As you may have seen from some of my tweets yesterday, I attended the launch of Preferred Hotel Group’s brand new programme “Preferred Family” which was hosted at the stunning Edwardian Chancery Court hotel in London, part of Preferred’s collection. Also attending where the General Managers of The Royal Horseguards and The Hempel – both properties that before today would not spring to mind as young child friendly – this intrigued me even more. So no prizes for guessing what a Preferred Family programme might be, but actually, Preferred Hotel Group have really take the concept a stage further and created an innovative and engaging concept. They’ve thought about this from both a child and parents point of view and improved their offering to ensure everyone gets something out of this.I’ll show you how.
Preferred Hotel Group are a leading provider of sales and marketing services to independent hotels around the world – The Preferred Family collection features a broad range of global experiences designed to enrich and enhance family travel. Each hotel, resort and retreat of Preferred Hotel Group provides personalised service, unique experiences and memorable activities for families. This new programme is recognisable from its new certified logo and really puts this certification programme into action along with an online resource and search engine for families in and outside of the UK designed to highlight specific amenities and unique activities.
At the launch, Lindsey Ueberroth, President of Preferred Hotel Group spoke passionately about this concept and why they had taken the step of creating this collection. She commented: “As a family and as a family-owned business, we understand that time spent with loved ones on holiday is some of the most precious in life. The Preferred Family Collection celebrates the specific needs of travelling families by matching exceptional family hotel experiences with the greatest destinations. These hotels and resorts represent a unique dedication to understanding and embracing guests of all ages.”
So, add a new logo to your website and job done? Nope. Not this time. So often I see nothing new developed by hotels other than to start advertising how child friendly they are (tour operators are especially guilty of this in the UK). There’s also no point in creating a new programme and not allow it to be fully searchable on your website – no one will find it. But Preferred Hotel Group are working with their hotel properties to develop engaging concepts and activity for their younger guests. For instance, book a Preferred Family Certified hotel and the little one gets a delightful little suitcase style bag complete with teddy bear, disposable camera and mini passport so they can truly be a part of discovering the great destination. They have also designed rather cute mini bath robes for the younger guests and the hotels that are part of the collection have a strict criteria to meet to be included, meaning they have to show how they will make the stay all the more special.
This is a really interesting concept. What we are seeing is that family travel is gaining more and more importance. This is a changing market and in general, the economic climate means that people are really valuing and super researching their travel, more so than ever before. If I was a previous lover of Preferred Hotel Groups properties, having children may make me think that these incredible hotels may not be the perfect fit for my new family shape. However the properties are sowing great innovation to make sure that no mater how your family changes, they have the right package for you all to enjoy their hotel. They value every guests – the paying parents and the children and want to make everyone welcome.
In your hotel, there are very simple things you can do to recognise all of your guests, no matter how small. It’s these little touches that will prove how diverse and welcoming you can be. There were lots of great examples of such adaptations and ideas from the general managers in the room yesterday, but I particularly liked one activity from The Royal Horseguards hotel. Most top end London hotels put on a great afternoon tea and the popularity of such events continues to rise. At this hotel, they’ve taken this on board and designed the perfect family afternoon tea. Head Pastry Chef Joanne Todd has handcrafted a “Mini-Tea” which comes complete with colouring in activities. The hotel has really innovated their menu to incorporate younger guests and has put a twist on the usual afternoon tea offerings – this rather tasty menu consists of sparkly fairy cakes, traffic light fruit kebab, milk chocolate dinosaurs, alphabet wholeweat shortbread and white chocolate and raspberry puzzle – and of course a delicious rainbow smoothie. I don’t know about you, but I think I’d prefer this afternoon team myself!
So, once you’ve developed a great concept, then what? Add a badge to your website and that’s it? Of course not, and Preferred Hotel Group have created a dedicated brand website for their collection. But, they do a great job of recognising that every family is different, in terms of taste, age range and ideas of what they want from a hotel stay. One thing I find very uninspiring about online travel (and I write about this a lot) is enjoying finding my dream hotel/holiday. I find search forms far too broad and I end up scrolling through pages and pages of hotels that all look the same. I was really pleased to see that Preferred Hotel Group thought about this and instead of directly copying content from their main site, they added new search criteria and information to their pages. For example, very detailed age brackets and interests. Simply start searching and narrow your key criteria and your results list will dynamically change before your eyes. Much easier, wouldn’t you say?
I really think that this programme will be a great success – built on a strong family principle and understanding by the companies owners and delivered into a programme to not only attract new business, but retain their existing and changing customer base too.