The Waldorf=Astoria has stood at its Park Avenue location in New York for 75 years epitomizing luxury and grandeur.
Now, Hilton Hotels Corp. has its own grand plans for the iconic hotel expanding the Waldorf name to a series of existing and new hotels across the country, including a lodging near Walt Disney World to be finished later this decade.
The question is: how far can the company go with an Old World property in a luxury sector where other hotels such as the Four Seasons have already spent years building customer loyalty?
"Everyone has asked, 'How many of these (luxury hotels) can you do?' The answer is we don't really know," acknowledged Matthew Hart, president and chief operating officer of Hilton, which has owned the Manhattan landmark since 1949.
That hasn't stopped Beverly Hills-based Hilton from announcing ambitious plans, though.
Last January, the company said it was establishing the Waldorf=Astoria Collection, a group of high-end, independent properties that would pay a fee to use the legendary name and gain access to Hilton's reservation system and other corporate benefits.
The iconic name could eventually be associated with around 50 properties, though so far the collection only comprises the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa in Maui, Hawaii; the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix, and the La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta.
But just a few weeks ago, Hilton went a step further and announced it would be constructing the first new Waldorf=Astoria from the ground up in Orlando, Fla., in an attempt to faithfully extend the singular hotel's ambience and legendary name.
"There is a bigger opportunity for the Waldorf=Astoria Collection than for new Waldorf-Astorias," Hart said.
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