Hilton rolls out booking and travel perks for smaller businesses

Hilton’s plan to boost its appeal to smaller companies took a big step forward this week with a new global booking platform that can net companies bonus Hilton Honors points.

The hotel giant debuted Hilton for Business, a travel program geared toward small and medium-sized businesses that likely book and manage their own business travel plans. The platform offers members room discounts and Hilton Honors bonus points to the business company account while individual travelers continue to earn points and elite status nights on their personal Hilton Honors account.

This is a signal of just how serious Hilton takes travel demand from smaller companies, as discounted rates for business travel are usually something reserved for large contracts with some of the world’s largest companies.

It was not made public if the discounts for small and medium-sized businesses are in the same ballpark as those afforded to large corporations.

“At Hilton, we listen to the needs of our customers and then innovate to provide a superior hotel experience for every stay occasion,” Chris Silcock, Hilton’s president of global brands and commercial services, said in a prepared statement. “This includes our small- and medium-sized business customers who have been looking for a travel platform – and loyalty benefits – that meets their unique set of needs and reduces friction points, from booking to billing.”

The program was first piloted last fall with select customers before its official rollout this week.

How to sign up

A business owner or travel administrator can head to this page on the Hilton website to sign up for the program with their existing Hilton Honors account. The registration process will ask for details like your company’s email domain, website and mailing address. As of publication time, I was able to qualify for Hilton for Business pretty easily.

We reached out to Hilton to see if there are other qualifiers, like forming a limited liability company. A company spokesperson noted Hilton is “using a number of criteria and data sources to validate small businesses.”

Once you’re registered, you’ll have access to a portal that tracks annual spending with Hilton, upcoming stays and the total points balance of your company’s profile. You’ll also have access to a link to share with employees so they can join your company’s Hilton for Business program and have access to benefits.

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Business owners or travel administrators with access to a company’s main account can also transfer points held in the company account to individual employees linked up to the Hilton for Business program.

The benefits

Hilton’s main travel perks for signing up for Hilton for Business include 7,500 Hilton Honors bonus points for a company account after any program member completes their first hotel stay.

After every 10 nights stayed by a program member, the company account receives 5,000 Hilton Honors bonus points. As mentioned, those points can then eventually be used from the company account or transferred to any program member within that company’s Hilton for Business account.

Hilton also notes that there will be discounts for businesses that sign up for Hilton for Business. A trial search we ran for random nights this winter in Boston indicated there were numerous blackout dates, and there weren’t any significant discounts showing relative to those received by just being a regular Hilton Honors member.

Once we looked into dates in March, the Hilton Boston Back Bay in Boston showed a Hilton for Business rate of $324 per night compared to most rates for individual Hilton Honors members starting slightly higher at $334 per night. There was, however, a cheaper non-refundable, advance payment rate of $315 for Hilton Honors members willing to take the risk and lock in.

The Hilton spokesperson didn’t provide many details on just how strong the Hilton for Business rates were compared to negotiated rates larger companies enjoy. Further, we still didn’t get a full picture of how consistent the discounts would be.

“Discount availability is at the discretion of each property; however, one of the benefits of the Hilton for Business program is last room availability at our hotels around the world,” the spokesperson said via email.

Keep in mind that while Hilton is offering bonus points for business owners in this new program, it isn’t offering much in the way of immediate loyalty status. For that, your best option is to apply for a credit card that offers immediate Hilton Honors elite status, such as the Hilton Honors American Express Card, which comes with Silver status. You could also apply for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass® Card, The Hilton Honors American Express Business Card, The Platinum Card® from American Express or The Business Platinum Card® from American Express for Gold status.

You can immediately acquire top-tier Diamond status with Hilton Honors by opening the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card.

The information for the Hilton Honors Aspire Card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Why now

This is surprisingly good travel news for Hilton fans and Hilton Honors members who own a smaller business requiring them to travel. Small and medium-sized companies are often left out of the business of corporate travel perks with special rates.

Hilton leaders have repeatedly noted since the worst months of the coronavirus pandemic that there’s an increased interest in boosting demand from small and medium-sized companies. The thinking here is larger corporations have the luxury of relying on remote work and video conferencing, which cuts down on the need for in-person visits and travel.

So-called road warriors who need to be on the road for on-site visits are more likely to be found at smaller companies. That’s far more reliable revenue for hotel owners and hotel companies like Hilton than corporate travel from bigger businesses that have lagged in recovery.

Prior to the pandemic, Hilton had a split in its total business travel demand where 80% came from small and medium-sized businesses while the remaining 20% stemmed from larger companies. Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta has noted in recent years a desire to morph that into a 90-10 split, where small and medium-sized businesses gain an even larger share of Hilton’s business travel pie.

“With roughly 80% of our typical corporate mix coming from small and medium-sized businesses and with the lagging recovery of larger corporate travel, we’ve taken the opportunity to continue our further increase our focus on this segment of demand,” Nassetta said on an earnings call in late 2021. “This demand is higher rated [and] more resilient, which has helped us to recover more quickly in business transient and should drive rate compression in the future as larger corporate travel picks up.”

More recent data indicates the initiative to court small- and medium-sized businesses is showing success, as these companies now account for 85% of Hilton’s business travel demand.

Doing whatever one can to further appeal to those businesses can help lock in loyalty to Hilton for years to come.

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