SINGAPORE, Dec 10 — Frequent travellers in the know would recognise the SLH logo. And not just when they see them in the lobbies of their favourite luxury properties — whether it’s a beach resort like Twin Palms in Phuket or a city hideout such as L’Hotel in Paris — the one where Oscar Wilde spent his last days.
“We have an impressive choice of hotels — geographically, type of property, the kind of experiences you want. The collection of hotels we have is not homogenous,” revealed the man in charge of SLH, Paul Kerr.
The 58-year-old CEO now has over 520 properties in 70 countries and is constantly globe-trotting to look out for more.
“It never ends. In Europe alone, there are over 80,000 independent hotels. In fact, I’m looking for a lovely hotel in the Amazon forest when I travel to Brazil, possibly next year.”
You’ve been in the business for more than 30 years. How has the idea of luxury travel changed?
Paul Kerr: Luxury used to be about hardware — marble floors, beautiful bathtub, size of bed, etc. Now it’s about having flexibility and choices in terms of your experiences, you expect the concierge to know what’s going on, the local activities you can participate in. Service has to be genuine. You’re not looking for a fake smile or the staff to know your name sort of thing anymore.
What’s the most memorable luxurious travel experience you have had?
I love sailing and one particular trip I had was sailing from Phuket to Koh Racha. I went to the Racha hotel where there’s a great spa and a gym with a view. I had a fantastic meal there, enjoying the weather before going to Zeavola where I then had tom yum martinis on the beach.
Since your job is centred around hotels and vacations, where do you travel to for a real holiday?
I sail around the Mediterranean. It’s impossible to have a favourite port or country in the Mediterranean. There are great wines in Portugal and you know you won’t be able to buy the best wines in stores as the Portugese keep them for themselves. In Sicily, you can see live volcanoes errupting in the Aeolian Islands. In Andalucia, Spain, you’d enjoy the best ham with dry sherry. Absolutely brilliant. They’re all so amazing yet so diverse.
Do you ever encounter bad travel moments?
No, even the bad ones can become fun. I remember when I was in Mexico, I had to go through a terribly bumpy road. It was a long ride and chickens were flying across the cars left, right and centre. I was thinking the driver should really slow down. If I’ve to pick my travelling pet peeve, it’d be traffic.
Best travel tip you can share?
Go with the flow. If you’re not the sort, be incredibly organised so things won’t go as wrong or have someone organise things for you. — Today