Hilton Worldwide

What is your corporation most trying to accomplish with its new innovation?

Our overall innovation strategy centers on how we can redefine the hotel experience and transform the guest’s stay through technology that is useful, purposeful and easy-to-use. We focus our efforts on a select number of high-impact projects that touch all of our guests and that we can execute at scale.

The most recent example for us is our industry-first innovation with digital check-in and room selection. Travelers have enjoyed digital check-in and seat selection for years on airlines, yet no one in the hospitality industry offered this feature. Hilton Worldwide was the first hospitality brand to give guests the ability to customize their stay through selecting the room of their choice at scale – implemented at all of our brands and hotels globally, by the end of this year.

We are giving our guests the ability to customize their stay through selecting the room of their choice from a digital map of each floor, and we’ve already seen positive results, when pre-official launch, we already saw one third of eligible guests using this new feature, and to date, we’ve seen a 90+ percent satisfaction score and likelihood to use again. Next year, we will build on this propriety technology even further, rolling out technology that will allow guests to use their smartphone as their hotel room key.
Through our digital innovations, we are changing guests’ travel experiences and engaging them on the platforms of their choice, driving guest satisfaction and loyalty. 

What do you think sets your corporation’s work apart from the work of others in your field?

As the first hospitality company to deliver digital check-in and room selection, we have created a digital experience unlike anything available today – and we are delivering these unique benefits across our portfolio at more than 4,100 hotels globally in a single year. We aren’t stopping there either, as we soon will deliver the ability to use your smartphone as your room key.

We believe that our current digital hospitality experience with the deployment of digital check-in and room selection, and soon, mobile room key, is a long-term game-changer for the hospitality industry. Yet, what really sets us apart is our commitment to meaningful innovation at scale – we focus on areas that are important to guests to deliver rapid innovation at scale.  

Scale is important to us as we want our guests to enjoy a consistent brand experience, anchored by our Hilton hospitality
promise, across each and every one of our properties. In 2007, Hilton invested in a $550 million IT overhaul to ensure we had a strong infrastructure that allowed us to easily implement our digital tools quickly and efficiently – as with room selection.

With the right infrastructure in place we can be nimble with the direction of our innovation strategy, which centers on how we can redefine the hotel experience and transform the guest’s stay through technology that is useful, purposeful and easy-to-use. We focus our efforts on a select number of high-impact projects that touch all of our guests and that we can execute at scale. We listen to our guests and concentrate on the innovations that make all of their lives easier – it increases guest satisfaction and loyalty, which is what matters to us most.

What or who inspired your corporation to come up with this innovation?

Innovation has always been a strategic focus for us – it’s is baked into our 95 year-old DNA. With digital check-in and room selection, we learned from guest feedback and research that guests overwhelmingly want a more personalized, streamlined customer journey for their hotel stay. In fact, a recent Hilton survey found that 66 percent of consumers and 84 percent of business travelers wanted the ability to choose their hotel room. It was clear that guests desired greater choice and control in their travel experiences, and we delivered on that desire with digital check-in and room selection, everywhere.

What role has serendipity played in the turning points in your corporation’s mission?

Our digital innovation strategy has been a priority for Hilton over the past several years, and the approach we take is pointed and planned. We made the original investment to overhaul our IT infrastructure back in 2007, and it’s been a very deliberate focus for us since. We know our guests desire a more connected travel experience powered by choice and control, and we strive to deliver that digital experience at Hilton hotels across the world.      

What have been the greatest challenges that your corporation has encountered in developing your innovation?

As we worked to build digital check-in and room selection from the ground up and at scale, we encountered four key challenges:

1.Delivering a consistent arrival experience across our 11 brands, 4,200+ properties and more than 650,000 rooms;
2.Creating digital floor plans for our Hilton properties globally – with each property,
each floor, having a differing layout – it was a huge and complex undertaking;
3. Ensuring the check-in and room selection process and technology can cope dynamically with real-time changes in availability, and still offer guests preference and control – unlike airline seats, our rooms are not vacated every day, so hotel room selection options change each day;
4.And finally, as with all technology today, relentlessly working to simplify the technology so it is easy to use – for our Team Members and our guests.
Our digital team worked tirelessly to build tools that would enhance the experience of our guests consistently across the globe. While there were challenges with this digital innovation, we take each in stride and aim to deliver digital tools that make our guests’ experiences with us easy and enjoyable.
By the end of 2014, digital check-in and room selection will be available across Hilton properties worldwide – marking an industry first.

Do you believe leaders and innovators have certain qualities that they all share? If so, what?

Yes – leaders and innovators share an unrelenting desire to build things, to create experiences. To be a leader in today’s world, you have to constantly and relentlessly innovate, which means never accepting you’ve ‘got there,’ never accepting ‘good enough,’ and being obsessive about rapid change.

How would your corporation most like to change the world through its work?

Hilton’s mission is to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality, and we support that with our innovation agenda to create a digital lobby that connects our guests to their ideal travel experience – from the palm of our guest’s hands, in a purposeful, useful and delightful way.  We will continue delivering industry-first experiences to our guests that create a personalized, custom hotel stay with digital tools and future innovations that will change and define how we think of hospitality across the globe. 

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