Small Luxury Hotels Of The World To Upgrade Agent Loyalty Program

by Cheryl Rosen  and  Richard D’Ambrosio

Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) in June will launch an improved travel agency loyalty program—a bow to the increasing importance of the channel, especially to the American market, CEO and chairman Filip Boyen told TMR yesterday.

At a SLH showcase for travel agents and the press at the Bar SixtyFive at The Rainbow Room in New York’s Rockefeller Center, Boyen said the company will relaunch an upgraded consumer loyalty program as well.

The existing program for travel agents “is not impactful enough; we need to do something more meaningful for our travel consultant partners,” Boyen said. “Two-thirds of our business comes through travel consultants and I strongly believe they are the future, especially for small and unique properties like ours. In the American market in particular, they make it their business to know what they are selling, so they can explain the unique attributes of each property to their customers.”

Still, many of the properties in the group “are doing a wonderful job working with travel agents,” said Valerie Wilson, chairman and CEO of Valerie Wilson Travel in NY.

The LeFay Resort and SPA Lago di Garda, Italy, for example, is hosting its first travel agent fam later this year. Said director of sales Manola Fresta, “We’re bringing spa specialists to help them experience the spa so they can describe it better to their clients.”

Mathias Saleborn, director of sales and marketing at the soon-to-open Nobu Hotel in Ibiza, Spain, said travel agents will be critical to the properties attracting American families looking for an alternative to more popular Spanish destinations, like Majorca and the mainland. The hotel opens June 30.

“It’s great to have these events and meet the properties personally,” said Robin Fox, luxury travel specialist at Worldview Travel in Manhattan. “They might have a local sales rep whom we know, but it’s nice to have these GMs from small hotels come and meet us personally. It’s all about bringing back those intimate one-on-one relationships that clients want in a five-star luxury property. And that’s what a travel agent can deliver when you have a relationship with the hotel. You say, ‘Make my client happy.’ And they do it for you.”

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