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2015 is proving to be a milestone year for Preferred Hotels & Resorts. The independent hotel collection unveiled its new single brand in March — a consolidation of its former multibrand portfolio — while simultaneously launching a new website.
More recently, Preferred also made a number of new executive appointments, including a new chief marketing officer and chief financial officer. But, president and CEO Lindsey Ueberroth continues at Preferred’s helm. She discusses with TravelAge West how the rebranding has impacted travel agents since its launch.
Can you talk about the reasons for consolidating the portfolio into one master brand? Put in the context of the last year, all of the hotel chains have been getting into our space by launching new brands to cater to different demographics and psychographics.
So, we’re going against the grain: We think that by ultimately having one master brand, we can do a better job of telling the story of what we stand for in terms of the ultimate in independent hotel experiences around the globe. Telling a single story for our more than 650 hotels will help with brand awareness and clarity of message.
What do you believe the move to a single brand will help achieve in the long term? We definitely anticipate becoming even stronger as a result of this move. Revenue is already up, and I’ve set very aggressive goals for us, including a three-year plan to grow the brand with up to 1,000 hotels in 100 countries. For our iPrefer guest loyalty program, we want to grow membership to 1 million.
We have aggressive goals for social media and plan to drive all of these components simultaneously as we drive brand awareness. We have also set the goal of being one of the top five hotel brands in the next three years, as I want our brand awareness to be that strong. Of course, our growth strategy is not just about numbers, but about finding the right hotels in the right destinations.
Has there also been a change in target demographics or psychographics since the rebranding? The five collections that comprise Preferred Hotels & Resorts — Legend, LVX, Lifestyle, Connect and Preferred Residences — represent different styles of luxury and experiences that cater to a consumer’s personal, professional, social or family life when traveling. People travel differently depending on why they’re traveling and who they’re traveling with, and the travel agent community understands this best.
While our new branding is focused on elevating and strengthening Preferred Hotels & Resorts to the consumer market, it will also benefit the agent community. We expect it to increase bookings through travel agents because the collections help agents guide their clients to the perfect hotel experience for any travel occasion.
How has the rebranding impact Preferred’s relationship with travel agents?The travel professional community has welcomed and embraced the new branding of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Our brand has been around for close to 50 years, so many agents have longtime familiarity and loyalty to the brand and its GDS code, PH.
While they understood the multibrand concept of Preferred Hotel Group, agents are finding the new simplified approach of one master brand with five distinct collections and one GDS code, PH, easier to search, qualify, and book when serving their clients’ travel needs.
With the rebranding, are there any plans for new agent programs or promotions?Over the next few months, we plan to enhance the travel partner section of our website with relevant and special offers. We are continuously educating agents on the benefits of our iPrefer guest loyalty program so they can enhance their clients’ stay through the program, which makes the travel advisor more valuable and therefore builds client loyalty.
In addition, we recently launched a new website — www.iPrefer.com/TA — that serves as a dedicated resource to help travel professionals understand the program and its benefits, ensures a seamless redemption process and makes it easier for them to sign up their clients for immediate rewards. As part of this, we created an exclusive travel agent iPrefer enrollment card, which we hand out during every office visit.
Also, our travel agent newsletter, “The Itinerary,” will continue to offer the latest on our experiences, marketing promotions, new hotels, global hotel listings and travel agent specials.
How will your two new consumer-focused ads, slated to launch before the end of 2015, impact business with the agent community?We believe the new brand advertising campaigns will not only enhance consumer brand awareness but also benefit the travel advisor community. Our new ad concepts address exactly what the travel agent is trying to sell — the experience. We think they will love our new ads and the way they will inspire their clients to want to book their next adventure.
In addition, every ad will include a call-to-action to encourage consumers to contact their local travel professional.
Preferred Hotels & Resortswww.preferredhotels.com