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December 13, 2011updated Feb 26, 2013

Paul Kerr

By Chris Boyle

Paul Kerr

Chief Executive OfficerSmall Luxury Hotels of the World

Paul Kerr may run a global representative group for over 500 luxury properties, but the CEO of Small Luxury Hotels (SLH) makes no apologies that his background is as an accountant. Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief caught up with Kerr during The International Luxury Travel Mart for a quick update on the numbers and school day fun.

ET: Tell us about SLH’s history?

Paul Kerr: We started in 1991 with 75 hotels in 12 countries. Today we have 520 hotels in 75 countries with over 25,000 rooms. When we started two percent of our hotels were in Asia/Pacific, today its 23 percent and we have gone from no hotels in China to 16 in a very short time.

ET: What distinguishes SLH hotels?

Paul Kerr: The hotels are all individually owned with the exception of two small groups which are exceptionally owned. The bigger you get, the harder it is to give personalized service. Our largest hotel is 192 rooms and that’s in Hong Kong and our smallest is six rooms. The average size is 50 rooms so the staff and the owner know the guests, know what they like, know what they don’t like so the service is personalized. It also means our hotels reflect the local culture.

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ET: Do you distinguish the types of hotels you have in the portfolio?

Paul Kerr: We have a pretty even division of Resorts, Country Homes and City Center hotels.

ET: Where are your biggest sources markets for customers?

Paul Kerr: The top five are the U.S, U.K, Germany, Australia and Canada.

ET: Are your customers interested in technology?

Paul Kerr: We just launched an iPhone, iPad app and already have had 55,000 downloads.

ET: Is there a loyalty program?

Paul Kerr: The Club is our loyalty program. It has three levels. Special, Loved and Honored and as you probably figured out its acronym is SLH. We give free nights, early-check-in, late check-out. You can be honored with five bookings a year. That’s the top level.

ET: Does the fact that your hotels are small offer anything unique for guests?

Paul Kerr: We have several hotels with their own vineyards and the owner will take you out personally. We have a hotel in the Czech Republic where you can create your own cosmetics.

ET: Are there any new programs you are looking at?

Paul Kerr: Here in Europe we have Gap Year, which is between school you take a year off. I am thinking why do the kids get all the fun? We are working on a Gap Year program for adults which would enable you to stay at various SLH properties over a period of several months. We’ll tell you more in the future.

ET: How about new properties and areas of expansion?

Paul Kerr: We will add 49 hotels this year, including 25 in Europe, 11 in the Americas and 13 in Asia/Pacific. We’ve filled in some key spots such as Lyon and Luxembourg, Morocco, Costa Rica. We have a new hotel in Nairobi that will have the top suite product in the city. We also have a great new hotel in Stockholm and in Austria we just added a ski-in, ski-out hunting lodge about 45 minutes from Salzburg. We should get to 550 by the end of 2012.

ET: Any places you want to be that you are not?

Paul Kerr: Our top destination for unfulfilled searches, meaning our customers are looking for a hotel and we don’t have one is Hawaii. We’ve had 3,000 searches this year so we would like Hawaii.

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