London Roundtable: Ruthanne Terrero, Luxury Travel Advisor; Dagmar Noe, Belgraves, A Thompson Hotel; Jill O’Hare, London Edition; Simon Gilkes, Mondrian, London; Kristien Deleersnijder, The Four Seasons; Ruth Jones of The Ritz; Paula McColgan of The Lanesborough, Robert Touzel, The Langham London and Megan Meeres, Luxury Travel Advisor.
This month in Luxury Travel Advisor, you will find not one but two roundtable discussions featured. I’ve actually decided to call these events “conversations,” because that’s what they’ve turned out to be. We love bringing travel executives together, not just to get amazing content to share with our readers but because we’ve found that people really enjoy the chance to speak to each other about the business for a decent amount of time. It takes us way beyond the double kiss on the cheek and the “how are you, I’ve been traveling like crazy, how about you,” sound bytes that we all share when we see each other at luxury travel events. Meeting face-to-face is becoming a lost art for many that we’re trying to revive here at Luxury Travel Advisor.
Speaking of face to face, that’s the strategy that Ruth Jones, who oversees marketing for The Ritz London, still holds to be true when it comes to promoting her hotel (see the London Roundtable). She travels to the United States several times a year to be in front of travel advisors and to personally thank them for their business. At our London roundtable we also wondered how travel advisors have the time to meet with all the suppliers who want to see them; some noted that some travel agencies are actually charging suppliers to come see them (no one named names). The trend of larger agency groups starting their own amenities programs was another hot topic.
Indeed, adding value to the client’s hotel stay is a steady subject of conversation these days and was as well at the roundtable I hosted at Signature Travel Network’s annual sales meeting in Las Vegas. The advisors in attendance said they wouldn’t dream these days of booking a hotel stay that didn’t come with value-added amenities (think free Wi-Fi, breakfasts, transfers, upgrades, etc.). The hoteliers at the table all emphasized the necessity of value-adds but the conversation also turned to the value of guest recognition, letting the client realize their needs have been specifically considered. I truly enjoyed hearing how Patricia Iinuma of the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome and the entire hotel team network constantly throughout the city, with personnel at boutiques, those in the cultural arts and at restaurants to develop the ability to have access to unique experiences for individual guests, such as front–seat passes to a Chanel fashion show and even a cocktail with Karl Lagerfeld. These aren’t amenities that are marketed as a standard by the hotel, rather, they’re saved for that valuable guest whose passions and hobbies they’ve come to learn about over the years. Iinuma and her team also strive to learn all they can about first-time clients to the Park Hyatt so they can go beyond the “wow” for them as well.
Equally delightful to hear about was the new lifestyle manager at Grand Hotel Tremezzo, who lives and breathes to create special surprises and to smooth the entire way for those who stay at the property.
So enjoy our conversations this month; I’m hoping they’ll give you ideas as you deal with your clients on the front lines who are used to being amazed by you. I’m sure that any idea you can take away that will help you set them back on their heels a bit with a big surprised grin on their face will be of tremendous value to both of you in the long run.