Hilton has been announced as the new manager of four former IHG hotels in Australia’s Northern Territory.

HM yesterday (Feb 12) exclusively confirmed Hilton Worldwide has signed a multi-unit management agreement with BG Group of Hotels to manage four hotels, marking the company’s entry into the Northern Territory and the introduction of the DoubleTree by Hilton brand into Australia.

Two hours prior to the breaking news alert from HM, IHG announced the Crowne Plaza Darwin, Holiday Inn Esplanade Darwin, Holiday Inn Darwin and Crowne Plaza Alice Springs hotels would leave the chain on May 1, 2013, after the company and owners BG Group agreed to end their long-standing relationship.

The properties, currently operating and subject to conversion works, will join Hilton Cairns as a portfolio of five BG Group of Hotels properties being operated by Hilton Worldwide.

The rebranded properties will join Hilton Worldwide’s existing portfolio of 15 hotels in Australasia and include Hilton Darwin (235 rooms), DoubleTree by Hilton Darwin (184 rooms), DoubleTree by Hilton Esplanade Darwin (197 rooms) and DoubleTree by Hilton Alice Springs (235 rooms).

Hilton’s Vice President for Operations in Australasia, Ashley Spencer told HM the company was “excited about the opportunity”, which came about from Hilton’s “great relationship with BG Group for years”.

“This is big for us,” he said. “Darwin has been on our radar for years and this [agreement] will open up all kinds of opportunities.

Spencer said the debut of DoubleTree by Hilton in Australia would help give the brand “a real leg up” in the market from a brand growth point of view.

“We are delighted to be able to introduce the DoubleTree by Hilton brand to the Australian market and to add another Hilton Hotel in the region’s most significant areas of growth,” he said.

“We have been looking to enter into the Northern Territory for some time and to be working with BG Group of Hotels is a privilege. We are committed to making these properties the leading full-service hotels in the market.”

HM understands three hotel management companies were in the running to take over the four properties in the Northern Territory and for Hilton, the signing means DoubleTree will now debut more than 12 months ahead of schedule. The first property to operate in Australia under the upscale brand was expected to be the new-build DoubleTree by Hilton Karratha in Western Australia in 2014.

“Hilton Worldwide has been operating in Australia for more than 35 years and during that time we have focused on growing our portfolio in key business and leisure destinations in the region with important strategic partners,” said Hilton Worldwide’s President of Asia-Pacific, Martin Rinck.

“With our strong leadership on the ground, our aim has been to create a network of hotels that meet the needs of business and leisure travellers, and we look forward to deepening our commitment to our clients and our valued owners in this important market with the addition of four more hotels.”

The BG Group of Hotels, owned and controlled by Ludvik Berger, own a portfolio of properties in Australia and Spain. In addition to the four Australian properties mentioned earlier, BG Hotels also own the Holiday Inn in Cairns and are currently negotiating the purchase of another significant property.

In Spain, BG Hotels own and operate three beachside hotels in Mallorca and also own and operate two beachside hotels in Ibiza. These properties range from 150 rooms to 500 rooms and are all popular, centrally-located resorts.

“Over a number of years we have developed a successful relationship with Hilton Worldwide as managers of our property in North Queensland, the Hilton Cairns,” Berger said. “Due to the success of this property, it made a great deal of sense for Hilton Worldwide to manage four more of our properties in the Northern Territory.

“We are particularly pleased to introduce the first DoubleTree by Hilton properties to Australia, which we believe will meet the needs of our customers and continue to provide jobs in the region.

“John Rodger, our Managing Director in Australia, will be responsible for the transitions and the ongoing operations and we are sure that the changes will be seamless and there will be little or no interruption to operations.”

Spencer said he was confident a large number of staff from the four hotels would stay with the properties and make the transfer to Hilton Worldwide.

“From a people point of view, we are very sensitive to that,” he told HM. “We want to keep as many people as we can and hope they grow their careers with Hilton.”

Spencer also said while there was a short timeframe in place, he was confident the hotels would be rebranded in time for the May 1 changeover.

“Whilst it is tight, it is doable,” he said. “All of our brand teams are also on standby to come down and help out.”

Hilton Worldwide currently manages and franchises 15 properties in Australasia and also recently announced the signing of Hilton Noumea La Promenade in New Caledonia.