Hilton execs see Tempo as extension of focus on people
Hilton execs see Tempo as extension of focus on people
17 JANUARY 2020 9:52 AM

People and culture programs, which have been a focus for Hilton in recent years, played a big role in developing the firm’s new upscale lifestyle brand, Tempo by Hilton, executives say.

NEW YORK—The efforts Hilton has put in to taking care of its own people, a point of pride the company, also have inspired development of its new upscale lifestyle brand, Tempo by Hilton.

At an event to unveil the brand Thursday, Hilton Chief Customer Officer Jonathan Witter discussed how the creation of Tempo by Hilton started with identifying a specific segment of unserved travelers. This group, described as “modern achievers,” is highly brand loyal and looking for a hotel option that allows them to maintain their daily routines while on the road.

“Seventy percent of them tell us brands are a personal reflection on themselves,” he said. “They don’t have unlimited resources, but they are willing to pay more for a brand that meets those needs. While we got to know them, we got really, really excited about what we could build for them.”

One of the key partnerships in developing the brand is with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global, an organization that Hilton has worked with for roughly three years on programs to enrich and improve its employees’ lives. That relationship is now extending to guests, with Thrive providing input on the brand, and content and programming focusing on better sleep hygiene and other aspects of traveler wellness.

In a media roundtable following the launch, Huffington said she believes the new brand will help address obvious pain points for travelers.

“People who have good habits in everyday life find these habits disrupted (during travel),” she said. “I’m one of those travelers. I have amazing habits at home like working out, but it’s much harder for me to implement when traveling.”

Laura Fuentes, chief talent officer for Hilton, said the insights from working with Thrive Global through the Thrive@Hilton program were integral in the earliest stages of developing Tempo.

“We want to tap into that wisdom to inform our brand strategies,” she said.

Matthew Schuyler, chief human resources officer for Hilton, described the company’s global pool of employees as “an incredible laboratory of information.”

“Our all-team member survey is an incredible source of data for us, not just on life at Hilton but about the guests they’re interacting with every day,” he said. “All great innovations happen at the property level, from the Waldorf salad to the pina colada, those were all invented at the property level then scaled up. Our team members are telling us what guests want.”

The launch of Tempo marks the 18th brand in Hilton’s portfolio, but President and CEO Chris Nassetta said the number of brands isn’t as important as catering to the specific travelers those brands target.

“Many people may be thinking ‘here comes another one,’ but (this brand) is an exceptional piece of work that will make a difference in customers’ lives,” he said.

(Hotel News Now is a division of STR, a CoStar Group company. Chris Nassetta serves on the CoStar Group’s Board of Directors.)

Phil Cordell, global head of new brand development who was credited by other Hilton executives as the lead architect of Tempo, said he sees the brand as a new guest-centric spin on the lifestyle space.

“We think of it as approachable lifestyle,” he said. “Lifestyle is a term that our industry overuses, but what makes Tempo cool is it’s lifestyle but it’s been about developing a brand that fits the style of life (our guests want).”

In a follow-up interview after the launch event, Witter noted he believes the brand does a great job of serving the needs of both guests and owners. Tempo already has 60 projects slated with owners across the U.S.

“We are trying to—in a really smart, cost-effective and efficient way—meet the elevated wellness, food and beverage, fitness and design expectations of this very demanding segment,” he said. “We know who this customer is. They really like food and beverage. They really are committed to wellness and fitness. And they’ve got this incredible set of expectations of what a brand should feel like.”

He said capturing the demographic of “modern achievers” will have long-term benefits for the company because of that group’s exceptional brand loyalty.

Witter noted Hilton’s research showed those guests will be willing to pay a premium for an experience like what Tempo offers, but that has to be within reason. He said the cost benefit of Tempo, which will fit between Hilton Garden Inn and Canopy by Hilton among the company’s upscale offerings, is what will make it so compelling to its target audience.

“If you’re a luxury customer with that set of demands, I wouldn’t say it’s easy but it’s easier (to travel in the way you’d like),” he said. “But if you’re on a budget, that’s what makes it so hard.”

Hilton executives said there could be opportunities to export some of the innovations from Tempo to other Hilton brands over time if they prove successful in the marketplace, but Witter noted there will not be a wholesale migration of Tempo’s core philosophy across the board.

“We will never take lock, stock and barrel what we’re doing with Thrive Global and Blau (and Associates) and apply it to our other brands,” he said. “Why? Because the target customers are different. It wouldn’t make sense. Those things aren’t nearly as relevant (to other brands’ target customers).”

Editor’s note: Hilton paid for airfare to attend the Tempo by Hilton launch event. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; Hilton had no influence on the coverage provided.

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