The Tru by Hilton brand has 60 hotels open with plans to have 300 properties in its by portfolio by 2021. Talene Staab, the brand’s new global head, sees ensuring exceptional experiences for hotel owners and guests as essential elements to the brand’s future growth.
ATLANTA—With 60 hotels open, the three-year-old Tru by Hilton brand continues to evolve its experiences with owners and consumers, said Talene Staab, its new global head, during a break at the recent Hunter Hotel Conference.
“For me, it’s about looking at the service, the hospitality, the human aspect and bringing it to life,” Staab said. “It’s coming off the paper now. That’s the area to focus on … the service, the delivery and what is that brand hospitality experience going to be like.”
Staab, who began her career as a group sales manager at the Embassy Suites by Hilton San Diego La Jolla 25 years ago, assumed Tru’s leadership mantle on 11 March. She replaces Alexandra Jaritz, who was named SVP of focused-service brand management in the Asia/Pacific region.
On the job for about two weeks at the time of the interview for this story, Staab said enhancing owners’ experiences is among her priorities.
“Tru being new for Hilton in the midscale market, for owners to have opportunity to join Hilton at that level is really important and a huge opportunity for us to bring new blood in the ownership community and bring in new guests that haven’t experienced Hilton in the midscale market,” Staab said. “What’s important to owners and how do they make money ... what’s their philosophy and marrying that with the branding we have provides a great partnership.”
Staab said using owners as part of the foundation in building Tru from the onset of the brand has been essential to its early success.
“They were very smart about getting our very smart and savvy owners to build it together,” Staab said. “Not only are you looking at it from guest perspective, which is very important and you have to look at that, but to include the owner point of view in the development of the brand from the get-go was super smart.”
Staab’s previous role as VP of owner experience and engagement for Hilton is a natural bridge to her current role, she said.
“I’ve been so close to Tru from the sidelines because my first week on the job for owner experience and engagement, was the launch of Tru at (the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in 2016),” Staab said. “To now be with this team that’s brilliant and has created something special and kept the development momentum going and now supporting the hotels as they’re opening … I’ve learned a lot about what makes the brand tick and how we’ve been able to be nimble and stay close to the guest and owner experience.”
The Tru executive said Hilton plans to have about 120 Tru properties open by the end of 2019, and the goal is to have 300 open by the end of 2021.
The 60 open properties are spread throughout the U.S., with one in Canada. Its diverse locations—ranging from airports to college towns to tertiary and primary markets—has helped the brand quickly spread the name, Staab said.
“For midscale it just makes sense as an entry level to this brand to be in secondary and tertiary markets,” she said. “It matches up to the midscale segment. It’s an opportunity to grow and it serves a need in those markets.”
Tru has met its goal of introducing new owners into the Hilton system, Staab said. Key data points include:
- Twenty-five percent of Tru hotels that are open or under development are with owners whose first brand with Hilton is Tru.
- More than half of the owners who opened Tru by Hilton hotels in 2017 have additional Tru hotels open or under development (owner set defined as the eight owners that opened the first nine properties in 2017).
- The brand has some owners with five or more properties open or under development (“owners” defined as the primary identified operational ownership group or franchise license holder).
The education for new owners on the front end is in-depth and important to success, she said. Ensuring that procedures and standards are followed during such a fast growth period is essential for the brand’s success.
The brand underwent some prototype enhancements in May 2018, which allowed some adjustments to maximize on the concept, according to Staab.
“We’ve managed that first set of adjustments, and it’s exciting to see the new-to-Hilton guest experience,” she said. “There’s so much runway for Hilton in the midscale market to expand the opportunities with new ownership, new guests.
“The feedback has been great—this is a category disruptor,” Staab added. “If you look across the midscale market … it’s very fresh for this landscape, and to have something at this price point where you don’t have to compromise on fun and freshness, there’s (nothing else) like that.”
Smaller-than-industry-average guestroom sizes of less than 300 square feet, extra-large in-room televisions and expanded public space are Tru’s calling cards, she said. The public spaces, which allow for work, play and socialization, have been well-received by guests.
“It’s important that the room is small,” Staab said. “It’s the midscale segment, it’s part of the cost to build. That’s intentional. But you don’t miss anything because the yin to the yang is you have the awesome public space to hang out in.”
Tru will continue to feature new-build hotels for the foreseeable future, she added.
“It’s efficient—we’ve got everything the guests want, not anything that they don’t … it’s very simple, buttoned up and it’s repeatable,” Staab said. “That was part of the plan as it was being developed with that scale in mind.”