Can Hilton win over new travelers with its just-launched brand?

Jan 17, 2020

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Hilton wants to impress you.

The company’s latest push to design something new created a chain with inviting lobbies and stylish-yet-practical guest rooms. Meet Tempo by Hilton.

The hotel giant’s 18th brand was officially unveiled at an event Thursday in New York City. While I learned a lot about Hilton, its future and this new brand, it’s hard to say exactly what the experience will be like until the first property opens sometime in 2021.

Tempo is being billed by the chain as “an approachable lifestyle brand curated to serve a growing segment of ‘modern achievers’ who seek a hotel experience that reflects their ambition.”

There are “more than 30” commitments to Tempo properties, including hotels in New York City, Maui, Boston, Los Angeles, Nashville, San Diego, Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

During the brand’s unveiling event, I sat down with Phil Cordell, senior vice president and global head of new brand development at Hilton, and asked him when — and where — the first Tempo property will open. He said people can expect the first hotel to open in about 18 months, though they don’t yet know where the first hotel will be located. There are already between eight and 10 properties at roughly the same stage of development.

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Image courtesy of Hilton.
Image courtesy of Hilton.

The core guest of a Tempo hotel, according to Cordell, will likely be people “who are a little bit more aware of trying to balance work and life; a little bit more aware of trying to be healthy in what [they] eat and trying to remember to exercise and [maintain] discipline to some degree. When they travel, that routine gets messed up, so they want to try to be their best every day.”

Speaking from the supposed mindset of a Tempo guest, Cordell said: “I’m active and I have a lot going on, but I don’t want travel to disrupt my life.”

What to expect at Tempo by Hilton

The more than 100-year-old chain has established distinct partnerships for its new brand that are designed to aid in the brand’s “commitment to helping guests live better lives.” Specifically, the brand has partnered with Thrive Global, the well-known behavior change platform started by Arianna Huffington, and hospitality firm Blau + Associates, to advise on the hotels’ food-and-beverage offerings.

In a guest room, travelers can expect oversized bathrooms featuring mirrors with built-in Bluetooth speakers, a “Get Ready Zone” that includes a workspace — necessary for business travelers on the go — and wellness offerings.

Image courtesy of Hilton.
Image courtesy of Hilton.
Image courtesy of Hilton.
Image courtesy of Hilton.

Designed in conjunction with Thrive Global, the Power Up and Power Down collections are meant to help travelers improve their wellbeing before taking on a busy day and then relax their minds before going to sleep.

Image courtesy of Hilton.
Image courtesy of Hilton.

The public spaces of each property will echo themes that have become mainstream in today’s society, like communal, social spaces where visitors can work, socialize or both. Tempo properties will also feature artwork specifically picked to grab people’s attention — drawing them away from their phones in the process. There will be dedicated meeting spaces that guests can reserve, and “state-of-the-art fitness offerings,” of course.

Image courtesy of Hilton.
Image courtesy of Hilton.

As hotels increasingly strive to become meeting spaces for not just guests but locals and visitors staying elsewhere, they’ve placed new emphasis on the food-and-beverage program. At Tempo, this means the “Fuel Bar,” located in the lobby, will have complimentary premium coffees and teas and a variety of mix-ins. There will be a “casual cafe” where guests can choose more substantial options, such as smoothies and other breakfast items. Finally, the lobby bar will feature craft cocktails (and mocktails) and small plates.

Image courtesy of Hilton.
Image courtesy of Hilton.

Each of the food-and-beverage offerings at Tempo properties will have seasonal menus designed by a Chef Collective — an “advisory board of young, up-and-coming chefs” in collaboration with Blau + Associates.

Tempo by Hilton hotels will be designed to adhere to Hilton’s sustainability initiative that sets out to cut its environmental footprint in half by the year 2030. Specifically, this means that Tempo will enact food-waste programs, responsible seafood sourcing, provide hydration stations throughout each property and use full-size bath amenity dispensers to cut down on single-use plastic use.

In terms of redeeming your points at Tempo hotels, specific rates aren’t yet available, but according to Hilton, the brand will fall just above a Hilton Garden Inn and just below Canopy by Hilton properties.

Related: How to choose the best Hilton credit card for you

Bottom line

Obviously, it’s hard to make a judgement on a hotel brand that has yet to debut to the public, but it’s fairly easy to see some trends set by other brands — Marriott’s AC Hotels comes immediately to mind — in Tempo. One that struck us right away is the lack of closets in the guest rooms: That’s the “Get Ready Zone” in Hiltonspeak. In many new hotels, developers eschew traditional closets in favor of an open area with a simple rod to hang clothing. Maybe data shows that guests prefer a closet without doors, especially for short stays. But for a longer stay, this trend is harder to swallow.

There are elements that will certainly impress and please guests, like the built-in Bluetooth speakers in the mirrors and the plentiful charging outlets located not only on either side of the beds, but also adjacent to seating and work areas throughout the room. When I’m not splurging on a high-end beach resort and just need a practical place to stay, it’s things like accessibility of power that can make or break a stay

And, the emphasis on communal spaces in the lobby — suitable for both working and socializing — incorporating a bit of a WeWork model, if you will, is also familiar.

According to Hilton’s internal research, it’s seen plenty of success attracting and retaining guests at its high-end brands (think: Conrad and Waldorf Astoria), but has identified an emerging group of travelers who are craving a higher-end stay than what they’d find at a Hilton Garden Inn, but their pockets aren’t deep enough yet for the property’s most upscale luxury brands.

Related: The best starter travel credit cards

Though the rapid expansions of high-end hotel brands grab all the headlines, Hilton has foregone (for now) adding a brand at the top of its range for something smack-dab in the middle — something that feels high-end, but not out of reach, for road warriors and younger travelers. According to TravelPulse, the hotel giant is reportedly going to add another high-end brand to its portfolio, but that may be a few years away still.

If it feels like you’ve seen this before, you’re not alone, but Hilton clearly sees a large opening for expanding its base of loyal customers with Tempo — it says that it envisions as many as 500 Tempo properties in the U.S. alone, with many more planned worldwide.

Featured image courtesy of Hilton.

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