Anyone who has traveled and slept in a hotel is familiar with the Hilton hotel brand. Known as “the Innkeeper to the World” Conrad Hilton opened his first hotel in Cisco, Texas with $5,000 to his name, assistance from friends and a small bank loan. The book The Hiltons: The True Story of an American Dynasty, is an interesting look into the lives of the Hilton family and the powerful empire Conrad Hilton created, one hotel at a time.
Pioneer in hotel industry
A new breed of businessman, Conrad firmly believed in the travel industry and had the vision to expand his hotel chain to Europe. A religious man, he referred to his hotels as his women; the more conquests the better. Starting in Texas, he worked his way to San Francisco, purchasing the Sir Francis Drake hotel, moving on to New York and the purchase of The Plaza, his ultimate business achievement.
European hotel expansion
In 1952, Conrad acquired the Castellana Hilton in Madrid, his first European hotel, followed by Hilton Istanbul in 1955, increasing tourism in Turkey by 60 percent. Soon Continental Hilton was opened in Mexico City and the Beverly Hilton in Los Angeles, California. Always the visionary, Conrad pioneered the concept of a central telephone reservation system, introduced air conditioning in every hotel room and was the first chain in the country to offer television sets in every hotel room.
Hilton press trips
With his Los Angeles-based hotel empire, Conrad Hilton was a powerful businessman with plenty of Hollywood connections. All of the A-list celebrities and movie stars wanted to be seen at the Hilton hotel opening parties. According to reporter Hedda Hopper, there was “never a dull moment at a Hilton press junket.” Chartered jets to exotic hotel locations with overflowing food and wine were the norm.
As more people began to travel by air, Conrad saw the need for short hotel stays. With a strong dislike for the word “motel” Conrad adopted the word “inn” and purchased hotel chains near airports.
While author J. Randy Taraborrelli includes plenty of stories about the Hilton children throughout the book – including the entrepreneurial Paris Hilton, as well as sister Nicky’s unsuccessful foray into the hotel world with Nicky O Hotels, I chose to focus my book review on Conrad Hilton’s impact on the hotel and travel industry. The Hiltons is an engaging saga of the failures and successes of a powerful American family in the highly competitive hotel business.
Where to buy:
The Hiltons The True Story of an American Dynasty
Suggested retail: $21.99-$30. Check website for details.
Book review by Nancy D. Brown. Grand Central Publishing provided me with The Hiltons book for review purposes, as well as jacket cover photo.
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