Celebrating 40 years of experience, Preferred Hotels Group distribution network provides sales, marketing and technology solutions to more than 700 independent hotels and resorts in over 75 countries. Area Managing Director, Continental Europe, Bruno Chiaruttini speaks to HTR about why it’s worth being part of a larger family and the changing evolution of the boutique hotel industry in Europe.
HTR Magazine: What are the latest developments with Preferred Hotels Group, as well as any new upcoming initiatives? Bruno Chiaruttini: The dynamism of our team and our global pre-sence has lead to developing more local initiatives to best fit with our hotels and their destination. We have enrolled over 500,000 members to our loyalty program iPrefer with a target of 1 million by June 2010. We have strengthened our presence in the social networks, increased our global presence with 29 sales offices around the globe and Moscow and Shanghai due to open in 2010. We are launching our new label Sterling Design, part of brand Sterling Hotels, in order to assist hotels with strong unique design experience, style, personality and affordability, which are looking for greater sales and marketing support. Our new CRS partner SynXis, a Sabre company, with whom we will develop our future distribution strategy will enable us to achieve wider distribution coverage. How have your members here in Europe generally progressed over the last 12 months? It has been a difficult year for everyone, though there have been many disparities among various destinations in Europe. The price war, which some cities have experienced have hit some hotels ve-ry strongly, as volume has not compensated the loss of average price. Fortunately, most of our member hotels have been perfor-ming better than their overall market average and our strong sales and marketing presence have demonstrated that in a downturn economy, it is crucial to join forces and work with a strong part-ner like Preferred Hotel Group. How do you see the development of the boutique segments in Europe over the coming year? There are some signs of recovery in the corporate segment, even though companies are still monitoring their travel expenses close-ly and have taken advantage of this crisis to renegotiate global agreements. 2010 will remain a transitional year with very positive surprises, but also challenging times, as a lot of companies are still fighting to make sure they survive. MICE sectors should also re-cover by the end of 2010. What are the main advantages of hotels being affiliated with Preferred Hotels? Preferred Hotel Group is not only helping partners strengthen their presence on the specific market and increase sales, but also em-phasise on keeping each hotel’s flavour and independence. The quality of our members is constantly monitored with inspections, guaranteeing a local experience with a very high service standard. Our sales and marketing professio-nals, as well as our revenue managers work hard to help inde-pendent hotels achieve the most from a global presence and high level business partnerships. What are some of the key criteria for becoming a Preferred boutique property? The key element for development of Preferred boutique standard is to ensure the property is unique within the mar-ket, but also reflects elements from the locale that make that specific destination special. Attention to detail is essential throughout every element of the property, with personalised service and the very highest standards. Discerning clientele who have travelled the globe are now looking for life expe-riences, which should be incorporated within the hotel -whether that be in the packages offered including speciali-ties of the region, such as culture, art, adventure or gastro-nomic influences. City-break or short-break tourism has been growing over the years in Europe. How should boutique hotels capitalise on this? Low cost airlines have brought down rates on city break and short break escapes. This provides new opportunities for dis-covering new destinations and new cultures. The particula-rity of our boutique properties is that they all offer a local experience and integrate within their destination. In a short stay, you can enjoy a full different and personalised expe-rience. Hotels should emphasise on their personality and of-fer a full local and/or unique experience. From a consumer perspective, what are the main advantages of a boutique hotel? Customers are more and more looking for personality and experience, style and uniqueness but with the guarantee of a certain level of service. Boutique hotels are different due to their personality, uniqueness, personalised service and lo-cal flavour. They also often have a story to tell.
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