The Highland Dallas celebrated their Grand Opening in grand style Thursday evening as Chef John Tesar of KNIFE sabered a bottle of champagne with a steak cleaver on the lobby staircase surrounded by dignitaries from Hilton and the City of Dallas. Formerly the Hotel Palomar, The Highland Dallas rebrands as the first property in Hilton’s new Curio Collection, a loose federation of independently owned and managed hotels backed by the strength and distribution provided by Hilton, one of the world’s largest and best-loved hotel brands. A pulse of exuberant energy beat through the gathered crowd fueled by champagne and other tasty potables from KNIFE’s Michael Martensen.
The energy was most apparent from the gathered dignitaries who participated in the ribbon-cutting. Dallas City Council Member Philip T. Kingston spoke about the planned Katy Trail extension which would eventually front the hotel while Tom Nolan, Senior Vice President of Operations for the the Highland’s operator Interstate spoke about a rebirth of the boutique hotel experience, “our guests can expect nothing more than a great experience at the crossroads of style and comfort; culture and creativity; with historical and modern touches in the heart of the city” adding that “it’s a great thrill for us to provide the first Curio for Hilton here in Dallas.”
Dianna Vaughan, Global Head of Curio—A Collection by Hilton “wanted to recognize the Highland Dallas for setting the watermark really high as the first in the Curio Collection” and “for those that are not familiar with Curio, we launched in June to build a portfolio of four and five star individual hotels that are part of the local fabric of the city”. We had the opportunity to speak with Dianna a bit more in depth about the Curio Collection later in the evening, and her enthusiasm and passion for hospitality are apparent in lively conversation. Originally from Pflugerville, Texas, she began in the industry at a small roadside inn and later “grew up” with Hilton, serving in nearly every capacity, from General Manager to Sales, Finance, and Marketing. Asked how Curio is developing as a brand, it’s clear that Dianna and her team are working hard to sell the concept to both independent hotel owners as well as individual travelers.
“Owners want to have a Curio because they’ll get the same support as they would from a typical franchise agreement, and they’ll also get the exposure that Hilton can deliver – The Highland will appear in search for Dallas availability across any of Hilton’s 12 brands.” she explains. She goes on to discuss how Curio is designed as a loose federation of independent properties rather than a standard branded franchise: “Most hotels have existing infrastructure, and owners and operators have the latitude to use their own vendors. In many franchise agreements, they’ll be required to use a specific mattress or a specific brand of equipment in their workout room—we don’t require that, although we still have other standards to ensure our guests are getting that four-and-five star experience.” From a guest experience perspective, “they’ll have the quiet assurance of Hilton” when choosing a unique Curio Collection property.
General Manager David Lemmond’s aim is to “provide guests with distinct, luxurious experiences you can’t get anywhere else”, noting that there are “lots of surprises” in store as the property works with Dallas-based design firm Flick Mars to slowly refine and update the property. Among those distinct experiences, Lemmond talks excitedly about the hotel’s partnership with Chef John Tesar and KNIFE, which also provides the same dishes to the hotel’s in-room dining. That’s certainly a one-of-a-kind experience that’s exclusive to The Highland.
The property is already gorgeous, and we can’t wait to see what other surprises are in store. The drive of every party involved with this remarkable property from development to brand management to design to operations seems to flow through the same vein, aptly summed up by Dianna who invoked the Conrad Hilton quote that still gives us chills every time we hear it: “It has been, and continues to be, our responsibility to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality.”