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11/21/2022

At Hilton, Tech Plays a Large Role in Supporting 2023 Travel Trends

Hilton’s 2023 travel trend report reveals that consumers want engaging, frictionless experiences that are also sustainable. Technology will be required to make all of this happen.
Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor (Hotels)
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On November 14th, Hilton released its 2023 trends report:The 2023 Traveler: Emerging Trends that are Innovating the Travel Experience.  According to Hilton’s global survey of 7,000 travelers, an analysis of current travel trends indicates that guests are looking for a balance of technological and human innovations, deeper connections and care, as well as embedded wellness experiences.

While the report highlights four themes for 2023 travel, HT found that technology was an integral part of each and every theme. For example, the brand said that people are looking for deeper, more engaging experiences and connections with destination-focused culinary travel packages expected to be on the rise next year. Additionally, it found that 40% of travelers will be looking for access to unique experiences and activities, such as performances, events, classes and spa treatments.

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hilton honors app

To give the people what they want, hotel brands have to find a way to connect the experiences they offer with the consumers who want them. Hilton has found that using its mobile app is one of the best ways to do this. In fact, the brand saw a 77% year-over-year increase in Hilton Honors Point redemption during the first nine months of 2022 for its reimaginedHilton Honors Experiences which allows members to redeem their points for members-only events and experiences that go beyond room nights. In 2022, Hilton saw 26 million Hilton Honors Points redeemed across just three events: its McLaren VIP experiences in Singapore, Miami and the United Kingdom.

Jennifer Chick, SVP, Global Head, Hilton Honors, Customer Engagement & Partnerships, noted on November 10th, during an exclusive media preview of the brand’s2023 Global Trends Report, that the brand wants its guests to be using its app all the time – not just when they’re on property. For this reason, it has partnered with companies such as Lyft, Live Nation and Ticketmaster to create multiple reasons and touch points for guests to keep coming back to the app. When guests use their Hilton mobile app to book a ride through Lyft, they automatically earn points for the transaction. And guests can redeem Hilton Honors points for Lyft rides, concert tickets, or even purchase products via Amazon.

Supporting the Environment with Tech

Consumers are quickly becoming interested in how they can help preserve the world around them, especially by supporting local communities and staying in hotels that are doing their part to be more sustainable.

In fact, Hilton has seen enormous demand for sustainable travel experiences, said Jean Garris Hand, Vice President, Global ESG, during the media preview. Hilton is finding ways to offer a more sustainable experience to guests including: offering locally sourced food, allowing guests to use the website/mobile app to find hotels with EV charging stations, providing paperless check-in via the mobile app, and creating Digital Key technology to divert plastic from landfills. 

“Using our Digital Key technology, we’ve diverted 125 tons of plastic from landfills,” Garris Hand noted. “Also, we are constantly using our LighStay ESG platform to quantify and report our energy and water use, emissions, social impact (donations/volunteering), and more across all of our properties.”

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a hotel guest room filled with furniture and plants

Business travelers and event planners are also worried about the environment, said Gerilyn Horan, Vice President, Group Sales & Strategic Accounts during the media preview. Hilton’s staff members can use LightStay to run reports on the anticipated carbon footprint for a particular event and then share that with the client.

“Then we can discuss ways to reduce it ahead of time,” she added. “After the event concludes, we can run the report again to find out what the footprint ended up being.”

Easy, Efficient & Frictionless

Of course, no travel trend report would be accurate if it didn’t include the term “frictionless.” There is no bigger damper on one’s vacation or business trip than when the technology you rely on falters. Hilton’s survey found more than half of respondents (56%) confirmed they are most concerned about having an easier travel experience in 2023, with more parents (58%) feeling this way than non-parents (54%). Additionally, nearly 9 in 10 (86%) survey respondents said they will be looking for personalization during their travel experiences and interactions – which could mean a daily greeting, reservation recommendation, in-room technology tailored to personal viewing apps or room upgrade based on booking preferences.

Frictionless also often means efficient. For example, parents may be looking for properties that offer Digital Key technology, so they don’t have to wait in a line with overtired children to get their room key. In fact, Digital Key technology was very popular in 2022. In just the first six months of 2022, more than 7.9 million Digital Keys were downloaded globally. And, Confirmed Connecting Rooms by Hilton saw an impressive number of reservations in 2022, with travelers booking 1.5 million room nights between its launch in 2021 and September 2022.

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a hand holding a cellphone

“We are constantly thinking of ways we can bring personalized and customized experiences to our members and best guests,” Chick explained. “Upgrades, for instance, are one of our most sought-after benefits. So we launched an automatic upgrade/reward product that will automatically award an upgrade 72 hours prior to the guest’s arrival on property. This means no longer having to ask at the front desk for that upgrade.”

And in many cases, there is no better way to have a frictionless vacation than to travel to an all-inclusive resort. In fact, Hilton anticipates that travelers will be more interested in all-inclusive offerings, so it has grown its all-inclusive room count in the Caribbean and Latin America by nearly 75 percent since 2021. Here too, technology is helping guests travel better. For instance, Hilton now offers durable smart-tech wristbands deployed at its all-inclusive resorts that serve as a digital room key and enable guests to authorize contactless payments outside of the property.

“People are back to traveling,” commented Horan. “But they want an efficient and easy experience. For a lot of us, that happens in the digital space. So, we’ve been working very hard to provide our guests with an easy digital experience.”