Vying for market share breeds opportunity and risk. Hilton's oneupmanship in electric vehicle charging is more than just a win for Tesla. It will prompt hotel rivals to sharpen their strategies.
Skift Global Forum was held in New York City on September 26-28, 2023. Read coverage of the event at the link below.
Hilton said Thursday that it plans to install at least six electric vehicle chargers per property at 2,000 hotels in North America, and will buy devices from Tesla. Once it fully installs them, Hilton will own more electric vehicle chargers than any other U.S.-based hotel group.
“Part of the reason why we’re doing this is to help travelers get past their ‘range anxiety,'” said Matt Schuyler, Hilton’s chief brand officer. “If I knew I had a place I could stay in charge, I’d be much more comfortable planning a long-distance road trip.”
What’s new is that Hilton is installing up to 20,000 Tesla Universal Wall Connectors — a product designed to seamlessly charge any North American electric vehicle, not just Tesla-branded ones.
Hilton has been rolling out electric vehicle chargers since 2015, with about 1,148 hotels in the U.S. having at least one — and 1,850 chargers installed globally. However, the devices have only been compatible with specific vehicle models.
Installation begins next year. Hilton hasn’t picked the hotels and owners yet. It said it’s working with the automaker to find mutually agreeable spots. Expect markets with heavy electric vehicle ownership, such as California (where roughly a fourth of new vehicle sales this year were electric), to get priority.
Hilton expected the chargers to be mostly used overnight by its hotel guests, though some properties may allow non-guests to use chargers if available in surface parking lots.
“Charging prices may vary but will be in line with other Tesla chargers in the area and are set by Tesla under this deal,” a spokesperson said. “Once installed, users will need to download the Tesla app to reserve, pay, and charge.”
Broader Electric Vehicle Trend
Hilton is reacting to emerging demand, as Americans have bought more than 4 million electric vehicles to date.
This year, Hilton’s website saw significant growth in stays for people using the electric vehicle charger filter in its search tool.
Competition is slim. Only about one out of every four hotels offers electric vehicle charging, according to a hotel lobby survey of 17,000 properties. For instance, all of Marriott’s roughly 80 Element Hotels in the U.S. have at least a couple of charging stations. Hyatt has hundreds of chargers but doesn’t make them findable via its website search function. All of Choice’s Cambria brand plans to add chargers within the next year.
Nationwide, public and private electric vehicle charging stations now number 65,682.
One issue hotels have to manage is too much demand. Some guests may pick a hotel because of the promise of an electric vehicle charger, only to find stations are already in use.
What I Learned About the Future of Electric Cars on My Family’s Summer Road Trip
We drove 2,400 miles and juiced up at 14 charging stations in August on a round-trip journey from New Jersey to Florida, and back. Our experience and my diary of that trip hopefully serves as a playbook for the companies that are still innovating for this still-nascent way to travel.
Hilton Brand Mashups
Hilton sees the Tesla deal as part of a pattern of “strategic brand mashups,” Schuyler said. These mashups aren’t confined to any particular brand in Hilton’s portfolio.
Examples include Hilton offering Mars Petcare products across many of its properties (many hotels offer branded pet bowls, for example, during stays) and Peloton fitness equipment at thousands of properties.
“Guests want to port with them the brands they know and love on their trips,” Schuyler said. “We want to meet our customers’ needs before they even know they have them.”
Catch Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta at the Skift Global Forum on September 26, 2023, in New York City.
For travel context, read Skift’s coverage of how many U.S. destinations and tourism bureaus see an opportunity in electric vehicle chargers, especially since the U.S. government made nearly $5 billion available over five years to states to install such devices. For tech context, see this in-depth series about the U.S. electric vehicle charging network.
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Photo credit: Cars at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner being charged by Tesla Universal Chargers. Source: Hilton.