MCLEAN, VA—For any hotel brand company, it’s important to have an app that speaks to the potential guest. After all, loyalty is the name of the game, and one of the strongest assets that a hotel brand has at its disposal is an app that enables guests to modify and curate their travel experience however they’d like.
For Hilton, which has more than 5,300 properties with more than 863,000 rooms across its family of brands, continual enhancement of the Hilton Honors app is a critical component of the brand’s guest service. For its latest new feature, the brand company looked outside the box—literally—to see how it can enable travelers to have the trip they crave most: As guests are seeking more authentic experiences when they travel, they don’t want to hit the same tourist traps— they want to go where the locals go.
Now, Hilton is providing its guests just what they want—the opportunity for its loyalty members to explore the neighborhoods surrounding the hotels with suggestions from the people who know the area—and local tourists—best: Hilton’s local team members.
Explore, an all-new feature of the Hilton Honors mobile app, is powered by location technology company Foursquare. It is available in 28 markets covering nearly 1,000 global properties among all Hilton brands, with plans to expand to additional markets in the future.
For Hilton, the decision to add this feature was a simple one, and one that was based on reactions and responses from guests.
“We often hear feedback from guests about their desire for localized recommendations on the best things to do, places to eat and more when planning for their stay—guests want to ‘know before they go’ and they want to know from locals,” said Joshua Sloser, SVP of Hilton product. “Hilton Explore provides an easy way for guests to explore the neighborhood where they’re staying, to connect with local experts (our team members), and even build a list of favorites to use as a guide when they arrive.”
Through Explore, guests have the opportunity to experience food, nightlife, shopping and activity destinations hand-selected by team members who reside in the area. “These team members uniquely understand the needs and wants of travelers in their respective markets, and Hilton Explore allows guests to access their firsthand recommendations—all on their phones, any time they need it,” he said. “Our team members provide their recommendations, and through proprietary processes and systems, along with Foursquare integration, we leverage these recommendations to serve suggestions to our guests inside the Hilton Honors app.”
Each recommendation includes photos and tips directly from the employees, including tips for dishes to try, the best times to go and specific things to see. Suggestions are curated to appeal to a variety of audiences who may be staying at the hotel—from families looking for kid-friendly museums to frequent travelers looking for business dinner recommendations or couples interested in fine-dining experiences.
Foursquare’s Places API serves as the primary source for real-time venue information, which includes ratings, features, photos and hours. Guests will see recommendations relevant to their current hotel reservation and can “favorite” the recommendations provided in advance of their travel to create an in-app guide for their upcoming trip.
“To truly personalize and plan their trip, guests can build a list of favorites that can serve as an itinerary or guide,” said Sloser.
Acknowledging that many markets are huge—New York City, for example, has a multitude of submarkets—Sloser noted that Explore takes that into account. “We’re showing guests the most relevant locations based on the specific hotel where they’re staying. If a guest is staying in Manhattan for instance, they’ll see different local recommendations than a guest staying at a hotel in Brooklyn,” he said.
The new app feature joins a suite of digital services that power highly personalized guest experiences via the Hilton Honors app with convenience and ease of use.
Explore is an extension of Hilton’s app strategy, which includes enabling guests to manage their stay in the way they want. Currently through the Hilton Honors app, guests can preselect their hotel rooms before they check in, opt to receive a digital key to access their room and complete their check-in process—all on their mobile phone. In addition, as Hilton’s Connected Room concept rolls out to more properties, guests will be able to use their mobile device as the in-room remote to control their television programming, lighting and temperature controls—personalizing their preferences just as they do at home. HB