Hilton CEO Discusses Impact of COVID-19, Plans for Future

Despite the devastation and uncertainty surrounding the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, the hotel industry in the United States is working hard to maintain competitiveness while also protecting travelers and employees.

Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta spoke about the impact of 2020 on the company and industry, as well as the important lessons learned and insights gained that can be applied to the future.

“We had to make really heartbreaking decisions about our team while navigating our business through an unprecedented standstill in global travel,” Nassetta said in a Q&A on the hotel’s official website. “I think maybe the single largest challenge was managing all that professional stress – including the impact to our deeply valued Team Members – while simultaneously worrying about my own family and their health.”

As seen in recent months, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has remained adamant that closing borders will prove counterproductive and ultimately delay economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19.

The hotel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, with a 2020 survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) finding that nearly nine in 10 hotels have been forced to lay off or furlough employees.

While last year was devastating, the introduction of vaccines into common use should be enough to eventually begin reopening common routes and bolster the need for overnight stays from business and leisure travelers. When the first vaccine was administered, travel advisors experienced the highest bookings since the lockdowns started.

“And as it’s more widely distributed, it’ll be a major advancement for our industry, especially for our Team Members on the front lines in our hotels,” Nassetta said. “A vaccine – in addition to ongoing common-sense safety precautions – will help people feel more confident in traveling domestically and internationally.”

“That confidence is going to be key in building momentum in recovery around the world, and in keeping our Team Members safe as they continue to spread the light and warmth of hospitality,” Nassetta continued.

In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, Hilton hotels announced a new cleanliness and customer service program designed for meetings and events. Hilton EventReady with CleanStay was shaped by extensive research and feedback from meetings, events and entertainment gatherings.

When asked about how much the meetings and events businesses would evolve heading into 2021, the Hilton CEO spoke about the changes he expects to stick around even once travel becomes less dangerous.

“We expect hybrid events to be a key part of our events business in 2021 – as it becomes safer to have smaller group gatherings, organizers will continue to promote virtual attendance, reaching a much larger audience than they did pre-COVID,” Nassetta said. “We also expect people will be more selective in their decisions to attend in-person events for the foreseeable future, which is why our teams are working with our customers to make sure that the events they organize are truly top-tier and worthy of a special trip for attendees.”

Luckily, research from Expedia Group Media Solutions showed that 53 percent of travelers are optimistic about taking a trip in the next 12 months, with nearly 31 percent dreaming of travel and actively planning for 2021.

Blog Author

Xiangdong Lai