Hospitality Meets Mobile Technology

by Selina Ang, MBA’12 (10/13/11)

Selina Ang, MBA’12

I confess that I have a contagious travel bug. I may also have a case of digital media addiction. What better way to spend my summer than to be an online marketing intern at a leading global hospitality company?

I confess that I have a contagious travel bug. I may also have a case of digital media addiction. What better way to spend my summer than to be an online marketing intern at a leading global hospitality company?

I was part of the summer internship program at Hilton Worldwide, a corporation whose vision is “to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality.” Being a former consultant, I had spent much of my working life traveling and staying in hotels, yet I never had the opportunity to be on the other side of the business and work for a hotel company, particularly one that has such an iconic name in the industry. With 10 unique hotel brands, operations in 84 countries, and over 3,700 hotel properties, Hilton’s global presence is quite substantial.

My particular role was to determine what the company’s governance model should be with respect to mobile technology as it ties in to Hilton’s overall digital media strategy. Mobile technology is just one piece of the marketing puzzle, yet it is a growing area that more and more hotel guests are keen on using in all phases of their purchase journey, from researching a property, to checking out of a hotel room, to even engaging with a particular brand. As smartphones are becoming mainstream, it is only natural that users broaden their usage to include shopping and booking travel on their phones. It was interesting to understand how each brand in the portfolio had a separate brand identity and personality while also still aligning to the overall vision of Hilton Worldwide. By understanding how each brand operated, I was able to provide insight into how mobile technology activities could be structured in terms of organizational roles, responsibilities, decision rights, and processes.

The internship program also included an educational and hands-on component of working for a hotel company which was a great way to be immersed in the hospitality industry. The class of 25 interns spent one full day at a hotel property shadowing staff in all departments of hotel operations – food & beverages, housekeeping, front desk, sales, and so forth. I am proud to say that all of us learned the secrets of how to properly make a hotel bed. Interestingly enough, the Hilton leadership team also participates in an extended version of this hotel immersion program in order to get into the nuts and bolts of the business.

Another unique opportunity came about during a lunch meeting with Cornell alumni at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner, located conveniently next door to the corporate headquarters. The hotel restaurant, härth, is beyond your traditional in-hotel dining venue – the executive chef is keen on seasonal and locally sourced produce and honey – so local that herbs and vegetables are grown on-site and honeybees dwell on the restaurant’s rooftop. It is considered a pilot restaurant concept that may trickle down to other properties globally, and it was refreshing to see some innovative concepts in action that may have a greater effect on the industry.

honey bees

Similarly, with its corporate responsibility goals, Hilton is aiming to be at the forefront of being a model corporate citizen through LightStay™, its proprietary sustainability measurement system, along with community involvement all across the globe.

Fortunately, I had the experience of working on a Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion project that related to the hospitality industry – as a team, we examined sustainability and revenue opportunities for our client organization. This experience enabled me to think critically about an organization’s sustainability agenda and the level of commitment that leadership places into the overall strategy. The hospitality industry as a whole has a large environmental footprint given the nature of the business – resource usage is naturally high on all fronts. As such, sustainability is a vital part of the hospitality industry’s future. It will be fascinating to see how the industry evolves in the long run to respond to the ever-changing landscape of operating in a sustainable world. Until then, people will continue to travel the globe, myself included (and likely planning and booking through my mobile phone!). The answer to a growing concern lies in not stopping all travel activity, but finding a way to do so without compromising the future – our future.