This week Hilton rolled into New York City to celebrate its upcoming 100th anniversary. Over a media-filled breakfast, which was served room service-style by a parade of waiters bearing silver trays, company executives took to the stage to reflect on the hotel chain's storied history and discuss its vision and direction for the coming years, including investment in technology, commitment to environmental and social causes, and more.
Noelle Eder, Hilton's executive vice president and chief information and digital officer, said the company's Connected Rooms concept, which it began beta testing in late 2017 and debuted in 2018, had proved to be extremely popular with hotel owners and guests. The high-tech rooms, which allow guests to check in, control the lights and even stream content on their TVs, all from the Hilton app, will now be rolled out to another 200 properties by year's end. In addition, she said, Hilton has added another feature to its app, Explore the Neighborhood, which lets guests digitally peruse the destination based on restaurants, shopping and entertainment recommendations from team members who live there.
On the the development front, Ian Carter, president of global development, architecture, design and construction, said Hilton was placing emphasis on several main regions, including Africa, China and the Middle East, and bringing its all-inclusive product to the Caribbean. "There is an enormous demand internationally for brands that are eponymous in the U.S., like DoubleTree by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn. The opportunities are limitless," he said. "The real future in China, where we had just four hotels a few years ago and now have 150, with another 300 in the development pipeline, is in the midscale segment in cities most people have never heard of. But that's where we are going, and we are building them for the Chinese traveler."
When the panelists were asked how Hilton had sustained its momentum over a century, they all agreed it was because the company had not strayed from founder Conrad Hilton's original vision, when he opened the first Hilton hotel in Dallas in 1925. Under his stewardship, the chain blazed a trail of firsts for the hotel industry, including In-room minibars and TVs, guest-room air conditioning, room service, lobby stores selling sundries, and food-and-beverage innovations like the piña colada, invented by a bartender at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico.
Today, "We are doing things that Conrad could never have possibly envisioned, like our Connected Rooms," said Mark Weinstein, senior vice president and global head of customer engagement, loyalty and partnerships, at Hilton. "But it still goes back to his vision of keep trying new things, keep innovating and moving forward, and always take care of your customer and colleagues."
Katie Fallon, Hilton's executive vice president and global head of corporate affairs, said the company had made environmental sustainability and community commitment a cornerstone of its legacy. She said the chain plans to reduce its carbon emissions by 60 percent by 2030. "We have done a good job of tracking our environmental footprint," said Fallon. "We don't need an international climate treaty to lead the way. We need to look out for out travel destinations around the world."