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March 12, 2014

How Hilton is Leveraging Technology for Meetings and Events

Last year was a big one for Hilton Worldwide, with a wide range of hotel openings and the launch of new online programs for meetings and event planners. Just a month ago, the company announced a new Wi-Fi package for its Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites brands. We reached out to Mark Komine (pictured), senior vice president, head of sales, Americas for Hilton Worldwide to see what the company saw change over the last year—and what’s ahead.

New Programs

Launched in November, Meetings Simplified is  a new booking platform that lets planners access per-person pricing packages for groups of 20 attendees or less and streamline the booking process. “The best thing we can offer planners is time and value,” Komine said about the new service.While Hilton had put out offers for events at various hotels, the company found that individual deals did not drive business as much as a long-term program. “Teams can negotiate and provide the right value,” he said, ”but what customers value most is ability to package and bundle the price.” 

Then there’s Connect+, an expansion of Connect at Hilton Worldwide. This program offers planning support at more than 200 of Hilton’s largest hotels in destination cities, with large-scale features including more than 450 rooms and/or 40,000 square feet of meeting space. “Connect+ was designed as online extension of our sales approach,” Komine said. “We have to think about events from the planner’s point of view. We have to understand their needs for tools and resources, from basic to advanced.” 


All hotels that are on the Connect+ network also have (or soon will have) getplanning, an interactive platform that uses cloud-based technology to connect planners with hotel staff, vendors and partners in real time. “It provides a level of consistency for planners,” Komine said. Users can stay connected with everyone involved in pulling the event together, including the hotel team and third-party vendors and suppliers. “Their lives exist in different time zones,” he noted. “They’re not nine-to-five.” 24/7 access, mobility  and security are also vital components, he added. “On the move, you can take quick look at the details.” The program can be used to help plan the event, and then to manage once it’s underway. “It has chat and messaging features,” Komine said. “You can walk into a room and shoot a quick note out that will hit all the relevant people.”

RELATED: Hilton Releases Meetings Survey; Launches Booking Program


With such reliance on online programs, the IT infrastructure at the hotels themselves also has to be strong enough to handle the increased demand. Komine said that the brand is working on developing standards for technology specifications across the company. “Also, we have to provide education to planners,” he said. If a planner does not understand the key components to Wi-Fi capabilities or what a data point is or how much bandwidth different devices require, they cannot properly plan for the technology that may (and will) be used at their event. “Different companies have different needs,” Komine noted. “Some do live communication with remote speakers, some do real-time chats and feeds, and some might just have use for normal, day-to-day Wi-Fi.” 


Hilton’s pipeline has been steady, with some notable hotel openings in the past few months alone. The locations of the hotels, Komine said, were carefully scouted to cater to certain markets, including business travelers. “Many [Hilton] brands are clustered around major demand points,” he explained. “Within one area, we could have different hotels at different price points...and that’s not by accident. We can provide different types of hotels based on the needs of different areas. We do research for the types of brands that are warranted in different areas.” 

New Values

Corporate social responsibility and sustainability are increasingly important to organizations, Komine said, and this affects their meetings as well. To meet this new need, Hilton has launched a dedicated calculator to measure the carbon footprint of a meeting or event. And while planners may need to know this kind of information for their client’s or company’s environmental policies, Komine said that even attendees are asking to see what impact they are having on the local environment. 

Looking Ahead

After a year of numerous tech-focused developments, Komine believes that technology will play a larger role in Hilton's event scene going forward. “The tools we provide play into the need for hotels and customers and vendors to provide improved, faster and better communication,” he said, noting the increased prevalence of cloud technology and the need for increased security that comes with it. “In the future, we’ll have the ability to share everything. The data is all in the cloud, and you can share information to help expedite the booking process. All communications and changes for all events--it’s all there. It can be pulled and shared--all by permission.” 

But there is a learning curve to this rapid technological development, he noted, and that can create challenges for event attendees—or even corporate planners unfamiliar with the new programs. “We’re seeing in the workforce that multiple generations are all working together, so the challenge is to provide them with the tools and communications that really respond to the needs of different stakeholders,” he said. “We want to be there for them.”

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