For Alexandra Jaritz, the first two decades of her life were something out of a fairytale. As a child, she and her family traveled throughout the Middle East and Asia-Pacific—living in Malaysia, Jordan, UAE, Thailand, India and elsewhere. Little did she know at the time, the industry her father had landed a career in would someday catapult her to the top of her profession, eventually bringing her life full circle—to the region where she was first given a taste of what hospitality was all about.
“I had the opportunity to learn about so many different cultures and ways of life,” Jaritz said of her childhood, which, for her, was a humbling experience: While she and her family were given opportunities to travel, others—many of whom she interacted with throughout her journeys—weren’t so lucky, and that’s stayed with her to this day.
For many, constantly being on the move could be challenging, but Jaritz’s family always found ways to adapt. “We had things that grounded us and gave us a sense of safety, home and comfort,” she said. In this sense, her childhood trained her to be sensitive to various cultures, religions and views.
While she grew up in the hospitality industry, she briefly parted ways with it after taking a job at Lehman Brothers, where she found herself in investment banking for the IT space—a pivotal moment she’ll never forget. “Sometimes, the experiences you have confirm what you don’t want,” Jaritz said. In her mind, there wasn’t anything wrong with investment banking; it just wasn’t her true calling.
She found a home at Choice Hotels, where she remained for 13 years, learning the ins and outs of the business—including corporate strategy, development, product design, owner relations, public relations and marketing. “Choice gave me such a well-rounded experience that positioned me incredibly well to be a really good business leader and understand all the various functions needed to run a business,” she said.
While at Choice, Jaritz was a key figure in the repositioning of Comfort, the company’s flagship brand; led the launch of the Ascend Hotel Collection; and was instrumental in the rebranding of Choice as a whole to help increase brand awareness throughout the entire portfolio of brands.
Now, at Hilton, she’s been behind the launch of Tru by Hilton. First announced in January 2016 at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in Los Angeles, Tru by Hilton is the fastest growing brand in the hospitality group’s history. “It’s been the most successful brand launch that we’ve seen in industry history,” she said. By year-end 2018, there will be nearly 60 Tru by Hilton properties open across the country, with more than 300 hotels in the pipeline (signed agreements). Additionally, the brand currently has more than 100 deals in the works.
When asked about how Tru by Hilton could improve, she said, “At Hilton, we push ourselves to innovate—and when we say innovate, that could be really small changes that have a really big impact. It doesn’t always mean it’s the next magic bullet, but it’s incremental changes that can drive an impact; so, for us, there’s small innovation and there’s big innovation, but the spectrum is important to keep in mind.”
Moving forward, the brand’s team members are going to continue spending a lot of time at Tru by Hilton hotels, listening to guests and watching how they’re interacting with spaces.
“We have a beautiful product and fantastic team members who bring the brand to life, and I think what you’ll see us continuing to spend a lot of time on—now that we feel the product is in a really good place—is how do we continue to push the envelope and drive great customer service at a price point where we’re going to have to find and be creative in attracting—and retaining—team members?” she said.
On Jan. 7, Jaritz will begin a new journey at Hilton, as SVP of focused-service brand management in Asia-Pacific, which Hilton breaks down into five regions: China, India, Japan, Australasia and Southeast Asia. “There’s an increasing demand for the focused-service brands in those regions,” she said.
She’s expecting to use all of the skills she’s acquired over the years to excel in the role. “My role is to bring more of the corporate, focused-service and franchising expertise, to work closely with the regional teams in the market, and to create an even more integrated brand management organization between our development teams, our operations teams, our marketing teams and so forth, really laying the infrastructure, processes, programs and talent in place, so we’re ready to capture the demand that we know consumers will have, and move the business forward on the franchising side,” Jaritz said.
Now, after more than 15 years in the industry, she’s returning back to the region she called home for the first 20 years of her life, but she’s not making the move to Singapore alone; she’s bringing along her husband, daughter, mother and two dogs.
“I’m very grateful for Hilton because it was always my wish one day to be able to go back—so this is a bit of a dream come true for me,” she said. HB