Skift Take

As the big hotel companies increase their focus on soft brand collections, it'll become even tougher for collections like Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Relais & Châteaux, and Leading Hotels of the World to compete. Ferret has some stiff competition to battle in the coming years.

Jean-François Ferret has been named the new CEO of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Source: Small Luxury Hotels of the World

London-based Small Luxury Hotels of the World, a collection of more than 500 independent hotels worldwide, will have a new chief executive starting in September.

Jean-François Ferre will succeed Filip Boyen, who has been CEO since October 2015.

Ferret most recently served as CEO of Paris-based Relais & Châteaux, a competitor to SLH, for the past six years. According to his LinkedIn profile, he left the company in March. At Relais, he focused primarily on growing the collection’s brand awareness, international sales, and the development of a new digital platform. He also served as director general of Hertz France and the managing director and president of Manpower France, and has held positions with American Express Travel and with Thomas Cook, both in France.

SLH announced the hiring Monday.

Challenges Ahead for Independent Hotel Collections

In the same announcement regarding Ferret’s appointment, SLH announced Filip Boyen’s resignation after serving as CEO for the past three years. Boyen is still serving as CEO but will step down when Ferret becomes CEO in the fall.

Update: On Wednesday, July 25, it was announced that Filip Boyen will be joining Forbes Travel Guide as its new CEO, replacing longtime Forbes Travel Guide CEO Jerry Inzerillo, who will serve as vice chairman of its board of directors.

Boyen, also a travel and hospitality executive with more than 30 years of experience, sat down and spoke with Skift earlier this year about the challenges facing collections such as SLH.

At the time, Boyen said he didn’t see any negative impact from the proliferation of soft brand collections from major hotel companies such as Marriott and Hilton. These soft brands act very similarly to groups such as SLH, hoping to attract independent hotels to their platforms by adding them to their distribution channels and marketing campaigns for fees that cost nearly as much as the fees for a branded hotel.

SLH and others, including Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Leading Hotels of the World, similarly promote, market, and sell these independent hotels to consumers and to the trade.

If anything, Boyen said, the proliferation of soft brands has had a positive effect on the hotel industry overall.

“What it does is it puts our hoteliers on their toes again,” Boyen said. “It’s got their attention, right? They really have to create those experiences for the clients, and use their advantages to do that. Because I always say, to provide what modern luxury travelers want today is a lot easier than it was 20 years ago.”

Another potential challenge for groups like SLH will be competition from other distribution channels, such as Expedia and Booking Holdings, or even newer entrants such as Airbnb, all of whom are hoping to bring more independent hotels onto their respective platforms. Expedia, in particular, has launched a number of new tools in recent years specifically designed to help independent hoteliers with their marketing, revenue management, and booking needs.

And, as Boyen noted in February, the shift we’re seeing in how today’s luxury travelers want to experience luxury is also having an impact on how hoteliers define luxury travel.

The key to defining luxury today, Boyen said, is flexibility and the fact that modern travelers “are tired of the predictability of big, established luxury hotel brands.”

Tackling the shifts in luxury travel, as well as competition from major hotel brands and distribution channels will certainly define Ferret’s tenure at SLH.

“Small Luxury Hotels of the World has gone through significant change in the last few years,” Ferret noted in a statement announcing his appointment, “and I look forward to leading the talented international teams in further strengthening the brand’s operations and global footprint.”

Skift Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to note that outgoing Small Luxury Hotels of the World CEO Filip Boyen has landed at Forbes Travel Guide as its new CEO.

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Tags: ceos, luxury, small luxury hotels

Photo credit: A superior room at The Ampersand Hotel in London, which is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. The collection of luxury independent hotels has appointed a new CEO. Small Luxury Hotels of the World

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