THE owner of the Conrad Hotel name, Hilton Hotels Corp (HHC), is aiming to make its presence felt in Asia, with a five-year expansion programme started last year. HHC, sometimes mistaken as the owner of the Hilton Hotel name, is lagging behind its competitors when it comes to establishing hotels in the main Asian centres. Large hotel chains such as Sheraton and Holiday Inn already have a firm foothold in the Asian market. However, HHC executive vice-president Dieter Huckestein is optimistic that the group will be able to carve itself a niche in the Asian market, which continues to grow, in spite of oversupply in certain markets. Mr Huckestein is confident that the expansion programme will yield good results and create awareness of the Conrad Hotel name. HHC is negotiating to open three new joint venture Conrad hotels in China in Beijing and Shanghai, where demand for luxury hotels is high, given the boom in business travel. The group's joint venture partners were private Taiwanese investors and a state-owned company, said Mr Huckestein. He declined to identify them at this stage. Because the projects were still at the negotiation stage, he could not estimate the group's investment. Mr Huckestein said: ''The equity on our part fluctuates for each project anywhere from 10 per cent to 50 per cent.'' The China projects are part of HHC's expansion plan to add 12 hotels throughout the Asia-Pacific region. Locations include Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Taiwan. All projects are due for completion in 1997. ''I see more and more travellers in Asia than in Europe or the United States, both in the short and long term,'' said Mr Huckestein. Although there were increasing numbers of Chinese travellers to Hong Kong, Mr Huckestein said many were not staying at five-star hotels. He said occupancy for Conrad Hotels worldwide was up by 15 per cent and the forecast rate for next year was 90 per cent. Conrad Hong Kong has experienced a 12 per cent increase in the number of travellers in the past two years. More than half, or 53.6 per cent, of its guests are business travellers compared to 30.4 per cent of tourists. Taking into account the increase of travellers from Japan, the hotelier is introducing a special service programme geared for the Japanese. At present, 10 to 12 per cent of Conrad's clients in Hong Kong are from Japan, an increase from six per cent in the last six-month period. Japanese business travellers will have the option of being greeted and served in their native tongue. Also, amenities such as menus will be made available in Japanese. The company anticipates increased traffic from Osaka and will open a marketing sales office with 24-hour service out of Kansai Airport in September. Marketing will be structured to focus more on business meetings, conventions and incentives sales. Also new is the H-Honour programme, which operates much like the frequent-flyer programmes of airlines. Guests earn credits toward their next stay at any Conrad hotel. The company has spent US$500,000 to implement the two programmes. Mr Huckestein said: ''It will take six months to a year for the programmes to be in full gear and to see a positive return.''