Chris Nassetta, Hilton
Hilton comprises 14 brands with more than 5,400 properties
in 106 countries and territories. The company also has 78 million members in
its Hilton Honors loyalty program.
Prior to joining Hilton in 2007, Chris Nassetta was
president and CEO of Host Hotels & Resorts. Hilton returned $1.1
billion to shareholders in 2017. Earlier this year it projected its 2018 full
year net income will be between $802 and $837 million.
Hospitality is evolving as new models such as
home-sharing gain traction. Where do you think the demand
for private accommodation has come from?
I think everyone in the global travel and tourism industry is seeing an
increase in demand. We’re truly living in a Golden Age of Travel, with a
growing global middle class and more people than ever traveling within their
own country and abroad.
With that comes greater demand for unique experiences
and exceptional hospitality - something that plays to Hilton’s strengths. We
have a nearly 100-year legacy of providing personalized guest experiences, and
with 5,400 properties and counting, we’re not slowing down!
president and CEO
You’ve invested heavily in
recent years in efforts to drive consumers to book direct on your brand sites -
but Phocuswright research indicates that OTAs and their metasearch counterparts
continue to capture an increasing share of online hotel bookings. What will it
take for you to convince more travelers to book direct?
We are beginning to talk less about direct bookings and focus more on
creating direct relationships with our guests. For example, our recently
launched “Expect Better. Expect Hilton.” campaign is based on research and
conversations with thousands of consumers. They told us that travelers have
been conditioned to expect less. We believe that’s not what hospitality is all
about - and certainly not what you should expect from Hilton.
We know that guests who book directly with us have a better experience
and see more value in their relationship with us. So, the new campaign uses a
great spokesperson in Anna Kendrick, and speaks very plainly about the points
and perks associated with a direct relationship.
Ultimately I think the experience on-property is a critical factor for
guests. We know that guests who book directly are three times more likely to
stay with us again, and I put that down to our team members around the world
who spread the light and warmth of hospitality. We know that our guests feel
that difference when they stay with us.
Regardless of how the booking
takes place, once that traveler is in a Hilton property, they are your
customer. What are you doing to create a positive experience so they come back
to you for future travel?
Guests who are Hilton Honors members and book directly can expect
Honors points and perks that lead to unforgettable experiences before, during
and after their stay. But all guests are treated with our renowned hospitality
when staying at a Hilton property.
We’re laser-focused on creating the best
possible experiences by offering more brand options, more locations and more
benefits with their stay than ever before. And guaranteeing an exceptional
on-property experience isn’t just about offering free Wi-Fi or enabling guests
to unlock their room with their smartphone - although both of those are
important ways we enhance their stays.
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At Hilton, we believe exceptional
experiences are driven by the personal connections our 380,000 team members
make with our guests. Every day I hear deeply inspiring stories from all over
the world about team members going above and beyond to create those
unforgettable moments with our guests - moments that our guests don’t
necessarily have when they stay elsewhere.
We often hear that even members
of loyalty programs are not very loyal - they often prioritize things like room
features, location and price more than brand. How can you evolve the Hilton
Honors loyalty program to incentivize members to prioritize your brands?
We know that guests are seven times more likely to stay with us again -
and spend more - if they become Hilton Honors members. We’re constantly asking
our guests for feedback on their experience with us, and that includes our
We’ve made a number of updates recently that are directly
related to our guests’ input and desire for unique experiences. Honors members
now have exclusive access to concerts and other events, and you can now redeem
your Honors points on Amazon or use your points flexibly to book your stay -
from pooling your points with friends and family members to splitting your
payment between points and money using our Points & Money Slider.
Introducing these new ways to connect with Hilton has also led to big growth in
Hilton Honors membership - we’re adding millions of members each quarter
because guests see the value their membership offers.
And how are you bringing new
customers to the Hilton brands?
Bringing in new customers to our Hilton family - and making them repeat
guests - depends on our ability to meet them wherever they are. That’s why we
are so committed to serving any guest, anywhere in the world, for any travel
need they have - and doing so at every price point.
We’re delivering on this
commitment by expanding our footprint around the world, launching new brands
when it makes sense and underpinning our physical presence with the
exceptional hospitality that guests expect each and every time they stay with
A great example of how we’re doing this is with Tru by Hilton.
Everything about Tru was new for us - the brand’s style, our approach to
launching it and the customer profile and price.
REGISTER NOW! Hilton, AccorHotels and others speak at The Phocuswright Conference 2018
for details, tickets and the program for this year's
event in Los Angeles, November 13-15.
We were delighted when we saw
a huge response from our ownership community, who invested in creating these
really great properties and attracted new guests right away. Tru is now the
fastest-growing brand of its kind in industry history (and Hilton’s
fastest-growing brand ever), and we’re really proud of the impact it’s had so
People often say that the
concierge is the most well-connected individual at a hotel - but also that
their role can be digitized and put “in the room.” How do you balance the human
vs. digital touch as hotels and consumers evolve?
Everyone’s lives are moving faster than ever before, thanks in part to
great advancements in digital communication and technology. Even so, we are
first and foremost a business of people serving people. Technology has greatly
enhanced our ability to deliver exceptional service, but nothing will replace
the relationships our team members build with our guests.
So while you can
check in, select your room and order dinner from our Hilton Honors app before
you arrive at the hotel, this technology frees up our team members
to step out from behind the front desk to welcome our guests. Our team members
are always going to be there to create the incredible experiences that our
As you prepare to mark Hilton’s
100th birthday, give us a sense of your global outlook for Hilton -
what parts of the world are you most excited about for future growth?
Our 100th anniversary is a really special milestone - very
few companies make it to this point. It’s also a great opportunity to reflect
on how far we’ve come and what’s next for us. Over the last century, Hilton has
created the modern hospitality industry - we pioneered much of what the average
traveler has come to expect. We created the concept of airport hotels; were the
first to offer air-conditioning, televisions and a central reservation system;
and invented iconic food and beverage options like the brownie and piña colada.
Looking ahead to our next 100 years, we’re really excited by the
opportunities for growth we’re seeing around the world, particularly in Asia
and Africa. As the global middle class continues to grow, we believe that there
will continue to be opportunities to introduce guests to our signature
hospitality and meet their every travel need.
What advice do you have for
young people interested in careers in hospitality?
I like to joke that my career in hospitality started in the toilet - my
first job in the business was in the engineering department of a Washington,
D.C. hotel. Kidding aside, I truly believe that the best way to succeed in this
industry - and really, any industry - is to raise your hand for new
opportunities and understand how the business works from the front lines of
customer service to the top levels of leadership.
Half of our leadership at
Hilton got their start on property, and they’ve flourished because they
challenged themselves to take on new opportunities. Now, they use that valuable
perspective to lead our company and their teams to great success.
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