Despite the reports of drug-related violence that continue to come out of Mexico, Hilton has made a serious commitment to expand south of the border. Mexico and Caribbean editor Gay Nagle Myers sat down with George Massa, Hilton Worldwide’s vice president and managing director of development in Mexico, to get his take on the challenges, the opportunities and the outlook for doing business there in 2011.
Q: How do you reassure clients, investors and developers about visiting Mexico and doing business in Mexico?
A: There are misconceptions out there. Mexico is a huge country, stretching hundreds of miles from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico. The sensationalism in the press overwhelms the fact that Mexico has many good stories to tell and that the crimes rarely target tourists and visitors. However, the crime issue has impacted the U.S. market to Mexico. We have a high percentage of repeat guests, and we exercise our best efforts to reassure all of our guests of their comfort, safety and security while staying with us, but it remains a challenging environment at times.
Q: How many Mexico properties come under the Hilton Worldwide umbrella?
A: Hilton Worldwide currently owns, manages or franchises more than 20 properties in Mexico, including hotels and resorts in city centers as well as in resort destinations. Our most recent debut took place in December 2010 with the opening of the first managed Hilton hotel in Mexico City, the Hilton Mexico City Reforma. So at last count we have six Hiltons in Mexico City, Cancun, Los Cabos, Villahermosa, the airport in Mexico City and in Guadalajara. We’ve got an Embassy Suites in Mexico City, a Hilton Garden Inn in Monterrey, a Homewood Suites in Torreon in the northern region and 13 Hampton Inns scattered all over the country in cities such as Monterrey and Guadalajara and in historic areas like Queretaro and Saltillo.
Q: What are Hilton’s expansion plans in Mexico?
A: Hilton Worldwide has 12 newbuilds in the pipeline in Mexico, including three Doubletrees, one Hilton Garden Inn, six Hampton Inns and two Homewood Suites. More than 50% of these will open this year, and a couple of them will be in resort locations. One of the Hampton Inns, in fact, will open on the Gulf of Mexico between Merida and Veracruz, and we expect it to be very successful.