Hilton Reveals Online Strategy to ITN

Scott Bunce was appointed Vice President Sales & Marketing, The Americas, for Hilton International in March of 2001. In this position he is responsible for the revenue maximisation of hotels throughout Canada, South America, and the Caribbean. Prior to his post at The Hilton, Bunce gained varied International experience, including employment with Radisson SAS Hotels & Resorts, Midwest and Comfort Suites Hotel,
Hilton Hotels went online six years ago. hilton.com was designed by Exeed. With a tasteful and classic design, it is user friendly and reflects the elegance and class for which the Hilton is renowned.
Hilton International are currently undergoing various online marketing initiatives. Scott Bunce speaks to ITN about their current situation as regards online services.
Hilton.com offers users a fairly wide range of features. These include seamless live booking, frequency program information (HHonors), direct connections to client intranet sites and a search by location feature. Multi-lingual facilities are also underway at the moment. Those countries being targeted include Germany, France, Spain, Scandinavia and also Japan.
Virtual technology has already been installed in some of the Hilton sites. Scott acknowledges the effectiveness of this tool, however, as regards plans for further installations, he places great emphasis on proceeding with caution. ?gJust like with any technology, it is evolving very fast. The price is dropping and so you need to move cautiously in the markets and with products that make the most sense first. Eventually we would like to do a purchase for all our hotels at once so that we get a mass discount and then make sure that the technology is compatible with all the systems?h. 
Scott commented that the most popular areas of the site are the Special offers, location and hotel information.

Indeed www.hilton.com tempts the user with various special offers. Recently launched
was one of the biggest internet marketing initiatives in hospitality history. ?eWin a million with Hilton?f gives three lucky people the chance to win 1,000,000 ?eHilton HHonors Points?f and travel anywhere in the world for free. Scott predicts that this may be the first of many initiatives to encourage online marketing. ?gGiven the reduced cost to take bookings on-line you can expect that we will continue to support efforts like this and these offers will even improve as time goes on?h.
Hilton International also have numerous online services aimed specifically at business travellers. These include the Hilton Hotels mobile reservation system enabling users to find, book, and cancel rooms worldwide with an internet-ready cell phone. Another great addition is the Meeting planning software. This facility allows business travellers to pre-organise the perfect custom setup for their meeting space.
In terms of benefits from being online, Scott comments that hilton.com has been effective in terms of cost-saving, communication and creating awareness. The internet provides companies with a greater breadth of exposure, enabling more efficient communication with clients in numerous ways. “With direct connection to a client`s intranet site we solidify our partnership?h.
As VP Marketing and sales for The Americas, from Scotts viewpoint, being online has been most beneficial for the Caribbean. People like to see what they are going to get and although the online booking rate is currently not that high, the internet is an effective viewing tool. Clients can now go online and do all their research, acquiring any relevant information. “In other words it is taking the place of brochures?h.
With 4% of Hilton?fs bookings made online, (30%.including GDS), Scott recognises the importance of internet marketing. ?gIt is extremely important, but we are finding that there are so many Internet marketing opportunities that we must pick and choose wisely. Many opportunities require inventory, which becomes hard to manage if you collaborate too much. Putting all our eggs in our own website is not a good idea, so we need to choose partners that connect to as many major portals and sites as possible. Doing our investigating is essential?h.
The Hilton spend about 12 million USD a year corporately. Regionally,  approximately 5% is spent online. Scott emphasised the importance of placing more collateral here. ?gIt has to increase. We have recognised the importance of online sales as a new Frontier?h.
Although we are now witnessing a recovery period post the September 11th atrocities,
Scott feels that the September 11th may have infact improved Hilton online sales. He comments, “Firstly, I think that more people that might have been going to Europe or the Middle East are staying closer to home. This benefits Caribbean and the Americas. Secondly, people are now looking for deals and have reached the conclusion that as regards online booking, if they have done their research well it will bring them better value and a better deal. So September 11th actually sped up the growth?h.

To view the Hilton International Website, click here: www.hilton.com

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