Hilton: Sites All ‘Round

Hilton is boosting efforts to get more of its customers booking online and, to that end, has launched dozens of microsites designed for specific audiences.

“We have reached the point where about 15 percent of bookings are coming through our Web sites and we’re getting loyal HHonors [loyalty program] customers, who are the easy group to influence to book online,” Bala Subramanian, senior VP of distribution and brand integration for Hilton Hotels told ClickZ News. “Going forward to continue to grow Web site and online penetration, we have to clearly recognize that the market is not all the same size and shape.”

Subramanian says online bookings, which cost the company less and enable it to implement CRM initiatives with customers, grew 30 percent from 2004 to 2005, and are fast approaching $2 billion in revenues. Hilton’s brand sites include doubletree.com, embassysuites.com, and hamptoninn.com.

“Anything that people book online costs a third of what it costs if they call us, and it costs one tenth of what it costs if they come through an intermediary,” he said.

For government employees and military travelers the company has developed a sub-domain on Hilton.com, at gov.hilton.com, which is echoed across all of the company’s hotel brands. The government site is customized to display government rates and also contains links for sector-specific travel resources, such as per diem rates.

The company has also created a microsite designed to appeal to wedding planners at weddings.hiltonfamily.com and across all of the company’s brands. Features include wedding-specific information on each hotel’s reception spaces and services. It also includes an Evite-style list tool, which allows customers to invite their guests and track their room reservations.

Other verticals Hilton is targeting include U.S. Olympics sports organizations, such as USA Volleyball and U.S. Speedskating. Soccer leagues, too, get their own portals under the Hilton strategy, according to Subramanian. Sports groups, he said, have 50 individual microsites under the Hilton brand.

“The ability to customize for each audience allows us to provide services specifically for special groups and merchandise our services,” said Subramanian.

Encouraging online booking, Subramanian noted, also makes it possible for a hotel guest to enter Hilton’s CRM system well before check-in, so the company could potentially offer revenue-producing services — a pre-ordered dinner for someone who will be late checking in, for example.

The roll-out follows the company’s launch of several new online tools at the end of 2005. One lets loyalty group members check in online, another lets small group meeting planners book online, while another allows group meeting planners to view and manage guest lists.

The company’s Web shop, Agency.com, designed and developed the front end of the new sites, but Hilton handled the back-end technology in-house.

Subramanian couldn’t offer details of the media plan for promoting the new sites, but said it would advertise in vertical-specific trade publications, such as for government workers or wedding planners.

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