Hilton has released a "trends report" aimed at consumer news sites. These three points are noteworthy for industry insiders.
Hilton on Thursday released its annual whitepaper on consumer travel trends. (Find it here.) The hotel giant is typically quite savvy about how it uses such reports to garner “earned media” coverage for its brands.
Here are three trends that most caught our attention.
Hilton’s Mobile App
From January to June 2023, 9.7 million guests checked in via Hilton’s app, the company said. At first glance, that sounds impressive – a 17% year-over-year increase.
Yet context is helpful. Hilton welcomed nearly 200 million guests in 2022, so call it half that in the first of this year. That tells us only a small minority of guests are checking in via an app.
Hilton’s performance is probably above average for hotel groups because it has worked hard at adding functionality, such as digital room keys and confirmed connected rooms, that isn’t available through online travel agencies. In other words, many other hotel groups may have even lower percentages of guests using their apps for check-in.
In short, all of the hotel groups still need to improve their mobile apps if they want more direct bookings and customer engagement.
Don’t Mock Mocktails
Hotel operators are rightly cautious about hopping on consumer trends. If a trend is a fleeting fad or gets overtaken by new innovations, a hotel doesn’t want to get stuck with a wasted investment. (Think of all of those iPod docking stations still sitting in hotel rooms.) Other trends are hard to serve in ways that are cost-efficient.
A case in point: There’s been growing noise about increasing numbers of consumers seeking alternatives to alcoholic beverages. Non-alcoholic beer, wine, and spirits saw U.S. sales grow 20% to $395 million in the year through August 2022.
The problem with non-alcoholic beverages is that the default assumption by consumers is that they won’t be convincing or tasty because that is the reputation that has dogged the category. No hotel operator working at scale wants an uphill battle like that. It’s less risky to offer, say, free cookies.
So it’s significant that Hilton said in August it would roll out a menu of non-alcoholic, or “Free-Spirited,” cocktails at one of its hotel brands, Tempo. The move comes as rival Marriott has been testing the use of simulated spirits, including the Lyre’s brand, at some of its hotels.
Maybe it’s safe for other hoteliers to roll out mocktails. After all, if the largest hotel groups are willing to try, then there’s probably money to be made.
All-Inclusive Resorts Are Hot
Hilton’s trends report included this interesting tidbit: “Group and incentive travel interest in resort and all-inclusive locations is also strengthening. In the first half of 2023, group bookings at Hilton all-inclusive resorts increased by double digits year-over-year, led by Hilton La Romana, an All-Inclusive Family Resort in the Dominican Republic.”
What’s eye-catching here is that companies like Hilton have built their companies on a bread-and-butter of business and corporate group bookings. So their expansion into all-inclusive resorts is interesting in that many people don’t associate resorts with business venues.
Yet Hilton appears to be seeing more willingness by organizers of professional events to hold gatherings at resorts.
Perhaps Hilton will be inspired by Marriott’s announcement this year of an all-inclusive resort brand and Hyatt’s recent purchase of Apple Leisure Group and its array of all-inclusives to expand in a more notable way in the resort segment.
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Photo credit: Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Finance Centre – Cigar Lounge. Source: Hilton.