Tru by Hilton recently opened its 200th hotel, just five years since the brand was launched as a new entrant into the select-service space. All the properties are new builds, which means brand leaders must stay in tune with changing consumer needs and ensure the offering is future-proofed, or set up to meet traveler expectations for the long run.
In the newest episode of Lodging Luminaries, Tru’s brand head, Talene Staab, joins me to talk about that focus on guest experience, primarily how the Tru brand is using digital and personalized touchpoints to turn the traditional hotel stay into part of an overall traveler experience. Another highlight of the conversation is the work Staab is doing with the Castell Project to encourage more women to strive for leadership opportunities in hospitality, whether on the ownership or operations side of the business.
Listen to the entire episode here or read highlights of the conversation below.
Q: What does personalization mean to you, and how is Tru approaching it as a brand?
Staab: “I think when we first started talking about personalization, it was almost like everyone had a dossier that followed them, and it was important for everyone to know, ‘What is Jason’s dossier and what does he need to know? He needs to have these types of pillows and this room temperature.’ I think, today, personalization is actually, ‘What do I need today? How do you know what I need today? And how do you give me the options?’ So, I might just need to get a lot of work done, but I don’t want to be stuck in my room. I want to have the option of working while watching people play pool, or now my friend is coming over so now I want to hang out and have the option to go sit at a bar and have a couple of cocktails and catch up. Personalization today is really about in-the-moment on the travel occasion, and the hotel needs to be able to find a way to understand that and deliver it. And the team members need to really be in tune with that.”
Q: How are new digital experiences shaping the way Tru operates?
Staab: “People have different opinions about just doing things through text. Speaking for me and other people that I know, some of the conversations and relations that you build through digital communications are faster and deeper and more fun. It’s a real communication mode, and I think that we need to embrace it. Build me an itinerary over text – you could totally do that. And then you have this incredible connection with the person that did that for you.”
Q: How is Hilton and your work with the Castell Project working to promote more women leaders in our industry?
Staab: “The ownership development community is very tight. I don’t think it means to be biased just towards men, but that’s who’s in the crowd, and you have to make an effort to bring women in. And they learn information differently. How do I build my capital stack? How do I get investors? What does a PIP look like? It takes a different approach to say, ‘How do we prepare you to know even how to get started?’ So I’m excited about the new opportunities and ways that women can either dip their toe in or jump full force in, but it’s work to get done. And I think that if we can do that and have more women in ownership, I feel like we’re going to have better hotels. I’m going to have better guest experiences. It will be easier for us to reach more customers.”
Q: How would more women leaders affect the way hotels are designed?
Staab: “The decisions are being made with a completely male point of view. It really struck me that women are making 70-plus percent of the booking decisions for their families. And the business traveler is half women. But the experiences are being created and morphed by 99% men. You’ve got a lot of women on the design side, but the purse strings are held by mostly men. So, it just isn’t really representing what a great guest experience could be.
“I remember being in sales and being terrified about wanting to be a GM. I never was a GM. I think I would have been a great GM, but it was too daunting. We need to get it in earlier that women need to take that step.”