Hilton & Uber: stealing a march with big data and local flavour

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A recent partnership between two household names seems a good idea but which really is in control of the crown jewels? Pamela Whitby and Mariam Sharp take a look

When two big names like Hilton and Uber announce that they are heading down a data-sharing road to improve the customer experience it’s worth a look.

But what does it actually mean?

The official line from Uber comes from Jonathan DiOrio, Head of Travel Partnerships, and that is that Hilton’s digital innovation and mobile-first approach makes them a natural partner.

Uber’s end of the bargain is to provide a range of services to across Hilton’s entire global portfolio. Yes, that’s 12 global brands, comprising over 4,440 managed, franchised, owned and leased hotels and timeshare properties with more than 730,000 rooms in 97 countries.

In a single tap, Hilton customers are now able able to process an Uber ‘ride reminder’ and receive and automated notification on the day of travel. The hotel's address is automatically set in the Uber app and as an incentive all Hilton guests who sign up for Uber will receive $20 off their first ride.

It’s an interesting move, and could be viewed an automation of one aspect of a hotel’s concierge role.

Uber and Starwood have done a similar deal, where now guests can earn one loyalty point for every dollar spent with Uber.

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Driving a local flavour

Sharing data has always been a scary step for big travel brands like Hilton, but today it’s considered good business practice (or at least the only way to survive) providing the partnership is properly thought through.

We don’t know the ins and outs of the deal but at a guess hotel brands like Hilton and Starwood are looking to drive more direct bookings. And given Uber’s huge and growing global popularity, handing out loyalty points for using the world’s fastest growing transportation company seems one way to do this.

At the same time, Uber's drop off data of Hilton guests will be pretty useful in informing the new  ‘local scene’ feature. Launched within the Hilton Honours mobile app in 20 major US cities, this is to provide members with a list detailing top venues most frequented by Uber riders in each city. HHonors members will also be able to use the app to gain exclusive insights from other Uber riders on where to go or what to explore in the city they're visiting. 

According to Rich DiStefano, senior director of Mobile Products at Hilton Worldwide, “this is the first time any company has leveraged Uber riders' most frequented destinations to provide local recommendations”.

So the big question is: could this signal Uber’s initial foray into the activities market?

Since launching in 2009 Uber has launched in over 300 cities with the stated goal of bringing people and their cities closer. It also sponsors a large number of cultural events and through this has access to exclusive experiences within cities. What’s more, Uber facilitates over a million rides a day and accumulates vast quantities of big data from those drops offs that can brands like Hilton can use to help travellers experience their destination better.

Only locations that are physically entered into the Uber app — either by name or by address — can make it into the ‘local scene’ list.

Says DiStefano: “We know that dining is a top way that frequent business and leisure travellers opt to explore the local culture.”

Hence the decision to start with local food and nightlight recommendations, because it’s most relevant for guests.

“Guests want a quick, easy and seamless experience and travellers can use ‘local scene,’ to spend less time planning and more time in the moment, immersed in their destination,” says DiStefano.

This aggregated behavioural data is valuable to Uber and to Hilton. But with some putting Uber into a band of new data gatekeepers alongside Google and Apple, many would love to understand who exactly is sharing what. But perhaps that would be giving away the crown jewels. 

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