands and 7,295 properties worldwide.
Hilton entered Turkey in 1955 with Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, the first 5-star hotel in the country. Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus was also the first modern hotel built in Europe after the Second World War and the first Hilton hotel built outside the Americas. “Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus is Hilton’s longest-serving international hotel, making Turkey a market of historic importance to Hilton,” Zerunyan noted.
Since the opening of this iconic hotel 68 years ago, Hilton’s presence in Turkey has grown rapidly. The company has grown from having just eight hotels in the country in 2008 to more than 75 hotels this year.
Moreover, Turkey is currently Hilton’s fourth largest operating market globally, with more than 107 hotels trading or under development. To be precise, Hilton has more than 30 hotels in the pipeline in Turkey. “In the year that Turkey celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Republic and Hilton celebrates having more than 100 hotels operating or under development, we look forward to working with owners and investors to grow our footprint even further,” Zerunyan said.
Hilton’s highest concentration of hotels in Turkey is in Istanbul. The international hotel chain also operates properties in the capital, Ankara, and resort destinations such as Bodrum and Antalya. “We also have a presence in smaller cities such as Mardin and Safranbolu, where we typically see our Hilton Garden Inn and Hampton by Hilton brands,” he added.
The international hotel chain currently operates seven of its market-leading brands in Turkey, from the midscale Hilton Garden Inn, to the flagship Hilton Hotels & Resorts, to the luxury Conrad Hotels & Resorts. Moreover, the company announced the signing of Embassy Suites by Hilton Istanbul Mecidiyekoy and Home2 Suites by Hilton Istanbul Financial Center in July 2023. The signing of these two properties also signaled the debut of the Embassy Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton brands in Turkey and Europe. “That was a significant milestone for us.”
Within this frame, Embassy Suites by Hilton offers travelers spacious suites, complimentary made-to-order breakfast, and evening receptions, while Home2 Suites by Hilton features a kitchen in every suite and is designed for those on extended stays. “We are excited to bring both brands to Istanbul and looking to the future,” Zerunyan said, stressing that they are committed to continuing to work with owners to agree hotels that are the right brand and the right fit for the right location.
DEMAND HIKES FROM EUROPE AND THE UK
Touching on the domestic and foreign demand for Hilton hotels in Turkey, Armin Zerunyan stated that they have seen rising demand from the European and UK markets this year. Regarding the visitor profile, leisure continues to be an important segment of the international hotel chain in the country. “We are also seeing an increase in local MICE (Meetings, Incentives, and Conferences & Events) demand,” Zerunyan noted. Furthermore, events such as the UEFA Champions League Final in June boosted the demand at Hilton’s properties, and there is also a strong demand for group bookings and meetings.
On the other hand, Hilton continues gaining recognition for its workplace culture, most recently ranking fourth by the U.S.-based Great Place to Work. In addition, the multinational hospitality company continues to provide employment opportunities. For instance, it currently has over 100 job vacancies in Turkey and has already recruited almost 1,000 Team Members this year.
TURKEY TO CONTINUE TO BE AN ATTRACTIVE DESTINATION
Turkey welcomed more than 50 million visitors in 2022, making it the fourth most visited country globally, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). The country aims to attract 60 million tourists, USD 56bn tourism revenue this year, and 90 million visitors and USD 100bn tourism revenues by 2028. “And we are proud to play a part in this,” Zerunyan said, adding that they are also optimistic that the new term will result in a long and consistent period of growth and prosperity across all sectors of the Turkish economy.
To him, Turkey continues to be a popular leisure destination, with its historical attractions, rich culture, renowned cuisine, and range of hotels. “For example, Istanbul was ranked the eighth in Travel + Leisure readers’ 2023 favorite country list, over 4 million tourists visited Cappadocia in 2022, and the list goes on,” Zerunyan noted. “Looking to the future, we expect Turkey to continue to be an attractive and price-competitive destination for visitors.”
Refurbishment to be completed at Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus in 2025
Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, Turkey’s first 5-star hotel, is currently undergoing a refurbishment, set to be completed in 2025, according to Armin Zerunyan, Hilton Turkey Country General Manager, Full Service & Luxury Hotels. “Since its opening in 1955, the hotel has been a center of social and cultural life, and this renovation process will carry the property’s iconic story into the future,” Zerunyan said. The renovation, which is taking place in stages, will bring the hotel’s original design elements to the present day. It includes design touches in the rooms inspired by the Bosphorus and a lobby area inspired by the emerald necklace of Sofia Loren, one of the hotel’s famous guests. “We look forward to unveiling the fully refurbished property in the years ahead,” Zerunyan added.
Breaks grounds with Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus
Founded by Conrad Hilton in 1919, Hilton penetrated the Turkish market in 1955 with Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus, which broke ground in the country. Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus was the first 5-star hotel in Turkey, the first Hilton hotel built outside the Americas, and the first modern hotel built in Europe after the Second World War. Istanbul’s first discotheque, Cloud 9, also opened at Hilton Istanbul in 1972. Pilsen Pub, built in the hotel in 1972, was the home of Istanbul’s first happy hour. The hotel also appears in the opening scene of 1963’s From Russia with Love, starring Sean Connery as James Bond. Moreover, Muhammad Ali stayed at the hotel when he announced his retirement from boxing in 1976. So far, Hilton Istanbul Bosphorus has hosted royalty, politicians, and famous figures, including Grace Kelly, Sophia Loren, and Louis Armstrong.