Q&A: Phil Cordell, Hilton Worldwide

Tom Otley talks to Phil Cordell, Global Head for Focused Service and Hampton Brand Management for Hilton Worldwide, about expansion plans, millennials and targeting travellers directly.

Hampton seems to be expanding quickly in Europe at the moment.

The brand has been around for 30 years, but we could only grow outside of the States when Hilton US and Hilton International came together in late 2006.

Hotels such as the new Waterloo property seemed to be focussed on younger guests.

We do have a focus on Generation X and Y, which collectively is twice the size of the baby boomers. They may not have the disposable income yet but they will grow into that. However, the hotels are for everyone.

You refer to this brand and Hilton Garden Inn as focussed. How do you make sure you are focussed on the right things?

We are constantly listening to existing and potential new generation guests, through what we call Voice of Guest panels, talking about what attracts them to the brand and would make them stay or not stay with us. What we get from that is Trust Points which we make sure are in place wherever we go around the world. And that’s a focus on cleanliness: which means the duvet is laundered for every guest, we have complimentary base wifi, complimentary breakfast and a spirit of service which we call ‘Hamptonality Service’ and a hub to grab food and drink 24/7.

You also have the Hampton Guarantee which is a money-back guarantee if travellers aren’t satisfied, why wouldn’t all Hilton brand hotels offer exactly the same?

Yes, there’s an expectation with all of our brands that any problem would be taken care of. For Hampton which is relatively a new brand, it helps as an introduction to people who are unfamiliar with the brand, it helps give some reassurance, but it’s gone beyond that marketing piece to being part of the brand – it helps with problem occurrence.

And this distinctive service – ‘Hamptonality’ – how is that different from what you’d get in a Hilton Hotel?

Well it’s based around certain standards, but with the freedom for people to do what they do best – it comes from strengths based leadership which is something that [motivational speaker and author] Marcus Buckingham came up with.

What’s Hilton’s position on targeting travellers directly rather than through the corporate?

The whole world of distribution and how customers find their way to us – managed or unmanaged – is changing a great deal. Hilton Worldwide will continue to do a significant amount of centrally managed business with the IBMs of this world who travel globally. We find that even within the large corporations because of our portfolio approach, several of our brands appeal to their travellers, depending on the location, trip purpose, the budget and the position of the employee. There could be a global top 50 account that sends customers to many of the brands and in a centrally managed environment.

One of the things we have started to do with slightly smaller customers is we have a couple of booking tools which allows them direct access so their business traveller can book directly with us through a portal and still have access to any corporate benefits. The traveller can manage this on a daily basis, and the buyer can get the management information from that, this is called Hilton Transaction Engine or Direct Connect – A larger scale programme set up with key accounts.

Do you see people being price-conscious and staying in these focussed brands of Hampton by Hilton and Hilton Garden Inn?

In times of significant economic challenge we see people shift around among the brands depending on allowable trip dollars, but a lot of it goes to trip purpose – if they are having a conference and need banqueting they go to a Hilton. We see a significant amount of cross-sell revenue where we see someone look at one brand and shift over to another brand, either because there wasn’t the property where they wanted to go exactly, or the price point suited better with a different brand.

A lot of Hamptons seem to be new-builds.

It’s intentional. The few conversions we have done in the UK most have been repurposed office towers. Birmingham Broad Street is a good example where the developer could get tax incentives to bring a derelict building back to life so it can now have permanent team members to work in the hotel.

What’s the pipeline look like?

We have 355 in the pipeline worldwide. In Europe we have 23 trading and 50 in the pipeline. In the UK we have 15 open, including Waterloo, Gatwick, and Sheffield with another 10.

Hampton by Hilton has 16 properties in the UK, with recent openings including London Gatwick airport North Terminal, Waterloo and Sheffield. Hampton Hotels brand, which includes Hampton Inn, Hampton Inn & Suites and Hampton by Hilton, is Hilton Worldwide’s brand in the mid-priced hotel segment. It has more than 1,900 properties with more than 188,000 rooms in 14 countries and territories.

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