Preferred Hotels & Resorts is the world’s largest independent hotel brand, providing global sales, marketing, reputation management, distribution and guest loyalty services to more than 650 distinctive independent luxury hotels, resorts, residences and hotel groups in 85 countries.
Caroline Michaud, vice president of corporate communication and public relations, talked with RewardExpert about the company’s appeal five decades after its inception.
In 1968 Preferred Hotels Association was founded by 12 independent North American hoteliers, as a referral organization for hotels featuring similar service and high standards.
The company turned global pretty fast, prior to transitioning into a for-profit stock corporation in the early 1990s under a new holding company called IndeCorp, or Independent Hotel Corporation.
In 2004 John Ueberroth became IndeCorp’s largest shareholder and was named board chairman and CEO. The family grew the company, with John’s daughter, Lindsey, now serving as president and CEO.
Wisdom in experience
Michaud said being in the business for nearly 50 years separates the company apart from “soft brands” and others entering the market.
All of Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ hotels meet award-winning Preferred Global Standards of Excellence, determined using a two-part system: Combining traditional site inspections with a customized reputation management tool that provides real-time quality assurance scoring.
“We’ve always been about authentic, independent travel and we always will be,” Michaud said.
While hotel chains are expanding their portfolios via brand acquisition, Preferred Hotels & Resorts is already ahead of the curve. The company underwent a rebranding in 2015, centering on a singular identity and focusing on upscale and upper scale luxury within five distinct collections: Connect, Lifestyle, LVX, Legend and Preferred Residences.
“These collections provide a more intuitive way for travelers to identify the best independent hotel experience that fits their needs for each individual travel occasion, whether they need a centrally-located hotel for a business trip, or a luxurious getaway for a special celebration,” she said.
The benefits of consumerism
Offering independent hotel experiences the ability to combat chain brands, Preferred re-launched iPrefer in August 2013. Originally created for soft benefits, the new features provide a structure in which points can be redeemed at 600 worldwide hotels for free nights and on-property expenditures, such as dining, spa, complimentary internet and welcome amenities — all based on member status.
The flexibility of the system provides appeal to both consumers and hotels, Michaud said, while the company also maintains strategic partnerships with other mileage and points programs, like airline frequent flyer programs.
“Being budget-conscious doesn’t necessarily mean that travelers have to stay at a budget hotel or compromise on their travel experience,” she added. “Budget-conscious travelers should maximize the benefits of a rewards program, like iPrefer, to earn instant on-property perks and rewards to be redeemed towards future travelers.”
If travelers book a Last Minute Escape, rates can be advantage of up to 35 percent off — earning double points in the process.
Anniversary on the horizon
The year 2018 is big for the company: it will celebrate its 50th anniversary.
As part of the festivities, a newly-designed website will debut to better celebrate the company’s heritage and showcase member hotels — as well as offering consumers more experiences through social media channels and special booking offers.
Michaud said the company will continue to grow its Preferred Residences Collection, which gives travelers qualified and quality service beyond the scope of a company like Airbnb.
“Our global development team continues to work diligently to expand our brand portfolio with exciting new hotels and resorts in key travel markets for the upscale and upper scale luxury traveler,” she said.