Candice DCruz, Vice-President Luxury Brands for Asia Pacific, Hilton

Hilton’s recently appointed Vice President of Luxury Brands for Asia Pacific, Candice D’Cruz, is set to make her first appearance at AHICE Asia Pacific next week, speaking as part of a panel on What Global Customers Want – a deep dive into what the customers want now and into the next decade.

Based in Singapore, D’Cruz is responsible for luxury brands, Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts, LXR Hotels and Resorts and Conrad Hotels and Resorts, across Asia Pacific.

Speaking exclusively to HM, ahead of the conference, D’Cruz discusses changing expectations in the luxury landscape.

How have the expectations of luxury guests changed in recent years?

In the luxury travel segment, we’re witnessing a fascinating shift towards transformative experiences and the allure of off-the-beaten-track destinations. But it’s about taking these experiences to the next level, and how hotels can truly elevate their offerings to meet the evolving desires of today’s travellers. It’s not just about providing luxurious lodgings; it’s about crafting a complete destination experience that immerses guests in the essence of the locale. From the ingredients list of the restaurant to the vibrant atmosphere of the bar, every aspect of the hotel should reflect the unique flavour of the destination.

Today’s travellers crave more than just a place to rest their heads; they’re seeking experiences that resonate deeply with them. This trend is an opportunity for us to create spaces and moments that go beyond the ordinary, inviting guests to linger and savour every moment.

However, this shift towards a more relaxed and informal setting doesn’t mean sacrificing luxury. On the contrary, guests are willing to spend in experiences that are not only exceptional but also authentic and relatable. It’s all about finding that perfect balance between opulence and approachability.

In essence, it’s about crafting experiences that are both luxurious and meaningful, providing guests with opportunities for personal growth and enrichment while enveloping them in an atmosphere of genuine hospitality and warmth.

Waldorf Astoria Sydney is slated to open in 2026

How will the entry of Waldorf Astoria to Australia in the coming years impact the luxury hospitality landscape in this country?

As we closely monitor the ever-evolving hospitality and luxury landscape in Australia, it’s evident that the scene is flourishing with an abundance of anchor stores for highly coveted brands. This sets the stage for an exciting transformation within the luxury sector, particularly as we gear up to launch in Sydney against the breathtaking backdrop of the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House.

Waldorf Astoria epitomises the essence of iconic hotels while embracing the spirit of each destination. In our debut in Australia, we’re committed to bringing the brand’s DNA to life, striking a harmonious balance between global sophistication and the unique charm that resonates with both domestic travellers and those visiting Australia. Embracing the local expectation of informality and comfort, we’re poised to curate an experience that feels like a seamless extension of the Australian ethos.

Of course, no luxury experience is complete without exceptional food and beverage offerings. We’re crafting a culinary journey that will delight the senses and elevate the overall guest experience.

As we continue to work behind the scenes on some exciting details, we look forward to sharing more with you in the near future. Stay tuned for updates as we embark on this remarkable journey together.

You have long championed the development of female leaders in the industry. How can the industry better support women in reaching senior roles?

With 50% of Hilton’s Executive Committee in Asia Pacific being female, covering roles in Brand Management, Finance, Human Resources, General Counsel and Communications, our team is positioned to lead by example and inspire a new wave of hospitality leaders in the region, shaping the future culture of the industry. Hilton has recently been recognised as the No.1 World’s Best Workplace by Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work, and the No.1 hospitality company to work for in Asia for the seventh consecutive year.

A collective effort has contributed to maintaining this coveted spot, and we will continue fostering an exceptional workplace for our 11,000 luxury employees in the region. Through mentorship, advocacy, and leading by example, the industry can empower the next generation of female leaders to achieve their full potential and make a lasting impact on the industry. It should take into account the non-linear nature of women’s careers and the importance of accepting and celebrating it. We should allow the occasional sidestep, the exploring of new opportunities, and encourage experience setbacks along the way. Each of us follows a unique journey towards senior roles, and it’s essential to find fulfilment in every chapter.

What are you most looking forward to about AHICE 2024?

I’m thrilled to be here at AHICE in Australia for the first time. It’s an opportunity to forge new connections, absorb insights from esteemed speakers across diverse panels, and immerse myself in the ever-evolving realm of luxury travel, particularly within the dynamic Asia Pacific region.

As a representative of Hilton’s luxury portfolio, which includes Waldorf Astoria, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, and LXR Hotels and Resorts, I am excited to discuss several upcoming Waldorf Astoria and Conrad properties across APAC and how they will complement our existing hotels, which represent almost half our global luxury pipeline. These additions to our portfolio signify our commitment to providing unparalleled luxury experiences to our guests in this region, and AHICE will be a valuable opportunity to gain insights into the trends and developments that surround these anticipated openings.

I’m also excited to speak about Hilton’s strategic partnerships, such as the exclusive collaboration with Small Luxury Hotels of the World and the acquisition of a majority controlling interest in Sydell Group, which highlight our dedication to expanding our luxury offerings and enhancing our presence in the luxury lifestyle hotel market. I am truly excited to be a part of what I know will be an undoubtedly dynamic discussion.