By Adrian Loveridge
2019 is a year of several notable anniversaries in the travel and tourism industry that include the maiden flight of Concorde on 2nd March and 1969 and the Boeing B747 ‘Jumbo’ on 9th February 1969.
Both aircraft in their own way changed the face of air travel as we knew it and in the latter case would transform mass tourism forever.
Hopefully, in the coming months we will see our Barbados Concorde Experience re-open and contribute significantly in terms of revenue and attraction interest.
I however, would like to focus on the 100th anniversary of Hilton Hotels.
The founder, Conrad Hilton, visited Cisco in Texas during 1919 on a mission to buy a bank. When the deal fell through, he walked across the road into a two-story red brick building, then called The Mobley Hotel, a 20-room motel, where he noticed several workers, from the nearby ‘Roaring Ranger’ oilfield, dubbed ‘roughnecks’, standing in-line waiting to check-in.
The owner (Henry Mobley) had rented the property’s 40 beds into eight-hour blocks corresponding to shifts.
While this is widely thought to be Conrad’s first lodging venture, in fact as a boy, he was involved in partially converting his father’s (a Norwegian immigrant) general store in New Mexico into a ten-room hotel.
Thanks to the ‘Roaring Ranger’ in just 20 months the Texas Pacific Coal and Oil Company, whose stock had skyrocketed from $30 to $1,250 a share was drilling 22 wells in the area. Eight refineries were soon open or under construction and the city’s four banks had $5 million in deposits.
‘Investment capital and aspiring millionaires soon overwhelmed the little town of Ranger, as well as nearby Cisco.
But the only one tale endures of a fortune made because oil was easier to find than a good place to sleep,’
Conrad Hilton had learned the banking business from the ground up in his hometown of San Antonio (New Mexico), in 1913 joining a local bank and within two years had become its President.
After purchasing The Mobley Hotel for $40,000, later that year from the profits earned, he bought the Melba Hotel in Fort Worth.
A year later in 1925 The Waldorf in Dallas was acquired and the first hotel to bear his name, The Dallas Hilton, was built, which now operates under the Hotel Indigo banner.
By 1923 he owned five Texas hotels and by 1930 had become the largest hotel operator in the region.
During the Great Depression, Hilton was nearly forced into bankruptcy and lost several of his hotels. He eventually regained control of his remaining eight hotels, largely as a result of previously buying a string of oil leases that kept him in business.
In 1954 the first Caribbean property opened, The Caribe Hilton in San Juan (Puerto Rico) which claims to have invented the Pina Colada.
In 2017 the brand boasted 570 Hilton hotels and resorts in 85 countries across six continents. Properties are either, owned by, managed by, or franchised to independent operators by Hilton.
Be My Guest is an essential read for anyone seriously involved in the hospitality industry and as the book states in its front cover ‘The inspiring saga of the man behind one of America’s great success stories’.
Happy 100th anniversary to all who played their part in helping Conrad Hilton become – The Innkeeper to the World.