What’s to Come for Preferred Hotel Group

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Preferred Hotel Group is hosting 327 attendees from its affiliated hotels at The Inn at Spanish Bay this week, as the group comprisesd with over 600 hotels globally, is updating its members on how its 2014 is finishing out and strategies for 2015.

John Ueberroth, a believer in the power of travel and the patriarch and chairman of Preferred Hotel Group, noted that even though travel has become more digitized, "Travel agents aren't going away. They'll be here 10 years from now," he told the audience, which represented some 26 countries.

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He also offered a few predictions, including that airfares will continue to rise, due in part to consolidation; conflicts and disasters were not going away; hand-held devices will continue to evolve and be ever more ubiquitous; and that more people will continue to travel and they "all have different preferences," he said. The question is, he continued, "What is Preferred's role? The goal is to leave [here] with renewed confidence that we are doing right things to grow your revenue and profits."

Lindsay Ueberroth, president and CEO of Preferred Hotel Group, explained this years theme is "Next." Ueberroth touched on a variety of issues of consequence, from meta search and revenue management to group travel and meetings.

Ueberroth said that Preferred hotels from 2012-2013 generated revenues around $838 million. That number was $590 million in 2011. Bookings were up 3.4 percent, year-over-year, to 1.4 million in 2013-2014. Group sales revenue was $31,872 million in the period. "We will continue to invest on the group side," Ueberroth said. 

She added that, on the meetings side, Preferred had recently signed two recent agreements with Bank of America and American Express Meetings.

Preferred is also expanding into meta-search. "We will partner with ones we think are relevant," Ueberroth said, adding that in 2013-2014, there was 20-percent growth in revenue from meta-search partners." Ueberroth also said Preferred was in the final stages of new deals with Expedia and Hotelbeds.

With regard to direct bookings, they are up 35 percent on brand.com.

Ueberroth also outlined goals for 2015, which included revenue growth to member hotels, growth in web and mobile presence, iPrefer (Preferred's loyalty program) growth and focusing on member communications. The linchpin across Preferred Hotel Group is its loyalty program, iPrefer, which launched about a year ago and now boasts around 1.3 million members with the goal being 2 million by the end of the year. In March of 2015, Preferred will also be launching a new website that is mobile responsive.

Casey Ueberroth, SVP of marketing for Preferred Hotel Group, wants to make it better and compete on even better footing with other hotel chains and brands.

Currently, around 85 percent of Preferred hotels participate in iPrefer and Ueberroth wants to make it 100 percent. He offered some numbers that show iPrefer's growth. The average stay value of members is $820 in 2014, up from $775 in 2013. New enrolled members are around 15,500 per month. Year to date, iPrefer member stay revenue for 2014 is $26.8 million. Further, 72 percent of revenue came from enrollments that originated at another Preferred hotel. 

"We want 100 percent participation," Ueberroth said. "Fully engaged and where people say it's the best program."

Ueberroth also said they are currently working on a hotel incentive program, whereby the front desks would get cash rewards for signing guests up. It should kick in by Q1 2015. Farther out, iPrefer is working on a system of points for free nights, but that won't launch to maybe Q4 2015.

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