As Hilton heads toward a milestone 100th anniversary in 2019, best-selling author and Stanford Business professor Chip Heath will unveil the impact the first global hotel company has had around the world in a new book titled The Hilton Effect. Business author Karla Starr joined him in the examination of the company founded by Conrad Hilton, a dreamer who aspired to create much more than just a comfortable place to sleep.
Over the last century, Hilton has grown from a single hotel in Cisco, Texas, to nearly 5,500 hotels and 14 brands in 106 countries and territories. Hilton’s hotels have hosted more than 3 billion guests since 1919 and enlisted nearly 10 million Team Members in the company’s mission to fill the Earth with the light and warmth of hospitality.
The Hilton Effect, as the authors define it, is the positive, world-altering impact that Hilton has had, and continues to have, on billions of lives and thousands of communities around the globe – pioneering new travel markets and bringing people and cultures together to make the world feel smaller, while expanding horizons and opportunities.
“Most organizations celebrating their 100th birthday would be content to throw themselves a party, but Hilton opted to hire a pair of skeptical outsiders – business authors with backgrounds in social science – to examine its impact on the world,” Heath said. “The stories that emerged were even more remarkable than we initially suspected and what Hilton employees considered to be just another day at work was quite extraordinary.”
Through extensive independent research and in-depth interviews, Heath and Starr found deeper meaning in the history and influence of the company over the past century. The authors focused on three areas that he argues define The Hilton Effect:
- The Hilton Effect on Guests – Hilton has influenced guests by easing travel and broadening perspectives – changing travel as we know it through a century of firsts, from air conditioning to a mobile-centric hotel room; creating the modern business travel industry; and innovating the guest experience, from the first concierge service for female travelers more than 50 years ago, to unexpected moments at the breakfast bar.
- The Hilton Effect on Team Members – Hilton has impacted employees by fostering a powerful entrepreneurial spirit and wide-ranging career opportunities – creating a culture where it’s possible for restaurant servers to become C-suite execs and for innovations to be driven from every corner of the company.
- The Hilton Effect on Communities and Economies – Hilton has become woven into the history, economies and infrastructure of communities all over the world, becoming indispensable focal points in the process – building roads out of nothing to develop remote areas of Nigeria, transforming the London skyline, revitalizing deserted docks in Buenos Aires and helping Sri Lanka survive and thrive during a civil war.
“I think the world is a better place because Hilton was born into it one hundred years ago,” said Christopher J. Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton. “And if we continue to do our job, the world will be a better place because Hilton is in it for the next one hundred years.”
The Hilton Effect on Guests
Conrad Hilton was a visionary who had his first experience in hospitality hosting weary travelers on the road for work at his family’s boarding house and later at his first hotels.
Since then, Heath said, the company Hilton built has had an unmatched impact on modern travel. Hilton was the first hotel company to cater extensively to business travelers so they can focus their time and energy on the all-important meeting or negotiation, rather than the challenges of navigating an unfamiliar place. And throughout its history, Hilton has introduced numerous innovations offering comfort and convenience to all guests. Those industry firsts include air-conditioned hotel lobbies, and cold running water and televisions in guest rooms – not to mention food and beverage items like the piña colada and brownie.
Hilton has influenced billions of guests by easing travel, creating familiar, comfortable, and efficient systems to empower travelers to broaden and build perspectives, social connections and trust, thus furthering their understanding and appreciation for other cultures and ideas:
- Lady Hilton – Hilton revolutionized travel for women venturing out into the world for the first time in 1965 by creating the first hotel service for female travelers.
- Hampton by Hilton – The hotel serves up social connections and elevated guest experiences every day via an unexpected means – fresh-baked waffles.
- London Hilton on Park Lane – Since conception, the hotel has become a cultural icon and welcomed guests of all backgrounds and cultures to share ideas, stimulate creativity and make connections.
- Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam – A visionary general manager saw the opportunity to convert deserted buildings into a world premier hotel delivering remarkable experiences that connect guests to local culture and history.
The Hilton Effect on Team Members
As recounted by Heath, Hilton has impacted millions of employees – which are referred to as Team Members at the company – by fostering the powerful entrepreneurial spirit and autonomy that Conrad Hilton established. That legacy continues to create grassroots innovation across all levels and departments, offering extensive career opportunities:
- Chris Silcock – This longtime team member grew from a banquet waiter at Hilton Watford to become a C-suite executive leading a global team from the company’s global headquarters.
- Dianna Vaughan – Like founder Conrad Hilton, Vaughan’s first exposure to the industry was helping at a family business as a child. That experience at her aunt’s roadside inn and later as a night manager shaped her remarkable career trajectory and leadership style.
- Hilton Americas-Houston – The entrepreneurial team member spirit explored by Heath includes a general manager’s powerful response to Hurricane Harvey, a chef innovating food and beverage offerings, and an engineer impacting the environment and hotel’s bottom line.
The Hilton Effect on Communities and Economies
Hilton has been the first to enter numerous emerging markets around the globe, has often remained during difficult times, and has led the charge on revitalizing areas that lost hope. By serving this important role, Hilton has become woven into the history, economies, and infrastructure of communities all over the world:
- Buenos Aires – Hilton revived Puerto Madero in the midst of an economic depression, transforming dilapidated docks into a thriving hub.
- York, Penn. – The long-vacant Yorktowne Hotel will reopen as part of the Tapestry Collection by Hilton and is expected to create a focal point for the area and boost the local economy even prior to opening.
- Abuja – Hilton produced infrastructure in Nigeria’s newly formed capital, creating sewage and electric systems, building factories, paving roads and recruiting team members from around the world to quickly teach locals – many of whom had never set foot in a hotel – to deliver five-star service to nearly 1,000 government officials.
- Sri Lanka – Despite a civil war, bombs, air raids and cyclones, Hilton Colombo maintained its business and staff, providing a sanctuary to the community and team members.
“Conrad Hilton’s vision was simple – to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality – but he couldn’t have predicted how committing to his dream would take on different meanings throughout the world over the 100 years,” said Nassetta. “With our 100th milestone around the corner, we are welcoming more guests, employing more people and opening more hotels than ever before – and our impact will continue to shape the globe for the next century and beyond, affecting future generations of travelers.”