Claire Leslie of The Luxury Group

Claire Leslie has always loved traveling. She has headed up the Sales and Marketing of Cliveden House and the St. Regis Bangkok and worked for several other leading properties. Now, Claire has launched her own business focusing on Sales, PR and Marketing for luxury boutique hotels. 

What brought you to the hospitality industry?  

My parents instilled a deep desire to travel the world by making languages a priority at school and taking us to various countries on holidays.  After university a good friend encouraged me to do a ski season in France, then I enrolled in an Operation Raleigh venture in Belize and by that time travel was firmly in my blood! Making a living out of travel and new experiences is a happy outcome.

What aspects of hotel representation do you deal with?  

I set up the business expecting to represent Asian luxury hotels in the UK so that I could make the most of the 6 years I spent working for luxury hotels and spas in Bangkok.  In reality I quickly gained English luxury hotels as clients.  

I think this is because I have a wide experience of sales, marketing, digital marketing and PR skills so I can help clients with various issues. In the UK the independent hotel sector is small and close knit, so once you do a good piece of work for one hotelier, you are soon referred.  

Good reason for me to keep working hard!

Why is it important for hotels to have an externalrepresentative wing in your opinion?  

I wouldn’t insist on external support as essential, unless perhaps the team had all been in place for a long time and a fresh perspective was required.  I think change is good and this could come in a variety of ways. 

It is really important to introduce new people to the business, either through inter-property transfers (using links between Relais & Chateaux properties or Pride of Britain hotels for example) or by bringing external consultants on board for a period of time. This forces you to look at the systems and practices in a new light, try new things, and borrow ideas from other sectors or even other hotels who have brought about positive change.

What is essential, is that hotel sales and PR representatives are proactive.  Alongside a brilliant digital marketing campaign, there is no substitute for face-to-face and telephone sales calls.

Some of your favourite destinations?  

Antibes is always glamorous and fun for a long weekend and I like the Belles Rives Hotel for its Art Deco or the new rooms at the Cap d’Antibes Beach Hotel. Further afield I adore the beauty and simplicity of a holiday on Skopelos with delicious Greek food in places including Agnanti in Glossa.

What is trending in 2015?  

As I spent so many years in Asia working with health resorts and spas, my eye is always tuned to new and trusted wellness holiday destinations.  For a comprehensive detox there is no place better than Kamalaya on Koh Samui and I am looking forward to trying the new fitness centre and spa suites there in December.  I read about Viva Mayr opening a third location in Austria this year too, so the demand for effective programmes and resorts continues to be prevalent in Europe as well.  

The UK has finally woken up to the importance of good nutrition, and places like Kamalaya and Viva Mayr support this for a kind of annual MOT.

In your experience what are the most common mistakes independent hotels make in their Sales and Marketing efforts & what can be done to improve these areas?  

I think it is crucial to regularly challenge the systems that independent hotels use, such as their Property Management System, to ensure they are making the most of new products. It is natural when you are a small business to keep doing things the same way because the staff know how the system works and it appears to be effective. 

Changing systems means you look objectively at your business, you refresh all the packaging and pricing, and revisit what is important to the guest on their journey from booking their holiday to staying in touch after they leave.

Digital marketing is hugely important to hotels and I am regularly working with clients to decide how to embrace this for their properties based on their customer profiles.  

There are so many amazing methods of reaching customers through video, websites, social and interactive advertising. 

Hotels get to know their guests so well during the multiple interactions they have during their booking, their stay and their connection with staff, and memories are made while travelling and having new experiences so the potential with digital developments to tap into these emotional bonds is really exciting!

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