Relief, HAPPINESS AND OPTIMISM were just some of the reactions of the 252 delegates at the long-awaited, much-delayed GLOBAL CONFERENCE OF PREFERRED HOTELS AND RESORTS, held at ENCORE BOSTON HARBOR 16-18 November 2021. As you can read below, it was a catch-up of old friends, an opportunity for new networking and a rare chance for face-to-face education. BELIEVE IN TRAVEL was not only the theme but the overall message.
It was also a near-unique occasion to see how the hotel experience was so symbiotic to the whole event. Not only is Encore a member of Preferred – Encore EVP Damien O’Riordan was a prominent delegate throughout – it is a hotel that was expressly built to accommodate specific events’ demands.
Anyway, let us first go through the carefully-devised schedule. On the business front, Preferred CEO LINDSEY UEBERROTH opened proceedings by showing BELIEVE IN TRAVEL IS ALREADY APPARENT. Just as the hoteliers, suppliers and other delegates here at Boston Harbor showed, at least a highly significant percentage of consumers are similarly eager to travel once again, albeit probably locally or regionally, and, more likely than before, as a multi-generational unit, and with pets.
Debra Searle provided a thought-provoking insight into RESILIENCE ADDS ADVANTAGE. This strip of a teenage-look Brit, abandoned by her companion two weeks into the 2001-2002 Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge from Tenerife to Barbados, carried on alone. A made-on-the-spot mental assessment allowed her to judge daily if she thought she was about to be eaten by a shark, zero, through to arriving in Barbados, 10. Continual threats also included container ships, and storms that switched her 2-1 watch-relax schedule to non-stop 24/7 watch. But she made it. And today this now-professional motivational speaker is indeed inspiring. Positivity is contagious is her message (she also knows that to wear a MEDITERRANEAN BLUE ONESIE ADDS TO LASTING IMPACT).
JOHN UEBERROTH AND LINDSEY UEBERROTH, in a seemingly spontaneous fireside chat with Mary Gostelow, reminded everyone, if that was needed, that Preferred is a family-owned travel company, which resonates so easily with many of the hoteliers present. Claude Rath’s octogenarian owner and his nephew, for instance, will never sell the old man’s 1926-vintage Hôtel Napoléon Paris. Similarly, thinking of the recently-opened community-centric Londoner, in Leicester Square, GM Charles Oak revealed that its owner, Jasminder Singh, recently helped by one of his children, had badgered and battled authorities for four decades.
It does seem that as well as the Ueberroths every member of senior Preferred management feels, and communicates, as extended-family. Without exception, too, all those onstage were highly professional speakers. President Michelle Woodley, a 17-year veteran, stressed that change creates opportunity; Chief Communications Officer Caroline Klein commendably led a four-strong panel on luxury’s senses for what must have seemed, to all participants, an eternity. VP HR Greg Smith’s panel on talent was not nearly long enough, for that audience. New Preferred relation Costas Christ, President/CEO of Beyond Green Travel, which the Uberroths when he was still setting it up, had a range of statistics all showing that at least a majority of consumers demand sustainability (he now has 30 properties, not all Preferred, accredited, and 50 nearly there).
There was education on geopolitics, technology and wellness, and eating and drinking. And on the last two points, a lot of it was sandwiched into a short time. Tuesday’s OPENING RECEPTION, preceded by a welcoming hello for a few GMs to feel at home, showed walk-arounds and buffets work wonderfully when you have a-plenty, of space, trays of drinks and food, and if you can pull in mascots from the Red Sox and other local teams. SEE THE VIDEO BELOW. Food standards at breakfasts and lunches were also far above pre-pandemic industry norms. For more meal memories and hotel highlights, read tomorrow.