With a move in September 2018 by Jean-François Ferret from Relais et Châteaux to Small Luxury Hotels – taking over the role of CEO for the group, we caught up with him for a chat at ILTM Cannes…

New roll, new horizons, new position. How did this all come about?

Well it is so nice. You have the same industry, it’s the same kind of positioning, with some differentiators. Relais et Châteaux was more cuisine-driven and SLH is more hotel-business driven. Same positioning: high end, luxury, small, but with SLH it’s more balanced in terms of portfolio, where Relais et Châteaux was very French. SLH has a good balance between the three regions – EMEA, the Americas, and Asia, and also, I am very happy to say that it is very well-balanced in terms of types of property: resorts, country houses and city centre, which was not the case at Relais et Châteaux where country houses were the main part of the portfolio.

What are your main goals in this new position?

The goal is to keep on improving the quality of the properties, so we already did a huge amount of work to improve the quality of the portfolio of properties and we will keep on going in that direction. I don’t have any quantitative objectives to grow the network, I just want to attract the best, I want to continue to increase the credibility of the brand.

What have been your first observations since taking your new role? What are the key aspects and key assets of the brand?

The key is the portfolio, which is very nice and very well-balanced, and the other is the team which is very engaged and committed and very strong in sales and marketing, so the company is really sales driven. That is something unique.

What is new this year at ILTM?

The main news happened last week, which was the launch of the partnership with Hyatt. We closed the partnership, wherein members of the loyalty program of Hyatt can redeem their points in SLH properties. This is not a joint venture or a takeover, this is just another sales channel for the SLH properties; but very powerful, because the Hyatt brand is only high end, it is still family owned and the values of Hyatt are taking care. So, it is exactly the right partner for us, and while it only started last week, it is already bringing a lot of bookings and a lot of business.

What about new properties?

Each year, we have around 50 new properties coming in, so it is a kind of rolling business. We have 540 properties, and each year we have between 40 and 50 new ones. So, it is growing quite fast, but as we are also improving the quality, we are also making sure that if we have quality issues we stop the relationship.