Hilton CEO digs deep into foreign markets at Davos

A man is on the phone during a session of the 2013 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting on January 24, 2013 at the Swiss resort of Davos.

The Hilton Garden Inn in Davos, Switzerland.

The World Economic Forum rages on in Davos. We brought you the voices of some of the skeptics yesterday. There are, of course, plenty of proponents of the splashy annual gathering.

Among them, Christopher Nassetta. Perhaps in part because as the CEO of Hilton Worldwide, he has a free place to stay just about anywhere in the world he goes. And with 60 percent of its growth coming outside the U.S., he spends a lot of time on the road. But that doesn't mean you won't see new Hiltons cropping up in an American city near you.

"I don't think we're saturated in the U.S.," Nassetta says. " My objective is really to be able to serve all of our customers with any need they may have anywhere in the world they may have it. As it so happens, I think we're underserving them outside the U.S."

Hilton forecasts significant growth in the tourism industry, and wants part of that growth to include youth employment and training programs around the world.

"Many of us in this industry have made careers of it. I myself started in the engineering department, basically plunging toilets was my first job," Nassetta says. Now, "I run the largest lodging company in the world."

For a young person in China who might be looking to get into the hospitality industry, Nassetta's pitch is, essentially, flexibility.

"We're a very complex business, we're everything," he says. "I mean if you're interested in accounting, finance, tax, development, construction, marketing, you know, the online space... Every one of those and a hundred other things we do every day to make this business work."

As for the glitz and glamor of Davos, for Nassetta there's plenty of business to be done.

"I have probably my top 30 customers are here, all at once place and one time."

And yes, he's staying across the street, at the Hilton.

About the author

Kai Ryssdal is the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy.

The Hilton Garden Inn in Davos, Switzerland.

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