ALIS: Why Chris Nassetta calls hospitality an engine of opportunity

LOS ANGELES—During the opening day of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit, Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, spoke about hospitality’s environmental, social and governance efforts, calling the industry an engine of opportunity and a beacon of hope.

“In 2020, our industry's contribution to global [gross domestic product] dropped by almost 50 percent and 62 million jobs were lost, which is why I think as an industry we have to be more focused than ever on creating new opportunities for people to build better lives for themselves and their families,” he said. “We have to be focused on protecting and supporting the destinations where we live, work and travel and driving truly inclusive growth that prioritizes investing in diverse talent.” 

The future of hospitality is sustainable and inclusive growth, he said.

“We can achieve this by collectively following a simple principle: doing well by doing good in a world that's more connected and moving more quickly than ever,” Nassetta said. “Our business has a huge impact by choosing to operate in a way that's better for the communities we serve, but also delivers performance for your business. Those two things, to me, aren't an either/or. You can do both, and it's a cop-out not to do both. The truth is, our customers are telling us that, and they're demanding more from us.”

According to Nassetta, 92 percent of consumers say they're more likely to trust brands that are environmentally and socially conscious and 8 percent of consumers will be more loyal to a company that supports social or environmental issues.

“And if that's not enough, from a team member point of view, being an employer of choice, investing in culture and caring about these issues, helps us all attract the best talent, in turn, creating the best experiences for our guests,” he said. “So if our customers and our team members are demanding greater responsibility, honestly, we have no choice but to deliver.a 

“Operating more sustainably can and must drive incremental profitability, and at the same time, will help us slow climate change, ensuring that these destinations we love and the ones we're going to discover in the years to come will be viable for generations to come,” he said. “And it's clear that if we don't lead the way in sustainability, governments are going to impose legislation and are starting to that will limit what I think is going to be a new golden age of travel.”

But Nassetta reminded the audience that sustainably isn't just about bricks and mortar.

“We are a business of people serving people, and as we rebuild our workforce we have an opportunity to ignite the passion for hospitality in the next generation of young people whose employment prospects were hit the hardest by the pandemic, just as they started their careers with us,” he said. “Our ability to deliver for customers will, in large part, rely on our ability to attract and retain workers from Gen Z. This youngest generation is the most diverse ever and they've shown a tremendous appetite for activism. We have to show them how impactful a career hospitality can be and how many different opportunities there are in this incredible industry.”

At Hilton, these goals are accomplished by breaking them down into component parts and incentivizing people to make progress. 

“That means that as we measure our leaders’ efforts we tie it to their compensation, then compare it and make it a part of their overall assessment, and we make our data behind our collective efforts public,” he said. “It's a model we use frequently and certainly signals how our teams think about how serious we are in taking environmental and social issues to the highest levels of priority. At the end of the day, you have to walk the walk and empty promises are obvious to your teams, to the public, to your customers and they do more harm than good.”