Points, miles, and snide remarks.


Hilton CEO Thinks Towels Are Guests’ Top Concern

Hilton’s fearless leader, Chris Nassetta, recently took the stage at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in the bustling heart of New York City. What pearls of wisdom did he drop for the eager audience? Brace yourselves; it’s about towels.

Yes, you read that right. Nassetta declared that the number one gripe among Hilton guests isn’t subpar breakfasts, noisy neighbors, gutted elite benefits, or rooms that could use a visit from the cleaning fairy. Nope, it’s the towels. Apparently, Hilton’s CEO believes that towels are the key to world-class hospitality. Well, color me surprised.

In his discussion on Hilton’s “back-to-basics hospitality,” Nassetta shared his profound insight that even with all the fancy amenities and tech-savvy gadgets, guests will walk away disappointed if their basic needs aren’t met. Revolutionary, right? He goes on to explain, “The really important big trend is the same old, same old, which is people—what you guys want. You want it done maniacally well, consistently, with high quality, and in a friendly way.” Well, Chris, the only thing you’re doing “maniacally well” is selling guests on your competitors’ programs.

Now, before we dive headfirst into Nassetta’s fascinating revelation, let’s take a moment to reflect. It seems that Nassetta might be living in some parallel universe where Hilton’s service matches his rhetoric. Or perhaps Mr. Nassetta hasn’t had the pleasure of staying in one of his own hotels recently.

While Nassetta’s emphasis on getting the basics right is commendable, Hilton has fallen behind the competition in delivering on this promise, especially since the pandemic struck. Even Marriott, a brand notorious for questionable customer service following the implementation of the Bonvoy program in 2019, seems to outshine Hilton in terms of providing good service. Disillusioned Marriott loyalists have even turned “Bonvoy” into a verb! Yet, Hilton somehow manages to lag even further behind.

It’s a classic case of talking the talk but not walking the walk. Many domestic Hilton properties have suffered from deferred maintenance and lax housekeeping under Nassetta’s leadership, resulting in rooms that are far from pristine. The decline in customer service quality at Hilton over the past few years has been disheartening; while it’s true that their competitors have also declined in this arena since the pandemic, it seems to be especially pronounced at Hilton.

But hey, credit where it’s due: the towels have been quite nice during my last few Hilton stays, and there’s been no shortage of them. So, there’s that. While Nassetta might think that towels are the crux of the matter, it’s high time Hilton focuses on more than just fluffy white linens and works on nailing all the basics.