The Curio Collection Takes a Scientific Approach to Travel

Hilton’s Curio Collection took a science-based approach to brand development and marketing in September by sponsoring a scientific study for insights into what drives traveler curiosity. They then took the findings from this research to create an online “Are You Curious?” quiz to help globetrotters discover what drives their urge to travel. Stuart Foster, vice president of global brand marketing for Curio Collection by Hilton, spoke with LODGING about the quiz and what Hilton learned from its results.

How did the idea to tie Curio’s marketing to a scientific study come about? 

Earlier this year, we launched our new marketing platform—“Discover What’s Inside,” which was inspired by Curio Collection by Hilton’s global expansion and consumer research—to showcase our 40-plus remarkable hotels and resorts inside of the Collection. From the research, we also recognized that people are seeking unique experiences as an integral aspect of their travel. With this insight and curiosity at the core of the Curio Collection name itself, “Discover What’s Inside” allows us to inspire consumers to explore the curiosity that drives us to travel and seek one-of-a-kind discoveries.


Further supporting this insight is, perhaps surprisingly, science. Science has uncovered that the urge to travel is much more than a feeling—it’s biological—and something that can be traced back to one gene: DRD4-7R. This gene variation, which is also called the “Curious or Wanderlust Gene,” is believed to be associated with people who have a propensity for travel and discovery. To hone in on this genetic discovery, we launched The Curious Gene. We turned to a scientific laboratory to facilitate the DNA testing of approximately 30 travel enthusiasts and social media influencers, to determine if they have the DRD4-7R gene. We worked with our research partners to conduct a qualitative study of our influencers to discover what drives them to seek new experiences to uncover five unique curiosity “types.” We selected five of the influencers with the gene to verify the types through an additional observational study. And from there, a typing tool was developed to build an interactive, sharable quiz for everyone to discover their curiosity “type,” and offer up a variety of Curio Collection by Hilton hotels to visit based on their interests.

 What sort of response has the quiz had?

In just over a month, the quiz had nearly 24,000 completions and more than 55,100 social media engagements with campaign content. Thus far, we found that nearly 40 percent of those who took the quiz are Culturalists, meaning, for them, travel is about style, they’re passionate about art and open to possibilities. The second most common type is Pathfinder at 31 percent. This group enjoys activities such as hiking and escaping from city lights—their travel style is spontaneous and rustic. Epicureans or the “foodies,” are next at 15 percent followed by Spiritualist, at nine percent—those who prioritize wellness in their travels such as yoga retreats. And last but not least, Challenger, seven percent. Their travel style may be described as active and exotic.

The quiz has also drummed up excitement across our hotels, and we’re looking at ways to expand bringing the Curious Gene program to life on-property. We have distributed cocktail napkins pointing bar-goers to the quiz to encourage them to put their curiosity to the test.

 Are there any takeaways from the quiz that are influencing Curio’s direction as a brand?

From our research, we know that curious travelers are seeking authentic, local experiences. Our quiz classifies curiosity into five different categories and then serves up recommendations for Curio Collection by Hilton hotels and resorts based on the individual’s results. Knowing what percentage of quiz takers falls into a particular category and what types of properties they might be interested in based on their results provides us with valuable information. We can harness this insight to better customize and recommend one-of-a-kind discoveries to our guests to enhance their entire experience—from planning the perfect trip to actually visiting a property and discovering activities, amenities, and services that suit their curiosity type.