Three years after being named president of the family run Preferred Hotels Group, Lindsey Ueberroth has replaced her father as CEO.
Part of a long-thought out succession plan, her appointment was no surprise. But it comes at an exciting time for independent luxury hotels, and on the heels of three years of solid growth under Ueberroth as president.
Ueberroth, 38, was named president in 2010, at the tail end of the economic downturn.
“It’s so ironic because the downturn for us was some of our most successful years in terms of growth,” she said.
“When all was said and done, a lot of people said, ‘Hey, I really need the support of a global sales and marketing organization that can get us buying power.”
The company now has about 650 hotels, up from about 500 three years ago, she said.
During much of the last few years, Ueberroth said, she has focused on creating a portfolio of niche collections under the Preferred brand and overhauling the loyalty program.
Work on the iPrefer loyalty program, she said, is the recent accomplishment she is most proud of.
“We were able to evolve that from a recognition program that had soft benefits to the first points loyalty program for an independent chain,” Ueberroth said.
Offering both points and recognition are key for the luxury market, she said.
“With 650 hotels, we still have certain customers who are still traveling for corporate travel. And they really want those points,” she said.
Luxury travelers, however, are also looking for the recognition and extra benefits that come with special tier rankings in the program, she said. “Some of the wealthiest people are still very proud of their tier."
Looking ahead, with father still offering the big-picture view from the chairman’s seat, Ueberroth said Preferred will be focused on what has become they key word in luxury: experience.
Another top priority, she says, is China and its exploding outbound tourism market.
“We want to be considered experts in China,” she said.
Ueberroth says the company has launched a “China ready” program to grow brand recognition in the country and “be considered by the Chinese travelers as a group of hotels that really understands their needs when they are traveling.
“There are a lot of very wealthy Chinese travelers.”