Experiential, mindful travel — experienced it yet? It’s what Hilton calls the new trend of travel, and encompasses everything you are looking for these days. No longer wanting to rush from one place to another, or worry about checking off all items in their itinerary, travellers want to live completely in the now, and appreciate every moment.
Recognising the trend, Hilton is no longer your hotel-next-door with fancy rooms and five star service. “We are always getting to know each individual guest better with every stay, so that, on the one hand, we are able to welcome them with all the comforts and familiarity of home, yet at the same time, with what we’re learning about them, we’re able to create exceptional experiences that are even more tailored to each guest,” says Ben George, Senior Vice President and Commercial Director of Hilton, APAC.
We spoke to Ben about how a stay at Hilton is like being at home, but better. Much, much better.
How would you describe today’s traveller?
I believe that the modern day traveler is someone who would rather spend money on experiences, rather than things, and a large part of this involves embracing off-the-beaten-track activities and authentic moments in other countries. Travellers now rely on social media, highlighting how undeniably important technology is, even in the travel industry.
What are travellers looking for in a hotel that they aren’t currently getting?
The general trend we’re seeing in hospitality is a movement towards voice-centric Internet-of-Things (IoT) enabled rooms. At Hilton, however, we are piloting what we call a ‘Connected Room’ to deliver a mobile-first room experience, through the Hilton Honors app, for our guests, empowering them to tailor all elements of their stay right from the palm of their hand. This includes accessing their favorite television channels and media subscriptions to continue watching the shows they were streaming at home, adjusting room temperature and light settings to their desired levels, and even requesting for extra pillows and towels. Currently available at a handful of our hotels in the US, the technology will ultimately be rolled out to one million Hilton rooms in more than 100 countries.
How has Hilton evolved in the past few years?
With 471 hotels in the pipeline, Hilton is opening more than one hotel a week in Asia Pacific. Over the years, we have also built up a strong 100-year heritage of bringing industry-defining “firsts” to our hotels – from being the first hotel company to put televisions and telephones in guest rooms, and being the first to put a hotel at an airport, to still being the first and only hotel company today that lets guests choose their own rooms via a digital floor plan based on both the hotel layout and its outside surroundings.
Has the Hilton guest experience changed too?
We are deeply aware that the travelers of today also desire authentic experiences that allow them to live like locals, and which can easily be captured and shared on social media. In line with this, we will soon be bringing the Canopy by Hilton brand to Asia – beginning with the Canopy by Hilton Chengdu City Centre, later this year, followed by openings in Hangzhou and Kuala Lumpur further down the line. A refreshing, neighborhood hotel concept, Canopy by Hilton is tailored to the young traveler truly wanting to immerse in local culture, and we could not be more excited to be bringing this brand to Asia.
In addition, at the end of August 2018, we opened Waldorf Astoria Bangkok, marking the brand’s first foray into South East Asia. Waldorf Astoria Bangkok offers the modern traveler the exclusive, “Instagrammable” experiences he or she desires in the form of bespoke culinary journeys, exclusive helicopter rides and indulgent spa retreats, deliver an experience well-worth capturing and sharing, and which will last long after their visit ends.
What are the newest innovations Hilton now offers?
A recent innovation that we are extremely proud of is our digital check-in with room selection, the hospitality industry’s first-and-only opportunity for travelers to select the exact room they want, based on the hotel layout and its external surroundings. IIn addition, we’ve launched Digital Key on our Hilton Honors mobile app, which allows all Hilton Honors members to use their smartphones as their room key. In Asia Pacific, Digital Key is currently available in six countries: Singapore, China, India, Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Japan, and we plan to continue rolling it out to more countries.
In your opinion, how has luxury travel evolved?
There has been a growing emphasis on exclusivity and privacy, as well as greater prioritization of personalized experiences over material goods. So we’ve launched THE MURAKA, the world’s first undersea residence located at Conrad Maldives Rangali Island. This includes a private chef experience, through which internationally acclaimed chefs from other Conrad properties can be flown in on request. The Champagne Bar at Waldorf Astoria Bangkok is also an excellent case in point. Located on level 57, the bar has a speakeasy feel to it; so hidden you’d only know it was there if someone had told you about it before, it is set to be one of the most exclusive venues in the city.
What are Hilton’s plans for the future?
We have some new innovations in the works that will definitely take the guest experience to the next level. Some of the exciting new features on the Hilton Honors app, for instance, include Pin My Room, which allows Hilton Honors members to mark their favorite room in a hotel, in order to remember which rooms they love. There’s also our Room Service Tracker, which allows guests to track exactly where their room service is in the property, and to trace its progress. At the same time, our Multi-Key feature also enables families or friends on vacation to get multiple Digital Keys per room, accessible on multiple devices.