Skift Take

Hilton understands the true conundrum of running a hotel business: Customer preferences will always change faster than the market can react. That is why the company has invested throughout the customer experience, from booking to loyalty partnerships, to keep guests happy.

Travel's most forward-thinking insiders will gather September 18–19 for our annual Skift Global Forum in New York. In just a few years, Skift's Forums — the largest creative business gatherings in the global travel industry — have become what media, speakers, and attendees have called the “TED Talks of travel.”

Skift Global Forum 2019 will take place at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Frederick P. Rose Hall in New York. This year's Forum speakers include CEOs and top executives from Booking Holdings, Delta Air Lines, Expedia, Air France-KLM, Marriott International, Amtrak, and many more.

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Like other large hotel groups, Hilton has never shied away from checking as many boxes as it can on its brand portfolio. The company even identified a total of five new hotel brand opportunities that would spur revenue growth back in 2016.

These rollouts have occurred slowly over time, and have so far led Hilton to introduce a hostel-inspired brand, new luxury offering, and spaces dedicated to meeting and events in the past year.

But at the heart of those additions for Hilton is a focus on improving its technology and loyalty offerings, CEO Chris Nassetta said.

Hilton, for example, began advertising new tech-driven meeting rooms to franchisees for business travelers last month. The chain has also invested more in partnerships with brands such as Lyft and Foursquare to boost its rewards platform, Hilton Honors — all while improving the in-room and out-of-room experience at its properties. Expect the hotelier to continue doubling down on these efforts.

Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta will be speaking at Skift Global Forum in New York City on September 18.

Skift Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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Skift: Hilton has never been a stranger to filling the white spaces in its portfolio, as we’ve seen this year. What kinds of brands can we expect the company to begin offering customers in the next 12 to 18 months?

Chris Nassetta: As Hilton enters its second century of hospitality, we will continue to invest in our organic growth strategy by building brands that fill white spaces in the market and that directly respond to feedback from our guests and our owners. We always have a few brands in our incubator and while I can’t give away any details, I expect our guests will be really excited about the next few products we bring to the market. In the meantime, we’re focused on bringing our three newest brands to life: Motto by Hilton, LXR Hotels & Resorts, and Signia Hilton.

Skift: Hilton has invested heavily into technology in recent months. What areas of the guest experience, in your view, are still a work in progress for the hotel group?

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Nassetta: As a business of people serving people, we are constantly evaluating how we can enhance our guests’ experiences with us — and that requires a truly holistic approach to innovation, from the products and services we offer, to the technology that makes it all function seamlessly.

Looking ahead, we have several key initiatives in the works that will really enhance how guests experience our hospitality during every step of their journey with us. That means we have to offer a simple, intuitive, mobile-first solution to shopping for and booking their stay — an area in which we have invested significantly over the last year. It also means that our hotels need to truly meet their travel needs, which is why we’ve been so focused on building and launching innovative new brands; refreshing the existing brands our customers love so much; and scaling technology that truly integrates the physical and digital components of their time on property, like Digital Key or Connected Room.

Skift: Is the hotelier more keen on implementing more in-room technology or offerings available to customers around the hotel lobby and other common spaces?

Nassetta: We know that our guests have many different travel personas — a business traveler may be holed up in their room preparing for a big meeting, while a family on vacation may want to hang out in a more social atmosphere. At the end of the day, it’s our job to make sure their stay is seamless, no matter what experience they are looking for, by ensuring our guests have access to the technology they need, when and where they want it, and by offering flexible, functional spaces that can accommodate any trip occasion.


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Tags: hilton, hotel brands, hotel technology, luxury, lyft, meetings, sgf2019, skift global forum

Photo credit: Hilton's hostel-inspired brand, Motto, was launched in October. The hotel group's focus on tech and loyalty improvements has driven the growth of its three latest brands. Hilton

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