"The Preferred brand has always been a reliable seal of approval"
Bob Van Ness, executive vice president of Preferred Hotels & Resorts for the Americas, spoke with Travel2Latam about the company's news and detailed the present of the Latin American region.
What are the news in terms of openings and renovations at the regional level?
Around the world we have had about 10 new properties under the Preferred Hotels & Resorts brand, including the new member of the Legend collection in Latin America, Montage Los Cabos, and we hope to have 10 more openings by the end of 2018. Our portfolio in Latin America continues growing with recent additions, including Hotel Unique in San Pablo, an iconic award-winning hotel in the largest city in South America, the Santarena Hotel in Costa Rica that will open in 2019 and two new hotels in Bogotá, Cosmos 100 Hotel and Conference Center and the Hotel Cabrera Imperial by Cosmos. In Mexico, we have added the Hotel Playa Grande Resort & Grand Spa in Cabo San Lucas, Casa del Mar Golf Resort & Spa in San Jose del Cabo, Hotel Xcaret in Playa del Carmen, Real Inn Monterrey and Galeria Plaza Irapuato.
What are the priority markets? And the potentials?
Latin America is one of the most diverse regions within the global portfolio of Preferred Hotels & Resorts. Spanning more than 3,800 miles from Guatemala to Argentina, we have 34 hotels in 14 countries in South and Central America. Our hotels are located in various tourist destinations such as Galapagos, the Sacred Valley of Peru, Rio de Janeiro and Belize, and also in key commercial cities such as San Pablo, Buenos Aires, Bogota, Lima and Santiago. In addition, Mexico continues to experience spectacular growth and continues to be the second most important global market for the company in terms of portfolio size and we hope to continue announcing even more partnerships in this region in the coming months.
How do you analyze the current situation of the hotel segment in Latin America? How is the region today compared to other areas?
Many parts of Latin America are fast becoming "level one" global markets and it is not surprising to see the independent hotel industry flourish as a result.
Compared to other areas, in many parts of Latin America, family ownership of independent hotels or small groups still prevails, which translates into a true sense of local importance. These families are often well known and respected in the local market and take pride in developing and succeeding as an independent luxury property that reflects their individual personalities and local culture.
What are the differential factors of the Preferred group for other large international hotel chains?
Unlike hotel chains, we do not own, manage or operate the hotels in our portfolio. Instead, we represent a variety of hotels and resorts that are completely independent or part of a unique regional group, which means that none of the properties in our global portfolio should conform to a specific stylistic standard (such as brand guidelines of international chains). All the hotels in our portfolio are very different in their style and in how they provide exceptional service. The traveler today wants an authentic, personalized and unique experience, which is exactly what the truly independent hotels have always offered.
The Preferred brand has always been a reliable seal of approval for travelers looking for an independent hotel anywhere in the world. With nearly 300 employees and 35 offices worldwide, our company provides a strategic advantage to hotel owners, operators and independent management companies through the brand's prestige and global scale of operation.
What is the relationship of the group with technology? What kind of Marketing actions do you carry out?
As a sales, marketing and distribution company, our hotels rely on us to provide technology that will generate more reserves and to achieve an optimal "ease of use" for the consumer. Our distribution platform is provided by Saber Hospitality (Synxis), which is a global platform and allows our hotels to be reserved anywhere at any time by consumers in an efficient and profitable manner. Beyond the distribution, our model is mainly service oriented. Instead of investing in the construction of properties, we invest in people, innovative technology and intellectual property that will support the success and goals of our member hotels.
As we continue to expand our marketshare, our visibility and our global hotel portfolio, we are also adopting digital platforms and programs that allow us to stay ahead of the competition and develop our repertoire of commercial solutions. These digital improvements have allowed us to be more detailed in our approach to tasks that are traditionally done manually.
An example of this would be our Integrated Quality Assurance program, which uses two combined measurement tools for product and service standards: professional evaluations at the hotel and a customized tool for evaluating social networks to provide quality scores in real time, feedback from the guests and performance analysis. As a result, we can guarantee that each hotel meets our high standards of excellence, ensuring a memorable and enjoyable experience for our loyal guests.
In a highly competitive market, where new players such as Airbnb are added, as a competition for the traditional hotel industry, what are the biggest challenges to face?
The biggest challenge for the independent hotel sector in one serious word: visibility. The use of new types of residences and properties is, we believe, part of a broader trend towards this global search for unique and indigenous experiences. Travelers look for vacations and accommodations that are authentic to the local area, which is what Preferred Hotels & Resorts have always provided. From the point of view of the challenge, independent hotels need more support to generate visibility. Through Preferred Hotels & Resorts, however, these hotels can increase their global visibility and compete with more recognizable brands. Travelers know they can visit a website (preferredhotels.com), or ask their well-informed travel agent, to find the experiences of high-end independent hotels they are looking for all over the world.
How do you think the hotel sector will evolve in a few years?
The future is promising for the independent hotel sector as long as we continue to evolve and create new and exciting product offerings based on consumer needs. Travel has become a defining act, often expressed in social networks. Our hotels will continue to evolve and reflect the expressions of travelers and their desire to make statements about what is important to them, adding more meaning to their lives.