A new travel Landscape

Cheryl Williams, Chief Revenue Officer for Preferred Hotels & Resorts, is betting big on creativity, flexibility, and local markets to grow new revenue streams. Change in travel landscape brings opportunity to re-energise, reimagine, and rethink processes.

Lipla Negi

For Cheryl Williams, her appointment as the Chief Revenue Officer at Preferred Hotels & Resorts has come at a pivotal time. Indeed, so much has changed since the onset of the pandemic, “how people travel, where they travel, and why they travel,” she said. However, focussing beyond the recent setbacks, she perceives this change in the travel landscape as an “opportunity to re-energise, reimagine, and rethink processes and our suite of products and services.”

In this newly created executive position, Williams will lead the brand’s commercial efforts, working with department leaders to drive revenue for its expanding global portfolio of 650 hotels in 80 countries. Upbeat about the challenges, Williams is determined to expand the brand’s footprints and strengthen alliances. “I am getting to know our teams around the world and analysing our current position so that I can focus my energies on our desired future state and strategic priorities.”

Expanding Asia Pacific Portfolio

Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ Asia Pacific portfolio consists of nearly 140 properties, and Williams is confident that the company is in great shape to further develop its footprint in new markets. The company’s expanding portfolio mirrors this confidence.

In the past 12 months, the brand has welcomed five member hotels in the region, including THE Park Kolkata in India and The Soaltee Kathmandu in Nepal, its first property in the destination. She added, “We are also pleased to have grown our long-standing alliance with The Leela Palaces, Hotels, and Resorts within this same timeframe.”

The India portfolio of the brand, in particular, looks stellar and ultra-luxurious right now. “With the addition of The Leela Bhartiya City Bengaluru and The Leela Jaipur in late 2021, we represent 10 of the multi-award-winning group’s ultra-luxurious properties in India and there are plans to grow the alliance in the coming months and into 2023,” she said. The summer of 2022 shines bright with promising partnerships. She apprised, “We have also expanded our master partnership with The Fullerton Hotels & Resorts—the renowned Singaporean hotel brand with two best-in-class properties in Singapore and one in Sydney, which will launch The Fullerton Ocean Park Hotel Hong Kong with us this summer.”

Revenue optimisation

From a brand perspective, Williams knows that 2022 represents a new travel landscape, and thus asserted, “Our approach is to stay nimble with strategies that can adapt to the ever changing needs of our hotels and clients, while being mindful of opportunities to create efficiencies and new revenue streams.” She said, “We have grown our teams globally so that we are ready for the rebound and well positioned for the anticipated demand.”

Staying connected with guests

Deliberating on the effect of the pandemic on both human and business levels, she elucidated, “On a human level, we have all had to get really good at doing something new in recent times. How we work has changed significantly, with work from home days and employees previously based in offices now working remotely. From the property level, creativity has been crucial, and many hoteliers celebrated successes during the worst of the pandemic when they leaned in to creating experiences based on the immediate needs of the traveller and stayed connected with guests and the surrounding community.”

A closer look at her strategy for brand outreach in 2022 reveals that it is heavily reliant on creativity, leading to customer connection. She shared, “In the last two years, Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ parent company, Preferred Hotel Group, has ushered in some exciting updates to its family of brands—most notably with the spring 2021 launch of sustainable hotel brand Beyond Green—and valuable enhancements to ‘I Prefer Hotel Rewards’, our guest loyalty programme, which has a growing membership of over four million travellers globally.”

MICE is once again gaining traction

Acknowledging the fact that the MICE business was the hardest hit and slower to return as compared to leisure travel, she said, “Due to the nature of MICE travel, our industry was prepared for a slow return, and the ups and downs that followed the Delta and Omicron variants further stunted progress, so it is great to see green shoots of recovery.” At the same time, William sees the return of MICE driving hotel demand in 2022 as she added, “Lead activity for meetings and events this year is at 2019 levels, and our talented global group sales team is busy fielding international group inquiries for late 2022 and 2023.” Importantly, major industry events like IMEX Frankfurt are back this year, signalling a growing appetite for group travel and corporate events.

More for members

The takeaways from the past two years have become the guiding lessons for most brands in the hospitality business, and William, too, is counting on those lessons, “To ensure Preferred continues to thrive, we are paying attention to learnings from the past two years, monitoring future production to identify potential changes to booking patterns, and broadening all account opportunities to reduce reliance on any one segment for a well-balanced business mix. We are also focused on creating unique experiences, value, and flexibility for ‘I Prefer Members’, including options to redeem points for free nights and other offers.”

Local markets remain invaluable

Optimism dominates the brand’s outlook in 2022 as William shared, “Our business continues to lead with leisure business, with group travel coming back sooner and stronger than expected; we are also optimistic about corporate business travel and are starting to see this reflected in booking data.”

Betting big on local markets and experience that goes beyond the hotel stays, she said, “Local markets have been invaluable for many of our hotel members, particularly in coastal and rural areas. As we move forward, expect to see hotels ramping up revenue beyond the traditional room and hotel services, partnering on local experiences that extend beyond the hotel stay.”