Last night, Small Luxury Hotels and 16 of its hotel partners welcomed more than 150 media professionals and travel agents to discuss updates within the brand and its 500 associated hotels, scattered in more than 80 destinations worldwide.
"We're really focusing on sustainability this year, and it's part of our larger mission," explained Julie Owens, regional director of sales, Eastern region.
"It's really to perfectly match independently-minded guests with independently-minded hotels; those who want to experience individual and intense hotel and travel experiences," added Pegi Amarteifio, vice president of public relations, Small Luxury Hotels.
"The luxury mindset has changed massively, there was a time when it was very much to do with materialism and being ostentatious, and it's really now shifted to an experience-based mindset, and with that comes the notion that people really want to identify themselves to align more with who they are, than what they own."
Sustainability can still be luxurious
All of the hotels inside of SLH's luxury portfolio are small, boutique, independently-owned, and they pride themselves on being closely connected to the communities they're built in, which means corporate responsibility towards sustainability is at the heart of what those hotels do.
These attributes allow guests to feel as though they're truly immersed in the destinations they visit; actively engaged in their travels, and not just watching from the sidelines.
"So many of our hotels are ingrained in their environments, and what we're trying to do this year is to showcase that a lot more," Amarteifio explained. "We're in the process of creating a bigger platform on our website to showcase all of the sustainably-led hotels, and there are many, because based off of the surveys we conduct with our guests, more and more of them [our guests] want sustainable vacation options."
Last year, SLH found out that 72 per cent of guests quoted sustainability as being a leading factor in choosing a hotel.
"We're all about quality, local experiences and that doesn't have to be expensive," Amarteifio said. "There's quite a lot of value for your money in choosing a smaller boutique property."
Being recognized as a member of SLH's luxury portfolio comes with intense scrutiny.
Hotels wishing to be recognized by the company must undergo a series of rigorous inspections.
"It's a strenuous checklist, with 700 points they [the hotel] has to pass," Owens said. "They need to be approved by the board to make sure that while they're all independently-minded, they share the same vision and consistency throughout."
The overarching key qualities and criteria would be that the hotel must be small and independently-owned, but above all else, they must have character.
"With so many of our hotels, the minute you walk in, you can really feel the character of the place and its owners," Amarteifio added. "All of our hotels are inspected every single year, and we've also got mystery inspectors who come on site to visit and go through that 700-point list, and if the hotel doesn't pass, they're given three months to pass; if they don't pass again, we ask the hotels to leave."
With a system like this, travel agents can rest assured that their clients are getting the best of the best.
SLH is actively involved with Canada's agent community, and does several roadshows a year in which it invites some of its partners to come along.
"We have an incredible travel agent website that lets our agent partners find out more about the new hotels that we're adding online, any bonus commissions that we're offering, travel agent rates, and it's even a booking channel for them as well," Owens said. "We want to make sure we're doing as much as possible to make it accessible to agents."
In terms of what Canadian travellers are after this year, both Amarteifio and Owens agree that "Japan is really, really big right now!"
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