They managed it. Thanks to the determination and thoughtfulness of the Ueberroth family, the long-awaited Global Conference of Preferred Hotels & Resorts took place in Boston, 16-18 November 2021. About 250 delegates took part: I must be unusually vague as at least one in-person attendee had to pull out, for isolation, and there were throughout an unstated number of virtual partipants.
This was the first chance to meet up, finally, with long-time friends, and make new ones. It was also a near-unique occasion to see how a hotel experience can become symbiotic to a major event. Host property Encore Boston Harbor is a member of Preferred and its hands-on EVP Damien O’Riordan was a prominent player throughout.
The carefully-devised schedule opened with a stylish cocktail, and entertainment from Red Sox and similar mascots. Preferred CEO Lindsey Ueberroth opened business proceedings by showing belief in travel is already more than apparent. Yes, trips might be more local or regional and, more likely than before, bookings travel as multi-generational units, and with pets.
Of the two days of back-to-back educationals, two stand out. First, naturally, was the presentation by Costas Christ, CEO of Beyond Green Travel, which Preferred Hotel Group purchased as soon as they could to bring ESG and sustainability into the massive PHG portfolio and, at the same time, provide this commendable initiative with significant back-engine support.
Costas Christ showed, although it was barely needed, that all current polls reveal that a massive majority of consumers, advisors and MICE planners take sustainability, which includes interaction with locale, into choice of product. There are now over 30 hotels and resorts fully accredited to Beyond Green, and nearly double that number about to finalise.
The other stand-out talk showed Preferred’s willingness to think 360°, outside the basic realms of travel and hospitality. Debra Searle, still a teenage-look Brit, was abandoned by her companion two weeks into the 2001-2002 Ward Evans Atlantic Rowing Challenge from Tenerife to Barbados. Never having rowed before, she carried on, alone for 111 days. 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, 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.
I had the privilege of hosting a spontaneous fireside chat with father-and-daughter, John and Lindsey Ueberroth. Yes, this is a family-owned travel company, and senior management exhibit similar caring professionalism.
President Michelle Woodley, a 17-year veteran, stressed that change creates opportunity; Chief Communications Officer Caroline Klein led a four-strong panel on luxury’s senses and VP HR Greg Smith’s panel on talent showed understanding of immediate concerns.
Oh, and by the way the food was superb. Take the light and fluffy chive-topped scrambled eggs on breakfast buffets, next to perfect, tasty, strawberries. One lunch buffet had moist salmon alongside spare ribs – and would you like a glass of wine or a craft beer (hear that, organisers of hotel investment conferences?)? This global conference was more than worth waiting for. Well done, Preferred, and keep it up.
Lead image: Travel advisor panel at the 2021 Global Conference of Preferred Hotels & Resorts.