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Hilton Curio to debut in Italy in 2017 with hotel complex in Tuscany, more soon to come

by Chiara Beghelli

The Curio brand of U.S. hotel operator Hilton is set to make its debut in Italy with a hotel complex scheduled to open in Tuscany in March 2017. The luxury brand was launched in 2014 by Hilton (which reported $1.4 billion in net income in 2015) and already includes over 20 hotels in the world.

La Bagnaia Golf & Spa Resort near Siena is a luxury site including 101 rooms set in a renovated medieval village that covers more than 1,000 m2 of ground. Work on the site is almost finished and it is set to offer an international clientele (every year an estimated 11 million tourists visit Tuscany) access to the Royal Golf Bagnaia 18-hole golf course, designed by U.S. architect Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Hilton's investment confirms the good health of the hotel ownership business in Italy, a sector in which total turnover amounted to around €2.1 billion in 2015, up 10.5% compared to 2014, and is expected to grow to €2.4 billion in 2016 (+14.3%). We spoke to Alan Mantin, Hilton's Senior Development Director Southern Europe, North & West Africa.

BEGHELLI: After Germany and Spain, Italy is the third country in Europe chosen by Curio for its expansion in the continent: what are your expectations?

MANTIN: Italy's first planned Curio – A Collection by Hilton property, La Bagnaia Golf & Spa Resort Siena, will be a perfect addition to our growing global collection, with its unique charm and village-like look and feel. The majority of hotels in Italy are independent, providing a natural opening for the Curio brand with its focus on hand-picking hotels and resorts for their one-of-a-kind designs and distinctive character.

BEGHELLI: How do you perceive the Italian tourism industry? What are its main qualities and main flaws?

MANTIN: Italy has one of the largest tourism markets in the world in terms of international arrivals and foreign traveler spending - largely driven by its unique cultural, artistic and culinary heritage. That said, there are challenges in the market, for example, there are many older buildings, which require investment, and a number of hotels have smaller rooms than expected by international travelers. The permit process can also be overly bureaucratic and uncertain compared to other international markets, which can discourage investors. Despite these challenges, Italy is still a great location for investment in the hospitality industry, with continuing strong demand from travelers for high quality accommodation.

BEGHELLI: Are you planning to include other Italian properties within the Curio collection?

MANTIN: The signing of Italy's first Curio collection hotel is a significant milestone both for the brand itself, and for Hilton's wider growing presence in Italy. As one of the newest brands in the Hilton portfolio, we are always looking for new opportunities and we see great potential for further growth in Italy.

BEGHELLI: What criteria does a property need to meet to be included in the Curio collection?

MANTIN: Curio collection hotels are characterized by their uniqueness, ranging from boutique urban hotels to large beachfront resorts - each one part of the destination they call home. Free of a prescriptive build design, the hotels selected to join the Curio collection themselves define the brand. Several of the hotels in the collection are already well-known independent hotels such as the recently opened Gran Hotel Montesol - Ibiza's oldest hotel - and the landmark Reichshof Hamburg.

BEGHELLI: Travelers in the luxury segment are always searching for a tailor-made travel experience: is this one of the reasons why a leading company such as Hilton is also investing in properties that have very strong and varied identities?

MANTIN: Our target audience for Curio is the independent-minded traveler seeking local discovery and an authentic experience. These curious guests like to step out of the day-to-day and connect with a destination, whether traveling for business or leisure. While these consumers appreciate the authenticity of an independent hotel, they also find reassurance in the Hilton name, knowing they can be confident in the standard of accommodation and service. With our global set of more than 20 hotels and several opening in the coming years, we are giving even more choice than ever before.

BEGHELLI: What are Hilton's main upcoming projects in the world?

MANTIN: Our objective is to grow our portfolio of managed and franchised properties, working together with investors to develop new hotels across our thirteen brands. In Europe, there are 149 hotels currently in the pipeline across all our brands, with over 300 hotels already in existence. Our expansion in Italy continues and we are planning to open a number of new hotels, including two new properties in the near future - Hilton Lake Como and Hilton Catania Capomulini.