Skift Take

Strides in artificial intelligence will enable Hilton and many others to enhance and speed up personalization efforts. You ain't seen nothing yet.

Hilton transitioned its central reservations system into the cloud in 2020, enabling guests to book connected rooms, but it is testing several new features to more deeply personalize guest bookings and stays.

One pilot would enable guests to pre-book meals on a sometimes-sporadic schedule, as well as features such as parking, late checkout, and pet services as part of packages, said Chris Silcock, Hilton’s chief commercial officer, at the Skift Future of Lodging Forum in London on Wednesday.

Sean O’Neill, Skift’s senior hospitality editor, interviewed Silcock on stage about how hotels can adapt to changing guests’ needs.

Silcock said Hilton took advantage of an opportunity early in the pandemic to transition its central reservation system into the cloud, enabling the brand to speed innovation. While booking connected rooms might have had spotty success before that move, today those bookings flow directly into the property management system, where the rooms are blocked off, he said.

Packages of pre-booked features such as meals and parking are among three or four things Hilton is piloting, Silcock said.

Some of these features — but not necessarily all — would eventually be distributed to partners such as Booking.com and Expedia, he said, but Hilton wants to perfect them first in-house.

Atrribute-based shopping, meaning knowing the types of rooms or amenities a guest prefers, will lead to “powerful personalization,” Silcock said, adding that loyalty program members tend to provide more data to work with than do guests who don’t book direct.

Leisure Travel Will Stay on a Roll

In other news, Silcock said he doesn’t see the leisure travel boom ending anytime soon even though others thought it might have waned by now.

Silcock said that travel is usually a leading indicator of a softening economy, but Hilton isn’t seeing any travel decline because the pandemic pause in travel led people to value it more.

He said Hilton believes the rise of leisure travel will continue, triggering a “new golden age of travel.”

Brand Expansion?

Silcock said it would be possible that Hilton might expand beyond its current 19 brands, although it doesn’t have concrete plans to do so. In January, Hilton debuted its first economy brand — premium economy, to be specific — in the U.S., and he said it definitely has international potential.

If Hilton discovered a “gap,” Silcock said, it might be interested in launching a luxury lifestyle brand, and given the rise of hybrid, or bleisure travel, another extended stay brand could be feasible, he said.

No Short-Term Rentals for Now

Silcock repeated Hilton’s stance that it wouldn’t necessarily get into the short-term rental or vacation rental space — remaining one of the only major brands to forsake the sector — because it seems that it is a difficult area to ensure high quality and to build hospitality services around it.

Tags: brands, cloud, future of lodging, guest experience, hilton, leisure travel, online travel agencies, personalization, short-term rentals, skift future of lodging forum, skift live

Photo credit: Hilton's Chris Silcock (left) speaks with Skift's Sean O'Neil at the Skift Future of Lodging Summit in London March 29, 2023. Skift

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