Imagine checking into a hotel room which doesn’t offer room service for ordering that late-night club sandwich; a TV on which you can catch the latest news; a convenient mini-bar, or even air-conditioning for that matter.
While all things we take for granted today, those are among the ‘firsts’ introduced by Hilton – and there’s more on the way.
Many of them are being showcased at the Hilton Innovation Gallery, located next to Hilton’s global headquarters in the US state of Virginia.
This article is published in partnership with Hilton.
An incubator and experiential showcase for fresh concepts and product development which will shape the future of hospitality, the Hilton Innovation Gallery sees its sweet spot at the intersection of technology and service.
Some have already been rolled out into the real world, such as the Digital Key technology embedded into the Hilton Honors smartphone app.
Turning your smartphone into a room key
Once they’ve made a booking, Digital Key delivers a completely digital and contactless check-in experience, including selecting your room from a real-time hotel floorplan, checking in directly from the app – often welcome after a long flight – and using your smartphone as your room key via the Hilton Honors mobile app.
“Rather than having to go to the front desk, go through the check-in process and provide your details, all of those details are already provided in advance so you can go directly to your room,” explains Heidi Kunkel, Hilton’s Australasia Vice President of Operations.
“And Digital Key not only gives you access to your room, but also gives you access to the gym, pool and all the other areas which only hotel guests have access to.”
Digital Key is currently available at some 80% of Hilton properties around the world, including the Hilton Adelaide, Hilton Darwin, Hilton Surfers Paradise and Parmelia Hilton Perth – with the recently-refurbished Hilton Sydney and the new Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street, due to open by the end of March.
But not all Hilton innovations take years to move from the realm of what-if to reality.
In the early days of 2020, as the impact of COVID-19 became clear, Hilton responded with startup-style speed to develop a more stringent room and hotel cleaning regime called Hilton CleanStay.
Based on the scientific know-how and expertise of Reckitt Benckiser Healthcare – the makers of Dettol – Hilton CleanStay completely overhauled Hilton’s standard cleaning and disinfection protocols.
All housekeeping teams were retrained along guidelines developed with RB, covering ten ‘high-touch’ areas such as light switches, remote controls, door knobs and the keypads and handles of room safes.
As a final and deliberately visual measure, a Hilton CleanStay seal is applied across the hotel room’s door “as an extra measure of re-assurance to guests that no-one else has entered the room since it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected by housekeeping,” Kunkel explains.
“All public areas are being cleaned much more often, too, and it’s become incredibly important that guests see visible signs of cleanliness to help rebuilding trust and confidence, knowing that it's going to be safe and secure to travel again.”
A new 'hybrid' approach to meetings and events
Hilton is also helping to not only reboot but reimagine conferences, meetings and events, beginning with Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, which Kunkel describes as “a meetings and events version which has been rolled out for all of our event spaces.”
“People need to feel assured if they are coming to a conference that they're seeing that all the right protocols are in place to keep them safe, and they're not going to be putting themselves at risk.”
In Australia, Hilton has also partnered with AV specialists Encore to develop a “hybrid” event model which combines in-person and remote attendance.
“You might have 10, 20 or 50 people in a room but you can also connect with hundreds or thousands of people online who can still access all of the information and all of the conference speakers, wherever they might be,” Kunkel elaborates.
A side benefit of this is that is can open those events up to a much larger and broader audience who might not usually travel to the conference, as well as incorporating speakers and participants from other cities or countries.
“That will definitely continue for the future,” Kunkel predicts.
Hilton’s always-evolving customer focus finds its way into small details, too.
A recent $25m refurbishment of the landmark Hilton Sydney swapped out the traditional large desk for a custom table flanked by an oversized Italian armchair and ottoman, reflecting guests’ changing priorities during their stays.
However, adjustable ergonomic workchairs can be sent up to the room on request.
And at the new Hilton Melbourne Little Queen Street, the smart TVs in each room can not only tune into streaming services such as Netflix and Stan, but connect to a guest’s laptop – perfect for running through and rehearsing your PowerPoint presentation before the big pitch.
Speaking of streaming, Diamond-tier members of the Hilton Honors rewards program continue to enjoy complimentary access to Hilton’s high-speed premium WiFi service – just one of the ways that Hilton wants to look after its loyal customers.
Hilton Honors status match
Another is a 12-month extension of the status of all Hilton Honors members to March 2022, even if they were due to drop to a lower status tier in 2020 (click here for full details).
The same lower threshold is also available to members of competing hotel loyalty programs through a compelling status match offer which unlocks Hilton Honors Gold or Diamond status with between five and nine stays during a 90-day period, which is then maintained until 2023.
Kunkel sees those as examples of how Hilton always moves ahead with the customer in mind.
“At Hilton, guest-centric innovation is in our DNA,” Kunkel states. “Constant connection to our guests keeps us looking forward.”
“We bring innovations to life that we know can improve the guest experience, help our team members deliver great hospitality to our guests, and can be quickly scaled across our portfolio.”