Hilton is the most iconic hotel brand in the world, owning or managing over 5,400 hotels with over 880,000 rooms in 106 countries. Hilton is also the world leader in hotel innovation and technology launching the Connected Room and the Digital Key and even experimenting with the use of robots.
We Invented the Airport Hotel
We invented the airport hotel. We all laugh but somebody did it first. Somebody figured out maybe you could put a hotel near an airport for those that get stranded, etc. So we were the first to do it at San Francisco Airport a long long time ago, way before my time.
We’ve had both a pioneering spirit and an innovative spirit and that spirit is alive and well inside the company with our product, with our service, food and beverage, and with loyalty. We are trying to figure out how do you not have loyalty just be about points and creating real experiences are things that differentiate us where the customers just can’t get from anybody else or get on their own.
We’re Not Gonna Have Robots Cleaning Rooms Anytime Soon
And then technology. There is a huge element of technological innovation that’s really important. It’s not to get the people out of the hotels. A core element of what we are and what we stand for at Hilton and I think as an industry is about being a business of people serving people. That’s never gonna change.
We’re not gonna have robots cleaning rooms or doing any of those tasks anytime soon. I’m not saying it won’t happen someday, but I doubt it in my lifetime. But there are a bunch of things and we’re doing them that is more mechanical and that the machines can do better than humans. Importantly, it can free up humans to think about how they can have a more direct relationship with a customer and how they can personalize the experience with the customer.
Digital Check-In, Digital Room Selection, Digital Key
I’ll give you some examples of things that we’re doing, a couple of big ones. Digital Check-in, Digital Room selection, and Digital Key. Not everybody wants to do that in every market in the world but a lot of people do and the bulk of our customers, when you get down to it, our road warriors. They come in like I did last night. You’re tired and it’s nice to get an email coming in from the airport, pick your room, here’s your key, and you don’t have to do anything.
The bulk of travelers really want that. It means that in the end you probably need fewer people at the front desk if that really gets adopted at a mass scale, which I certainly hope it does, but that means you can have people instead of behind a desk, they can be out in the lobby, they can be out figuring out what they need to do to curate and personalize the experience.
The Connected Room
Another example is the connected room, which is not here on this continent yet (Africa) but will be coming soon, it’s not substituting for people but the reality is we all have content with us. We have our Netflix account or our Spotify or whatever kind of music. We all have these things now we can carry around in our device. We all have different needs in terms of temperatures and rooms and what we want from in audio-visual and what pillows we want, how we want to interact and order room service and all these things.
What we’ve developed is proprietary technology that allows you to control your whole experience when you’re in your room so that it’s much more personalized. It’s not taking away, it’s not robots doing everything, it’s machines creating a more personalized experience that give you more the comforts of home.
The one thing we all know as a road warrior myself, boy it’s nice when you go somewhere just to have some of the comforts of home. Imagine walking into a room and your accounts are all loaded up, all of your content, audio-visual, what temperature you want the room, level of lighting, all of those things are preloaded. Your pictures of your loved ones or your dog are rotating on the TV.
We can do all that before you get there because once you’re in the building and you’ve checked in with Digital Key we know you’re in the building and we can activate all that stuff.
Personalizing the Experience with Technology and Cloud Computing
That’s not really taking the human element out of it. It’s just personalizing the experience in ways that we can do very inexpensively with modern technology and cloud computing and we can do very consistently.
It’s things like that, not put the robots in charge but things that will take friction out of the experience and add a little bit more delight to the experience, create a little bit more of the comforts of home for those that are not at home and that have some level of stress or strain typically associated with their travel.