Hilton Hotels and Resorts this week offered a sneak peek at the results of its multi-year efforts to rebrand the hotel chain into a sleeker, more modern organization.
This global effort has been an ongoing process, and Hilton has been releasing information on the new look and feel of the hotel chain for the past year or so. This week Hilton revealed the new DNA of its lobby, rooms and restaurant facilities.
Adopting the philosophy that the lobby of the hotel should be more than a pass-through area, Hilton has made many changes to the look and feel of its properties. The Hilton McLean Tysons Corner is the first of the 540 hotels around the world to undergo this transformation, and the results are impressive.
The first change is in the layout of the lobby itself. The aesthetics are what strike the guest before anything else. Gone are antiquated trellises and fussy plants and in their place are sleek, timeless design pieces that encourage guests to rest, work or socialize with ease. Within easy reach and line of sight is the revamped registration area, with free standing desks devoid of pointless papers and cumbersome arrangements. Most hotel check in areas look like fancy banks, and Hilton has thankfully realized that this is not an engaging feature.
At the center of the lobby is the new 18-hour bar concept, which transforms throughout the day from a coffee shop, to a lunch time eatery and of course a place to relax with a cocktail in the evenings. Deceptively simple in appearance, the bar utilizes impressive technological features to aid in the process of seamless, but noticeable changes throughout the day.
The final key ingredient in the new lobby experience is the new Technology Lounge. I can’t tell you how many hotels I’ve patronized where the business center is a small, dark room hidden away in the recesses of the hotel. Hilton isn’t afraid of the tech center anymore, giving it pride of place in the lobby. The center is open to the rest of the downstairs area, creating an airy, but distinct feeling. The lounge is fully wired and in addition to several Macs and PCs, offers a wide array of outlets for any tech need a guest may have. The focal point of the tech lounge is the 120” plasma TV display, which will feature a variety of programming throughout the day.
While the lobby area is indeed impressive and inviting, it’s usually the showers and beds that sell rooms, and Hilton hasn’t forgotten that. Traveling to Europe or Asia, I’ve always remarked at how much nicer their hotel rooms were in comparison to US standard rooms, for no apparent reason. Hilton has finally brought some of the design sensibilities found around the world to all of its hotels. The new rooms are sleek, but not sparse, clean lines and efficient use of space replacing pointless fliers and bulky furniture. Gone are the days of moving furniture to find outlets, there are more than enough found throughout the room space. Finally, the bathroom is a work of art. Again, very clean lines and modern elements and in the case of their king bed rooms, the tub is finally gone! I was so happy to see that the useless tub was replaced by an elegant, glass encased shower. This is truly a huge step forward. For those with small children or who may prefer a tub, don’t worry, they’re still available in the design plan.
The last stop on the tour was at one of the new Hilton restaurant concepts, Härth. While the name is a little pretentious, I soon forgot about the annoying umlaut. The layout of the restaurant was warm, but modern and inviting; a trend throughout Hilton‘s new design plan. I don’t usually eat at hotel restaurants because of bad, overpriced food. Hilton realized that I’m not alone in this behavior and spent considerable time and money designing restaurants where people will actually eat. Novel concept. The food was extraordinary, well priced and unique. I can easily see myself eating at one of the new eateries when traveling, particularly on business trips.
What impressed me most about the new Hilton image is what Global Head of Hilton Hotels Dave Horton calls the Hilton DNA. Rather than mandate that each of the Hilton hotels around the world look exactly the same, there instead will be an variety of options, their DNA. The hotels will still be tailored around local design and sensibilities, but using the basic Hilton design elements as the outline. There are a variety of options for lobbies, rooms and restaurants which individual properties may use as a launching pad to develop their own Hilton look. It’s an exciting way of creating a basic set of quality and design standards without having each location look the same.
For a long time, the American traveler has been content with getting less for more. Some brands have been better than others in giving an enjoyable return on investment, but not many. Hilton has taken the first of many steps in transforming its quality of service not just in the US, but around the world, ultimately for the enhancement of the guest experience. Personally, my perception of Hilton changed instantly and I am definitely more likely to seek them out in the future based on what I saw in their McLean hotel.