Talene Staab was recently promoted from vice president of owner experience and engagement at Hilton to global head of Tru by Hilton. LODGING caught up with Staab at the 2019 Hunter Hotel Investment Conference to discuss how she plans to support owners, team members, and the brand’s momentum as Hilton celebrates its 100th anniversary.
How has transitioning to global head of Tru been so far?
It’s been great. The brand has already had fantastic momentum. When Alex [Jaritz] transitioned, she left a fantastic plan in place. And our team is incredibly smart. They know the brand inside and out, so they’ve been bringing me up to speed.
Is there anything you’re hoping to immediately accomplish?
I had the luxury of watching Tru launch from the sidelines when I was in an owner relations position. I’m a huge fan of the brand, its development story, and how quickly it has picked up. We made some good enhancements to the prototype in 2018. My agenda is to support the team and hotels that are opening this year. We ended 2018 with 53 open, and many more due to open their doors in 2019. Making sure owners have the support they need and watching how their feedback matches with customer feedback is my agenda. You can’t overvalue observation as a step in building confidence and support for the team around us.
Have you talked with any of the owners yet? Or is that the next step?
The owner feedback has been such an important part of the Tru story. We’ve been very transparent about what their thoughts are because they were a big part of building the brand. As they start opening their hotels, it’s still incredibly important to hear their feedback balanced with customer feedback.
You’re coming to Tru from owner relations. What fresh or different perspective are you bringing to the brand?
We’re in a different phase for the brand. The first part is development and launch, and then growing the pipeline. Now, the focus is on the hotels that are open. What’s the service culture? How do Tru’s team members come together as a community? How can we build a sense of comradery with them? When I worked at Embassy Suites many moons ago, we called ourselves the die-hard green bleeders. We were so into the brand, and I’m excited to cultivate a culture like that for Tru.
How is Tru fitting into plans for the celebration of Hilton’s 100th anniversary?
We’re having our most dynamic year yet. That’s a great sign of looking forward and not hindsight. Our pipeline for Tru contains our potential 100th hotel opening this year, which will be a very exciting point of celebration.
What’s been your takeaway from Hunter? What’s the vibe you’re getting?
It’s easier to find people that you want to catch up with at Hunter because it’s different than ALIS or NYU. It’s been great to connect with owners, spend time with our development team, and talk to people who are curious about the brand. The sessions have been illuminating, and I’m cautiously optimistic. The vibe is everyone is shoring up and trying to get smart about what the next move is. We keep hearing about the golden age of travel, and those fundamentals still look good. Don’t sit too cautiously on the sidelines with this opportunity.