The Mr & Mrs Smith brand, ‘an irreverent reference to naughty weekends away’ according to the Head of brand partnerships and PR Aline Keuroghlian, has become synonymous with style-loving travellers finding and booking boutique hotels. The originally offline venture, founded by husband-and-wife team James Lohan and Tamara Heber Percy, has grown to having offices in London, Melbourne and New York with over 850 handpicked hotels in their growing collection as well a new Plan and Play app for hotel lovers.
The brand tapped into the boutique hotel trend that was just taking off in the UK in 2003, and set up their own publishing company to produce a ‘ground breaking’ guidebook. Sales of the first guide to UK and Ireland exceeded 15,000 in the first month. A free travel club card inside the books gave members incentives when they booked, including champagne on arrival, spa treatments and late check outs. The company saw a loyal and engaged membership base quickly move the business online to become a full-service boutique hotel provider. They now recommend and book hotels 24/7.
Luxury travel is a key sector within the travel industry with customers valuing expert advice and desiring a personalised service to give them an extraordinary travel experience. “Luxury is very subjective and doesn’t have to be about gold taps!” says Aline. “The defining things about hotels and private houses that are chosen to join the Mr & Mrs Smith stable are that they have the wow factor and thoughtful personal touches. Style with substance; comfort; and something that makes it stand out from the crowd.”
Aline confirms that hotels can’t buy their way into the Mr & Mrs Smith collection: “Every hotel is handpicked, personally visited by a member of the Smith team and anonymously reviewed by tastemakers like Raymond Blanc, Stella McCartney, Dita von Teese and many others… Every hotel is judged on style, service and value for money; not on diamonds, stars or rosettes and our roots in publishing mean our content is on a par with the best travel journalists in the world.”
The Smith Travel Team are passionate about hotels, have expert knowledge and a desire to go above and beyond meeting their customers’ expectations. Aline recognises that: “In an age where a handful of Twittered comments or a blog post can undermine a company or a brand in a few keystrokes, you have to be fully accountable, instantly responsive and totally transparent.” Social media has been significant in the Smith strategy, “our Twitter feed suddenly has thousands of followers, Facebook has become a very effective channel of communication and engagement with customers and members and our blog provides inspiration to travellers and drives relevant traffic back to our website.”
In such a competitive market, hotels need to continuously look for services and facilities to distinguish them from the rest. In addition to prestigious locations and luxurious accommodation, Aline adds “pillow menus, personal butlers, tailor-made room scenting and poolside staff exclusively to clean your sunglasses are just a few of the unique services hotels may offer.” Technology is increasingly playing a part in the hotel experience, from preloaded iPads in hotel rooms to the creation of localised mobile apps sharing destination tips and information. Furthermore, the hotel industry is beginning to take eco–friendly policies into consideration. “It’s not just about asking guests if they want their towels laundered every day, but initiatives such as rainwater harvesting, recycling and the use of environmentally friendly products are part of a property’s holistic sustainable approach”.
Making the Pitch: Tips and Advice for Pitching to Mr & Mrs Smith
“We always like to hear news about stylish boutique hotels and up-and-coming destinations from knowledgeable PRs. The best prs write snappy press releases, and contact us directly by email when they have a property they think we’d be interested in. Our relationship always works best if they take the time to listen to us when we explain how we work, and what kinds of places we are looking for, and then warmly connect us to senior people at the properties.
Advice for PRs – simply: know your stuff, be quick and accurate, have access to great images!”
See Cision’s Travel and Tourism Module for social media rankings covering topics such as luxury travel & budget travel as well as a downloadable sample of Cision’s Travel and Tourism Premium Media Profiles.