From today’s Daily Lodging Report newsletter: Nikkei Asia published an article on Hilton planning to expand its luxury offerings in Asia. Hilton will be bringing its Waldorf Astoria brand to Malaysia, Vietnam, India, and other countries for the first time as part of its plans to open 25 new luxury hotels in the Asia Pacific region over the next few years. That’s up from the 33 luxury hotels it currently runs in the Asia Pacific.
In 2027, Hilton will open India’s first Waldorf in Jaipur, the capital of the state of Rajasthan. Hilton has a management agreement with the Dangayach Group, which will own the hotel.
Hilton is also bringing Waldorfs to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; Hanoi, Vietnam; and Sydney, Australia. In China, Hilton will add its top-of-the-range hotels in Xi’an and Shanghai, while Japan’s first Waldorf will open in Osaka in 2025, followed by Tokyo in 2026.
JLL estimates that the Asia Pacific region has 560,000 luxury hotel rooms, a number that is expected to increase by 90,000 in 10 years.
Pakistan has launched a national tourism brand — Salam Pakistan, a first for the country that has been grappling with severe challenges, many of which have been on the economic front.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the travel and tourism industry contributed approximately $15 billion, accounting for 6% of Pakistan’s total gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.
However, due to the pandemic’s impact, this figure decreased significantly to $11.6 billion, representing 4.4% of GDP in 2020. Additionally, the number of jobs in the tourism sector declined from 3.45 million in 2019 to 3.63 million in 2020.
Pakistan’s vast tourism potential, which includes remarkable attractions like the world’s second-highest mountain and the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and Mohenjo-Daro, has been plagued by security concerns and political instability since the early 2000s.
In recent years, the government has made efforts to revive the tourism economy, and the launch of the Salam Pakistan brand indicates the country’s commitment to promoting its diverse tourism sector.
On the occasion of last year’s World Tourism Day, Pakistani President Arif Alvi underscored the significance of tourism as a crucial generator of foreign exchange earnings, a catalyst for job creation, and a tool for poverty alleviation.
Alvi drew attention to its role in fostering a sense of harmony among people hailing from diverse regions within the country. The president emphasized the necessity of setting clear priorities to fully harness the vast potential of the tourism sector.
The former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, recognized the great potential of tourism during his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2020.
To facilitate tourism, Pakistan introduced an online visa facility, which was later extended to 191 countries. It is also looking to develop a draft National Tourism Strategy and Action Plan in collaboration with various stakeholders from the public and private sectors.
With the implementation of government policies and measures to promote domestic and international tourism, Pakistan aims to increase the number of visitors by approximately 30% by 2030.
The country is also becoming an attractive investment destination for new hotel developments. Notably, Hilton and Radisson Hotel Group have signed agreements for upscale hotels in the country, with plans to introduce internationally branded accommodations.
As a result of these initiatives, hotels in Pakistan are witnessing substantial growth in terms of occupancy and average rates, and this positive trend is expected to continue in the coming years.
Ad Age praised Hilton’s campaign — created by agency TBWA\Chiat\Day New York — for specifying services and amenities that other hotel chains and online travel agencies such as Airbnb can’t consistently provide, such as confirmed online reservations for connected hotel rooms, digital keys, and pet-friendly accommodations.
“In an era when so many travel brands feature pristine beaches, soaring mountaintops, and other glorious destinations, Hilton got real with its first-ever global marketing platform,” Ad Age said.
Chris Silcock, Hilton’s chief commercial officer, spoke about the campaign at the Skift Future of Lodging Forum in London. He said one of the ads, a TikTok video featuring Paris Hilton, had received 40 million impressions as of a month ago. Here’s a clip of the TikTok and Silcock’s explanation of the thinking behind it.
Hilton Worldwide said on Wednesday it was expanding its partnership with connected fitness-equipment maker Peloton to add its bikes to hotels in three new overseas markets: Germany, Britain, and “participating properties” in Canada.
Hilton had already added at least one Peloton bike to each of its 5,400 U.S.-based hotels by last December.
Hilton sees partnerships with non-travel brands as a key path to staying relevant. Connected fitness was a trend that surged during the pandemic.
“It’s a great example of what we call a ‘strategic mash-up’ that transcends individual brand standards,” Schuyler told Skift last month. “It matters at a Hampton, and it matters at a Waldorf. It’s delivering on the service expectations of new age travelers.”
As of today, Hilton’s loyalty program members who are first-time Peloton users residing in Canada, Germany, or the U.K. can also receive a three-month free trial of the Peloton App until July 4, as well as “preferred pricing” on some Peloton products.
A smart new campaign launched by Hilton, highlighting its connected rooms feature, for travelers looking for larger spaces when booking family or group travel. First in this “Connecting Room Concerts” series, a performance from Brandi Carlile, six-time Grammy-Awards winner – and nominated seven times for tonight’s 2023 Grammys Awards – from a pair of connected rooms at The Beverly Hilton.
Hilton has been a long-time sponsor of the premier music awards, in its 35th year now, with Hilton Honors loyalty program members who get special benefits at the awards.
There’s been well-deserved excitement in travel tech circles in recent years about everything from the New Distribution Capability to chatbots and the arrival of generative AI, but the reality is that much of what passes for travel technology is still backwards these days.
Here are a few recent examples:
Avis: Rental Counter Can Be Unavoidable
Avis informed me a few days ago that I couldn’t modify an upcoming reservation at Newark Airport to add electronic toll charges because I made the reservation using points. In a chat, the Avis agent assured me I could add E-ZPass at the counter — although there are often elongated wait times there.
In November at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, as an Avis Preferred member, I was supposed to be able to view the app and go directly to the parking lot to retrieve my rental car, but that didn’t happen. Eventually, an Avis agent at the car rental counter told me I hadn’t been able to go directly to the car in the parking garage because I arrived during an employee shift change, and the cars were not in place and ready. The wait for the cars was at least 45 minutes at the rental counter.
JetBlue Ticket Modifications: You Need to Cancel and Rebook
In early January, I tried to modify a JetBlue flight booking at JetBlue.com, but wasn’t able to. During a text chat, JetBlue told me in what I think was an automated answer that since I booked the flight with points, I’d have to cancel and rebook it to make the change. “TrueBlue point bookings are managed online,” JetBlue stated. “Changes require you to cancel and rebook. Points are returned to the TrueBlue account. Bags/seats are refunded to the original payment.”
If I had booked the original flights with dollars instead of TrueBlue points, I probably would have been able to easily modify the booking online. But don’t airlines want their customers to join their loyalty programs, and redeem those points? Instead, there is a disincentive when points functionality lags.
Avianca Blames the ‘System’ on Multi-City Booking Issue
About a week ago, I wanted to book a multi-city itinerary on Avianca.com, but there was no option to do so. I was looking to book Punta Cana-Cartagena-Medellin-Punta Cana. I complained on Twitter in frustration, and Avianca kindly messaged me within minutes of my tweet that its customer service agents would reach out, which they did. But after a back and forth with one of the agents over a couple of days, he informed me that the Avianca “system” wouldn’t allow him to make the multi-city booking, either. The agent said I should try booking the tickets separately.
I did book the flights separately — but with another airline.
Can’t Bypass the Front Desk at a Hilton Property
In November, I reserved a room for a few nights at a Hilton Garden Inn in New Jersey. A Hilton email informed me I could use the Hilton Honors app for a contactless arrival. The idea was to skip the front desk, head to my assigned room, and unlock the door with my phone.
When I arrived at the property, a very nice front desk employee informed me that for security purposes I would have to show her an ID so it turns out at this particular property, at least, there would be no bypassing the front desk. She then handed me a couple of card keys for my room door.
Moral of the Story?
Despite all the boasts from airlines, hotels, and car rental companies about seamless this or frictionless that, the reality is often more traditional and clunky. The travel industry still finds itself plagued by outdated, legacy technology or more modern applications that sometimes aren’t well thought out.
Hilton reported its third-quarter earnings on Wednesday. During a call with investment bank analysts, executives were asked what role the company’s software for setting rates may play in the company’s performance.
“I’d say we have a long history of being really good at revenue management, and it is part of our special sauce,” said Kevin Jacobs, chief financial officer.
The hotel giant’s CFO didn’t name a travel technology vendor but did refer to “a vendor we work with” while praising the software. Skift knows that for some years Hilton has relied on a vendor IDeaS to help build its revenue management system.
“We have a vendor that we work with. We co-created the algorithm with them. They’ve been an amazing partner…. We’ve created the concept of the consolidated center. We drive more of our owners that sign up to be in these consolidated centers where we help them. We don’t set pricing for the vast majority of our system, right, because 75 percent of it’s franchise, and it’s ultimately up to the franchisees to set the pricing. But we can advise them on how we do it, and we’re really good at it, and it’s part of our special sauce.
“In the old days, [you would build a new system and then you let it run for a long time. [Today’s] algorithms are being tweaked constantly to add incremental data fields that used to be in revenue management in our world. The world is awash in data that are contributing to the decision-making in these algorithms and just make it smarter.”
“During COVID and the aftermath of COVID, one of the big things has not been less about [pricing] floors and more about [pricing] ceilings. And so I think we’ve been very thoughtful about that as well. So yes, it’s part of our — one of the many things that we think we — our commercial teams are second to none in the industry, not just in revenue management. But in every other regard, this is one area that we think we do a really good job.”
—Kevin Jacobs, chief financial officer of Hilton.
The executives cautioned that no one thing the company does uniquely drives its premiums. Even so, it is rare for a travel sector chief executive to talk about the importance of the technology under the hoods of their commercial engines. So this comment stood out.
CORRECTION: This post originally misattributed the executive speaking.