Hilton looks to partnerships in experiential travel push

Hilton intends to establish “many more partnerships” with independent travel and hospitality businesses, said the company’s president and CEO Chris Nassetta from the stage at IHIF on Tuesday.

“You will see many more partnerships on the experiential side. Why? Because our Hilton Honors members, particularly, want more experiences, and the more we can offer them those adjacencies, the more we think they will remain loyal and we’ll get an incremental share of wallet,” he said, in conversation with consultant Nick van Marken.

Nassetta added that membership of Hilton’s loyalty programme  would surpass a total of 200 million by the end of the year.

Hilton recently announced exclusive distribution partnerships with Small Luxury Hotel of the World (SLH) and AutoCamp, a US-based provider of camping experiences.

Of the SLH deal, Nassetta said: “SLH was the best thing out there at scale … and it was a really effective and efficient way for us to take our own 160 luxury hotels up to 700 hotels with a very heavy resort orientation and to do it quickly and efficiently from the standpoint of us being a very capital light business.”

The deal means Hilton Honors members can book, earn, and redeem points for stays at the 560 SLH properties, 60% of which are in Europe.

A similar deal with AutoCamp, which provides custom Airstreams, cabins, and luxury tents at US national parks, was described as a: “fabulous concept born in the US that will ultimately go global.”

Giving Hilton customers an ever-increasing choice has been a key theme of Nassetta’s 17 years as CEO of the company, during which time the number of Hilton brands has risen from 9 to 22.

All these brands have been created in-house. Nassetta commented: “Doing it ourselves is an infinite yield. It’s a very high return way of doing it.”

However, Hilton recently broke with its DIY tradition and acquired two hotel brands: NoMad and Graduate. Why?

“We think they’re great brands. We want to get into the luxury lifestyle space starting with NoMad. We’ve been saying we’re gonna do it. We’ve probably been late in doing it. And, as we looked at how we’d imagine it, NoMad was pretty much the bullseye,” he said.

“As we buy it, it’s really only one hotel in London,” he said, adding that the price was right compared to the cost and time of developing a similar brand in-house.

“While we’re not getting a portfolio, we’re getting a pipeline of a dozen deals at various stages and we probably save ourselves two years of gestation time if we had been building out our own brand.”

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