SLH targets ultra-luxury market with villa brand

Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) is planning to unveil a new private residence product, as it moves into the ultra luxury sector of the market.

SLH CEO Paul Kerr
SLH CEO Paul Kerr

Speaking with Travel Daily in Bangkok recently, SLH’s CEO Paul Kerr revealed that the ‘Private Residences by SLH’ brand will comprise a new portfolio of villas, lodges and yachts.

“It will be a real high-end product,” said Kerr. “The private villa concept will be able to deliver F&B on a standalone basis with private chefs, butlers and chauffeur services.”

Asked whether these products are being demanded by SLH’s existing club members, Kerr said this was “definitely a trend”. But he added that the concept is also being driven by SLH’s hotel owners.

“We had hotels asking us; ‘can you do anything for our villas and lodges?’ So this gives us a strong collection already. We’ll start with about 50 properties, all of which will be part of hotels that are already in SLH.”

In terms of general development, Kerr said SLH is looking for new projects in Tokyo and Fiji – the two markets that top the list of ‘unfulfilled searches’ on Chiang Mai and Cambodia, where SLH already has one hotel in each location, are also focus markets for future expansion.

China is also a major area of activity. The company recently set up a Chinese website and social media presence on Sina Weibo. And Kerr said SLH is actively trying to spread the word among hotel owners in the country.

“Chinese owners don’t necessarily know about the [SLH] brand so we’ve identified various hotels from the development point of view, from meeting with the architects,” Kerr said. “We’ve got a gentleman in Asia called Victor Wong (SLH’s area development director) who knows a lot of the architects and consultants. So we get to know about the developments and then we talk to the owners and explain the opportunities they have if they join SLH.”

SLH celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2014
SLH celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2015

And Kerr said it’s important to sign new hotel projects before they open.

“You have to [sign them early] otherwise you won’t get them. We’ve always taken pre-opening hotels, and if they’re not good enough within six months of opening we part company. But we’ve never had to invoke that rule.”

And SLH tends to establish relationships with owners it knows and trusts. Of the all the hotels in SLH’s global collection today, Kerr revealed there are “probably only about 25 owners”. It also rejects approximately 90% of the estimated 500 new hotel member inquiries it gets each year.

And it’s this relationship with existing owners that has enabled SLH to move into the ultra high-end private villa market. This new product will launch in approximately three months time.

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