Hilton will celebrate its 100th anniversary on May 31 and the company, which calls itself “the first global hospitality company,” marked the occasion with an event in New York where it looked to the past, present and future of the brand.
Today, Hilton has 17 brands, more than 5,600 properties and more than 2,300 properties in its pipeline; one of every five hotels opening in the world is a Hilton. The company started in 1919 when Conrad Hilton bought a small hotel in Cisco, Texas. The first with the Hilton name came along in 1925 (the Hilton Dallas) and by the 1950s, Hilton became the first coast-to-coast hotel chain in the U.S.
It also opened the first hotel outside the continental U.S, the Hilton Caribe in Puerto Rico and soon opened the Hilton Istanbul, the first modern hotel built from the ground up in Europe after WWII. Conrad Hilton became the first hotelier to appear on the cover of Time magazine.
Hilton has had many lodging firsts, according to Karla Starr, author of “The Hilton Effect,” a history of the company: room service, televisions in rooms and lobby shopping among them. She said Conrad Hilton was the first to recognize business travelers as a distinct market and targeted them initially.
In addition, Conrad Hilton invested heavily in air conditioning in the 1950s, creating the possibility of year-round convention business, said Dr. Mark Young, archivist and historian for Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management at the University of Houston.
Pablo Torres, general manager of the Caribe Hilton, which was heavily damaged by Hurricane Maria two years ago, said the property will reopen May 15 after extensive renovations to rooms, public space and the beach. That property was the site where the piña colada was invented.
Discussing Hilton today Mark Weinstein, senior vice president and global head of customer engagement, said Hilton’s Honors loyalty program now has 85 million members. Hilton Honors now offers a “slider” option where travelers can choose any combination of money or points to redeem awards and that the option to choose experiences like concerts is growing rapidly.
Tripp McLaughlin, global head of the newest brand, Motto, said it is a micro-hotel concept that offers smaller but highly designed rooms with an active lobby and extensive local partnerships.
Looking ahead, Hilton aims to shrink its environmental footprint through its Travel With Purpose program, according to Katie Fallon, executive vice president and global head of corporate affairs. Calling itself the first major hotel chain to institute science-based carbon emission targets, the company has the goal of cutting its environmental footprint in half and doubling its social impact by 2020.
Ian Carter, president of global development, architecture, design and construction, said more than half of the company’s pipeline is overseas with a special focus on the Middle East, Africa, China and all-inclusive hotels in the Caribbean and northern South America.
Noelle Eder, chief information and digital officer, said the Connected Room continues to be rolled out, enabling guests to use an app to control the heating and cooling in their rooms, entertainment on their devices, lights and more. “And we’re just getting started,” said Eder.
A new feature, said Eder, is called “Explore the Neighborhood” and offers suggestions from hotel staff about what to do in the destination. The mission, said Eder, is to focus on flexibility and speed to enhance the guest experience through technology.
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