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Home / Wellness / Q&A: One on One with Small Luxury Hotels | TravelPulse

Q&A: One on One with Small Luxury Hotels | TravelPulse

Last September, Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) appointed Jean-François Ferret as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Based in the company’s London headquarters, Ferret, whose experience includes more than six years as CEO of Relais Châteaux, is now responsible for SLH’s international teams, leading the strategic direction of the brand’s luxury portfolio of over 500 SLH hotels in more than 80 countries.

Kenan Simmons, SLH’s Vice President of Sales for the Americas, spoke to TravelPulse about how SLH works with agents, what the future holds and how the nearly thirty-year-old company is a leader among independent hotel collections.

Mangala Resort Spa, Kuantan, Malaysia (Courtesy Small Luxury Hotels of the World)

TravelPulse: After nearly three decades in business, who is SLH today?

Kenan Simmons: Small Luxury Hotels of the World is the most desirable community of independently minded travelers and independently spirited hotels in the world. We turned the luxury boutique hotel into a phenomenon and selected the distinctive, the diverse and the downright delightful. People, places and experiences with individual character, intimate charm and inherent class.

We’ve personally visited, vetted and verified over 500 hotels in more than 80 countries. We are envisioning a future where people experience the world with intention, experience its intensity and protect its integrity. Travel agents can become part of the community and visit us at slh.com.

TP: Who stays at SLH properties?

KS: Our loyalty program “Invited” has more than 400,000 members around the world, with the majority of members located in Europe and North America. They range in age from 18 to over 65, but more than 50 percent are between the ages of 35 and 54.

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TP: SLH recently published its 2019 trends report. What’s the next big trend in experiential travel?

KS: In 2019, as more and more consumers connect the dots between wellness and spirituality, water will become more celebrated for its neurological, spiritual and physiological benefits.

With over 75 percent of the human body comprised of water, ‘the call of nature’ takes on new meaning as consumers want to feel at one with themselves and seek the healing vibration of water by flocking to the revitalizing energy of hot springs, secluded lakes and calming lagoons for some much-needed restorative water therapy.

This trend evolves on the revitalizing nature of a spa weekend and escalates it, allowing luxury travelers to experience the physical and emotional benefits of restorative water to well and truly reconnect with inner calm. The Castle Hot Springs in Arizona is one example of an SLH property where guests can experience deep rock waters with healing energy.

The hotel was originally built in the late 1890s and reopened in February with the same natural hot springs that have for centuries lent their restorative waters to prominent families including the Roosevelts and the Kennedys.

TP: How does the company work with retail travel agents?

KS: SLH has been supportive of travel consultants worldwide for the past 29 years and we constantly strive to be a great partner through our various initiatives. In fact, over two-thirds of our business is through travel agents.

We recently introduced a new travel industry rate for all travel agents, and the rate offers 50 percent off the Best Available Rate at any SLH hotel (subject to availability) and can be used to save on personal holidays or to explore upcoming destinations. We will see this program continue to evolve over the next few years.

We understand the pivotal role agents play within the industry and we’re proud to mention that now over three-quarters of all SLH bookings are through agents. I think this is because of a few reasons:

—Our portfolio is filled with some of the best independent boutique luxury hotels in the world.

—The relationships our sales teams continue to develop across the globe. In fact, we are excited to announce that we expanded our sales team in the US last year, adding two new sales managers to expand our in-depth coverage in our number one source market.

—The exposure we offer travel agents to our properties. We are continually offering roadshow meetings, showcase events, FAM trips and more. This furthers our deep relationships in the market and highlights the strength of our portfolio.

—I would also mention that the quality, customer service and unique experiences at our hotels is what keeps agents—and travelers—coming back again and again.

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