Hilton Signs With Garfield to Bring Full-Service Doubletree by Hilton to Abilene Convention Center

USA, Abilene, Texas. December 26, 2019

It will be a homecoming of sorts when a full-service convention Hilton property returns to the heart of downtown Abilene in late 2021. From 1927-1945, Abilene's Hilton Hotel - only the second in the country to bear that iconic name — brought a new standard of luxury to west Texas. Fast forward 76 years, as Abilene eagerly prepares to welcome the new Doubletree by Hilton. The hotel is poised to become a popular home-base for visitors, just steps from the Convention Center as well as all of downtown's dining offerings and historic attractions.

In a special ceremony on Friday, October 18th, the City of Abilene and project developer Garfield Public/Private LLC signed a Downtown Hotel Master Development Agreement, paving the way for design work to begin. The process is expected to take six to nine months, with the hotel opening projected for late 2021. The full service convention hotel will be located on city property on the west side of the 500 block of Cypress Street. It will have 206 guest rooms, a full-service restaurant, bar and lounge, 200 free parking spaces, free WiFi, the famous DoubleTree chocolate chip cookies, and 38,700 square feet of public meeting space, complementing the 130,000 square feet already offered at the nearby Abilene Convention Center.

"The DoubleTree by Hilton brings full circle our vision to develop downtown Abilene as a meetings destination where modern convenience and friendly, small town charm converge in one concentrated area," said Nanci Liles, Executive Director of the Abilene Convention & Visitors Bureau. "And of course, it increases our appeal to individual leisure travelers and families looking for a fun getaway with lodging, food and fun all within walking distance."

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With the unemployment rate at its lowest level in decades (3.7%), what has always been a perennial problem for human resource professionals - labor shortage - is now reaching acute levels of concern. It is getting harder to find and recruit qualified applicants. Even finding candidates with the skills to succeed in entry-level positions has become an issue. In addition, employee turnover rates remain extremely high in the hotel industry. As a result of these problems, hotel HR managers are having to rethink their recruitment strategies in order to hire the right talent for the right job. First, hotels have been forced to raise their wages and offer other appealing perks, as a way to attract qualified candidates. Secondly, HR managers are reassessing their interviewing techniques, focusing less on the answers they receive to questions and more on observable behavior. Part of this process includes role-playing during the interview, so that the recruiter can gauge how a candidate works through specific problems and interacts with other team members. Additionally, some HR managers are also creating internal talent pools as a way to address labor shortages. Instead of utilizing department resources to find new hires with specific skills for needed positions, hotels are cultivating talent pools internally and preparing their employees to assume leadership roles whenever the time comes. They are also placing greater emphasis on a company culture that is more performance-based, as a way to curb employee turnover, increase employee satisfaction, and assure higher levels of customer service. Finally, recognizing the importance of employee retention as a way to lessen the impact of a tight labor market, some HR managers are instituting generous reward programs in order to retain their top performers. The March Hotel Business Review will explore what some HR professionals are doing to address these and other issues in their departments.