A Hilton team member celebrating Pride

Hospitality giant Hilton is ramping up diversity and inclusion efforts within its hotels and beyond with the launch of a nationwide partnership with charity Minus18.

Launched by queer icon and advocate, actor, model and DJ, Ruby Rose on Tuesday – coinciding with Sydney World Pride – the partnership will give more LGBTQIA+ young people access to inclusive school formals.

Speaking exclusively to HM, Hilton Area Vice President and Head of Australasia, Paul Hutton, described the partnership as “a really good fit”, saying that it aligns with Hilton’s culture of inclusivity.

“We have 400,000 employees – 7500 hotels in 123 countries – so the greater queer community is a really important part of us around the world,” Hutton said.

Hilton Area Vice President and Head of Australasia, Paul Hutton, is promoting a culture of diversity and inclusion

“Everyone is unique, and we all have a part to play. I think it’s really important – particularly coming out of COVID – that we’re doing everything we can to make ourselves more attractive and more flexible so that if you are in the queer community, you understand that we are not only welcoming, but that we applaud having that diversity in every hotel we operate.”

Hilton’s support will help drive the rollout of Minus18’s Queer Formals program to new cities and regional areas in Australia from 2024.

Commenting on the partnership Ruby Rose said that attending a school formal as one’s true self is “a rite of passage that every teen deserves”.

“Queer high schoolers too often don’t have the right support network when navigating who they are,” she said.

“This is not something to ignore, it is traumatising on a young individual’s mental health and creates unnecessary despair alongside creating a lifelong internal messaging system that tells us we are less than. It’s time to change this.

Rose believes the partnership will be life-changing for thousands of kids and young adults.

“We must never underestimate the impact inclusion and acceptance has on both young people in their formative years, as well as the healing it provides for us older queer folk who were met with a lot of resistance when it came to living freely and being granted the equal rights we so deeply deserved,” she said.

Minus18 provides free and inclusive school formals for LGBTQIA+ young people

Creating a more inclusive guest experience

In partnership with Minus18, Hilton will roll out gender and sexuality training for all team members across its 23 properties in Australia and New Zealand in an effort to ensure every Hilton property in the region is an LGBTQIA+ inclusive space.

The latest training initiative builds on Hilton’s global diversity and inclusion training, which is mandatory for all team members.

“The training is absolutely critical,” Hutton told HM.

“Figuratively speaking, if you want to wave the rainbow flag, you need to be quite sure that [your hotels reflect that inclusive guest experience].”

Among the training initiatives underway at Hilton is a partnership with Husbands That Travel to optimise LGBTQIA+ inclusivity in hotel marketing strategies and service experiences.

“We’ve been working with a great couple, Charlie and Michael, who are helping us understand how to be better in our hotels,” Hutton said.

“I remember a stat that they gave us – which is just frightening – that in Australia today, 98% of queer people will consider going back into the closet when they are travelling because they are unsure of the reception they will get.”

Minus18 is working with Hilton to promote diversity and inclusion throughout the hotel network

Through Hilton’s training programmes, Hutton said he has learned a lot on his own journey, including around understanding unconscious bias.

“You can think that you’re inclusive; you can think that you’re fair; you can think that you don’t discriminate; but often that’s about you, it’s not about the other person,” he said.

“I think I treat everybody fairly, that I treat everybody equally and uniquely, but there may be people who feel that they can’t be their whole self at work.

“For a run-of-the-mill, middle-aged, white-haired, heterosexual male with a few kids, there’s a lot for me to learn.”

World Pride gives hotels plenty to celebrate

With World Pride in full swing, Hutton said the buzz around Sydney and the occupancy in hotels is “extraordinary”.

“There are tens of thousands of people in the city and what’s really exciting is that it’s over a couple of weeks, so there’s a mega impact for February and March,” he said.

“As our CEO Chris Nassetta said, ‘We want to go back to this golden age of travel’.

“Quarter one of this year was just critical [to continued recovery]. And now we’re seeing hotels are chock-a-block, great rates, lobbies are busy with guests carrying shopping bags; frankly I don’t think we could have asked for a better result.”

To celebrate the partnership with Minus18, Hilton will hold its inaugural Rainbow Formal gala event – headlined by singer Delta Goodrem – at Hilton Sydney on Wednesday to raise vital funds and awareness for the charity.