Industry Update
Press Release18 April 2019

Leading the Way Through Hospitality: A Look at Hilton’s 100 Years of Industry Firsts

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Hilton Worldwide Family/group

When Conrad Hilton first laid eyes on the two-story, 40-room Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas in 1919, it looked "like a convenient place to sleep. Nothing more," he wrote in his memoir, "Be My Guest."

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Hilton had come to oil-crazy Cisco to make his fortune, with plans to a buy a bank. But when the deal fell apart, he thought some rest would help him figure out his next move.

He didn't get the rest, as the hotel was full with oil workers, sleeping in eight-hour shifts. But when the owner mentioned the hotel was for sale, he instead heard his wake-up call.

While Hilton may not have been dreaming of the international empire with nearly 6,000 hotels that is Hilton today, he did have a vision of what this singular property could one day become.

That vision enabled Hilton to resist resting on his laurels and to keep pushing forward, finding new and innovative ways to better serve guests, anticipating their needs before they did themselves. "He was always learning," says Mark Young, Director of the Hospitality Industry Archives at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management, University of Houston. "No matter how old he was, he was always learning things, and he would apply it to the company."

As the company grew over the coming decades, it faced countless changes and challenges, ranging from the Depression, to World War II, to shifting traveler tastes and dramatic shifts in technology. But one thing that didn't change was its core pioneering spirit and vision for what hospitality could be, which fueled Hilton's path forward.

That spirit of innovation has continued throughout the company's nearly 100-year history, right on until today.

Here are just some of Hilton's firsts, both in history and throughout the hospitality industry:

  • 1919
    Conrad Hilton bought his first hotel, the Mobley Hotel, in Cisco, Texas.
  • 1925
    Conrad Hilton opened the first hotel to carry the Hilton name, the Dallas Hilton. He also showed an early insight into forward-thinking design: In the pre-central air era, he didn't put any guest rooms on the west wall, where the sun hit hardest in the summer.
  • 1927
    The Waco Hilton added innovations including cold running water and air conditioning to common areas. Later, in the 1950s, Hilton was one of the first to make a major investment in air conditioning. This large, multimillion-dollar bet had an unexpected side effect: It created a year-round convention business for its hotels in Chicago and New York which previously did not exist.
  • 1930s
    Hilton was the first to standardize the concept of room service in hotels, growing it from its origins in the Waldorf Astoria New York throughout the industry.
  • 1943
    Hilton became the first coast-to-coast hotel group in the U.S. with the purchase of the Roosevelt and Plaza hotels in New York.
  • 1946
    Hilton Hotels Corp. was formed and became the first hotel company post-WWII to sell stock in New York. Hilton was listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1947.
  • 1947
    Hilton was the first hotel to install televisions in guest rooms at the Roosevelt Hilton in New York City.
  • 1948
    Hilton was the first to install multi-hotel reservations system, the beginning of the modern-day reservations system.
  • 1949
    Conrad Hilton was the first hotelier featured on the cover of Time Magazine, following his purchase of the Waldorf Astoria in New York. He later became the first hotelier to make Time's cover twice when he appeared in the July 19, 1963 issue.
  • 1950
    Hilton created its first special amenity for female travelers - a sewing kit and booklet with helpful names and telephone numbers. This led to the 1965 launch of Lady Hilton, the first hotel concept designed for female travelers.
  • 1954
    Ramón "Monchito" Marrero, the bartender at the Caribe Hilton in Puerto Rico, experimented with a new recipe that blended rum, coconut cream and pineapple juice in an icy beverage. After three months of perfecting the recipe, Marrero felt that the drink finally captured the flavors of Puerto Rico and named it the "Pina Colada." The new cocktail was served by Marrero for 35 years and became the official drink of Puerto Rico in 1978.
  • 1954
    Hilton struck the largest real estate deal in history, at the time, with the purchase of Statler Hotels for $111 million dollars in 1954.
  • 1955
    First hotel built from the ground up in Europe after WWII
    , the Hilton Istanbul.
  • 1957
    First in-room direct dial telephones
    at the Waldorf Astoria.
  • 1959
    Hilton opened its first airport hotel, the San Francisco Airport Hilton, and pioneered the airport hotel concept for the modern, jet-setting business traveler.
  • 1967
    Conrad Hilton was the first hotelier to be featured in a syndicated cartoon, Batman.
  • 1973
    Developed first computerized central reservations system, a breakthrough in customer service.
  • 1974
    Globalized
    the in-room minibar with Hong Kong Hilton.
  • 2008
    First to have a hotel with both LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Green Seal certifications.
  • 2014
    First hotel to scale the use of smartphones as room keys with Hilton's Digital Key technology.
  • 2018
    Hilton introduced Connected Room, a truly mobile-centric hotel room.
  • 2018
    Hilton opened the world's first underwater hotel suite at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island.
Related News

A Look at Hilton’s 100 Years of Industry Firsts - Part 2

23 April 2019 — This is a follow-up to the article we published April 18th, announcing its 100 year anniversary since  Conrad Hilton first laid eyes on a two-story, 40-room Mobley Hotel in Cisco, Texas... Hilton's first hotel. Below are some historic photos we would like to share.
Read more

About Hilton Hotels & Resorts

Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company with a portfolio of 17 world-class brands comprising more than 5,700 properties with more than 923,000 rooms, in 113 countries and territories. Dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world's most hospitable company, Hilton earned a spot on the 2018 world's best workplaces list, and has welcomed more than 3 billion guests in its 100-year history. Through the award-winning guest loyalty program Hilton Honors, more than 89 million members who book directly with Hilton can earn Points for hotel stays and experiences money can't buy, plus enjoy instant benefits, including digital check-in with room selection, Digital Key, and Connected Room. Visit newsroom.hilton.com for more information, and connect with Hilton on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.

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