To New Memories: Q&A with Hilton’s Kasey O’Leary

Jordan Kelley, Content Director,

As the travel and tourism industry manage through the global pandemic, Hilton has continued to believe that the desire to travel, experience new cultures and connect with others is core to the human experience. According to a new study conducted on behalf of Hilton, Americans say travel is their most frequently recalled happy memory, more than special occasions or personal achievements and the majority cite creating lasting memories as a primary motive for trips. All this staying at home leads 90% of survey respondents to believe that the nation is facing a travel memory deficit that will have a long-lasting impact, including greater stress and missed opportunity for special moments with loved ones. Additional insights showed 94% of Americans are planning on traveling once they feel comfortable doing so, and 66% even say they will stop putting off trips they have always wanted to take. These consumer insights, ahead of the coming holiday period, have given Hilton the confidence to launch the global “To New Memories” campaign, which encourages people to consider making new memories safely with Hilton.

Brand Storytelling caught up with Kasey O’Leary, Vice President of Global Enterprise/Honors Marketing at Hilton to learn more about the difficulties brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic, the nature of the research that motivated this new campaign, and how “To New Memories” aligns with Hilton’s brand values:

How did Coronavirus impact your scheduled marketing earlier in the year? What did you do then to pivot?

At the onset of the pandemic, like many companies, Hilton pressed the pause button on all planned brand marketing activations. Hilton has a long history of being a trusted community partner and we pivoted from our original plans to focus on reinforcing Hilton’s commitment to our communities by donating up to one million rooms to medical professionals in the U.S. and providing meals in partnership with World Central Kitchen. Additionally, Hilton supported its Team Members hit hard by the pandemic through grants from The Hilton Effect Foundation. We also reinforced our trusted leadership in the travel and hospitality industry by adopting new global protocols and programs such as Hilton’s industry-defining CleanStay program, flexible booking policies, and Contactless Arrival made possible by the Hilton Honors app and our award-winning Digital Key technology. While we focused on making changes internally to remind guests of Hilton’s hospitality, cleanliness and flexibility during the pandemic, our first global marketing campaign since the onset of COVID-19, “To New Memories,” is designed to inspire and reassure consumers and make them feel comfortable with Hilton as their first choice to make new memories as they ease back into travel.

Where did the search for consumer data come in?

While we recognize the travel recovery journey will continue to be fluid globally, we are seeing encouraging signs for the industry. For example, China has experienced a rapid increase in domestic travel, nearly to pre-pandemic levels. In the U.S., we have seen consumers lean into road trips and we expect this to continue, especially during the upcoming holiday season. As we continue to navigate through the pandemic, Hilton wanted to better understand how consumers are thinking about travel and the impact that the lack of traveling may have on their lives.

Research showed that people are craving reconnection with both people, and the world around them, and memories are what happens when you travel, whether it’s by yourself or with family and friends. Travel memories are collective, yet deeply personal and while perception and sentiment toward travel has changed, the memories that travel creates are here to stay and are a shared yearning among consumers.

These insights and the pent-up demand for travel helped us decide the time was right to inspire consumers to start planning their next memory and reassure them that they can feel confident returning to travel. Whether it’s a road trip in the near future or a bucket list trip further out, Hilton will be ready to welcome them.

Our campaign research was validated with a national survey Hilton conducted to dive further into travel memories. We found that 90 percent of Americans believe they are experiencing a travel memory deficit, which many believe will have a lasting impact on their lives, from missed moments with loved ones to experiencing greater levels of stress.

How did the data’s findings and the notion of “Travel Memory Deficit” lead to the creation of the “To New Memories” campaign?

Our extensive research provided insight on the consumer desire for reconnection and to travel again. It was only when we conducted a nationwide survey of 2,000 Americans that we realized the full extent of the travel memory deficit. These new findings are helping us cons