Leading Hotels of the World to Launch First Comprehensive Advisor Program

Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) is creating the first comprehensive travel advisor program in its 90-year history, according to newly named CEO Shannon Knapp, speaking to TravelPulse. Knapp, who was named CEO in October after serving as interim CEO since April, said individual hotels have had strong relationships with travel agent consortia but she wants “our entire organization to help advisors be heroes to their clients.”

As a result, said Knapp, LHW is putting together an “engagement” program to deepen the relationship, scheduled to debut late in 2020 or early in 2021. It will include education, data, insights, customer information and a loyalty component. It will be a holistic solution, said Knapp, which is why it will take time to develop.

With “a new leader and a new decade,” said Knapp, LHW sees this as a good time to pursue a new strategy and a big part of that will be to develop the advisor program. The organization, she said, currently has 430 members in over 80 countries with a “healthy pipeline.”

In the big picture, said Knapp, LHW’s mission is to empower hotels to remain independent. “Our role for independents,” she said, is that “they are able to make the choice to stay independent when big brands come knocking at their door.”

Knapp said no other hospitality group has the same laser focus on independent luxury properties. She said LHW finds itself in an ideal position because travelers are increasingly looking for the kind of authentic, immersive experiences its members have always provided. Member hotels are 85 percent family-owned and 95 percent independently managed.

LHW, said Knapp, is investing significantly in data and technology to enable it to know the customer better so it can personalize experiences. In her five years as senior vice president and chief marketing officer of LHW, according to the company, she led breakthrough brand and data-driven marketing strategies, transformed the customer experience and accelerated brand loyalty.

Chris Walker, senior vice president – global sales, said loyal LHW customers are typically travel advisor customers “because they are seeking a one-stop-shop for their travels.” As a result, the organization sees an opportunity now to capitalize on that situation. “We believe in what agents do,” said Walker, “and we want to provide them with the information and tools they need.”

“We want to do something meaningful for advisors but we don’t want it to be ‘me too,’” said Walker. He added, “We are currently talking to agents about what they want and will figure out how we can deliver it.”

There will be a technology component to the advisor program, said Walker, ”because we want it to be valuable to the agent.”

Looking ahead, said Walker, LHW has a couple of other major initiatives in progress. One is exploring a mobile app. The other is fostering a larger brand presence through advertising, social media and any other tools available to get the LHW message across.

There will also be portfolio growth, said Walker, with opportunities seen in Asia and Latin America where loyal customers are seeking places to stay. But Walker asserted that LHW would not sacrifice quality in its drive to grow. And the focus will continue to be on family-owned independent luxury properties. While 3 percent to 5 percent of members are branded, said Walker, that is not typical. Family-owned hotels, said Walker, means owners tend to be passionate about what they do “and that’s why it’s our sweet spot.”

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