Preferred Hotels' European GMs see value in independence

European hotels in the Preferred Hotel Group are finding new value in independence. Hotel Management’s Editorial Director Ruthanne Terrero sat down for a roundtable with several GMs of these hotels earlier this year in New York in conjunction with their annual meeting to get the inside insight on what visitors to Europe want and how operating independently can offer an edge. Here are some excerpts of their comments that ran in Hotel Management's sister publication. For a full look, click here.

Ruthanne Terrero, Hotel Management: What is happening in your regions that is having an impact on your business? If you have new hotels opening up in your area, what are you doing to keep up, remain fresh? 

Fergal O’Connell, The Fitzwilliam Hotel: U.S. travel to Ireland has been very strong over the last two years; particularly last year, the U.S. was just phenomenal, and at the luxury end, it has been very, very strong. Connectivity, particularly between the East Coast and Ireland, had been very strong. We now have connectivity into San Francisco as well and that’s going to open up the whole West Coast.

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Bruno Chiaruttini, L’Hotel du Collectionneur: Paris has had a lot of hotels closing for refurbishment in the past few years and there’s a lot of new inventory coming on as well. In the very upscale category there’s a lot of competition; we’re talking about an average rate of €1,000 a night.

We had big changes at the end of 2012—a change of name (from Hilton Arc de Triomphe Paris), so a change of brand, and a change of strategy. We invested about €200,000 just in training in 2013 and we’re ready to do more in 2014. We went from a four-star to a five-star hotel. It’s the largest five-star hotel in France, so it’s a big challenge. We have seen while moving from four-star to five-star that the guest doesn’t have the time and the patience, so we need to deliver the promise that we make. That’s what we we’re going to concentrate on in 2014.

Ruthanne Terrero: Does being an independent hotel give you an edge?

Rene Zimmer, Finca Cortesin: Being an independent hotel brings us back to our roots. As a general manager, you are in the lobby, you are speaking directly to the guests, and then you report directly to the owner. If you want to change something, you don’t have to check the rules and what the procedure is. As independent hotels, we are personalized, we are authentic and we have a special character. We try to employ mostly local staff. That’s an advantage. 

Bruno Chiaruttini: I very much agree with Rene. As an independent hotelier, you have the best of both worlds. You have the advantage of being part of Preferred Hotel Group, which gives great comfort to guests, but it also gives you the flexibility to create a very peaceful, unique experience.

Michael Davern, The K Club: In many ways, as the general manager, you’re setting the tone. Not a head office, not a corporate office, you. It gives you great flexibility.