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The Graduate Annapolis, located near the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., has a maritime theme.

Hilton Is Bullish on Its New College Brand

Hilton sees expansion for its just-acquired Graduate brand, and planners may want to take note.

There are plenty of benefits to booking a conference near a college campus: To start, college professors whose research aligns with participants’ work could be invited as thought-leader panelists or speakers. In addition, universities are filled with young talent. A smart organizer might consider inviting students to certain sessions to raise awareness of the organization or the brand, or finding other ways for the meeting to serve as a direct or indirect recruiting platform.

That’s all to say, Hilton Worldwide’s recent purchase of Graduate Hotels is one to watch. The brand, which launched in 2014, focuses on opening hotels near college campuses and currently has 30 properties. However, Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta sees Graduate’s market to be as large as 400 to 500 hotels globally, according to this Bloomberg article. At present, the brand’s international footprint includes properties in Cambridge and Oxford in the U.K.

New Graduate hotels are currently planned for Princeton, N.J., and Dallas (Southern Methodist University) in 2024, and in Auburn, Ala. (Auburn University) and Austin, Texas (University of Texas) in 2025.

Meeting space varies from property to property, but most Graduate hotels can accommodate midsize meetings. For example, at the 294-room Graduate Providence (formerly the Providence Biltmore) near the University of Rhode Island, the 18,000 square feet of meeting space includes two ballrooms, at 4,212 and 3,498 square feet. At the 207-room Graduate Ann Arbor near the University of Michigan, the11,000 square feet of meeting space includes the 3,320-square-foot Terrace Ballroom, while at the 134-room Graduate Charlottesville near the University of Virginia, the highlight of the 5,420 square feet of meeting space is the 1,870-square-foot ballroom.

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