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Hotels and agents get the Preferred treatment in Toronto

Hotels and agents get the Preferred treatment in Toronto
Rick Stiffler, vice president of leisure sales at Preferred Hotel Group in Toronto.
Michael Pihach

Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.

“What I love about Toronto is that our clients here are so loyal,” Rick Stiffler, vice president of leisure sales at Preferred Hotel Group, told PAX at Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ summer showcase in Toronto last Wednesday night (June 14).

“It’s nice coming into a market where you’re so welcome.”

The trade show-style event, which was held at The Fifth Social Club, a chic, downtown loft space, gave more than 100 top-selling luxury travel agents and corporate clients an opportunity to connect with select hoteliers from Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ portfolio, which consists of more than 650 unique hotels, resorts and residences across 85 countries.

The Toronto stop was part of a multi-city tour that has, so far, visited New York City, Washington, D.C., Boston and, just yesterday (June 15), Montreal.

“It gives our hotels a chance to cover a lot of territory in one trip,” Stiffler told PAX of the travelling showcase, adding that the event is a great resource for home-based travel agents who may not have access to the same hotel information that an office-based agent would have.

35173232452_b6d3b34e63_o.jpgTravel pros mix and mingle at Preferred Hotels & Resorts’ summer showcase at The Fifth Social Club in Toronto.

Growth and expansion have been ongoing themes for the independent hotel brand, which added 32 new member hotels across 15 countries to its portfolio from January through April this year.

Some of the latest luxury retreats to join the company’s portfolio include the Coco Privé, a 15,000 sq. ft. exclusive-use private island in the Maldives; the Hotel Californian in Santa Barbara, California; the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa in St. Andrews, Scotland; and the Myconian Villa Collection in Mykonos, Greece.

The hotel brand has also recently made great strides into Scandinavia, “an area we’ve always wanted to expand in,” Stiffler told PAX, noting the Hotel at Six, a “very trendy” contemporary hotel in Stockholm, Sweden, and The Thief, a modern, waterfront hotel in Oslo, Norway – both new additions to the brand’s collection.

Given the fragile state of today’s political landscape surrounding safe travel, Scandinavia has risen in popularity amongst lifestyle and luxury travellers, Stiffler said.

“It’s off the charts,” Stiffler told PAX. “There’s this whole ‘safe perception’ right now. That’s something I hear from agents all the time.”

As destinations such as London and Paris cope with a recent string of terror-related incidents, Scandinavian countries can be a more appealing option to some travellers, Stiffler said, especially as Nordic countries typically rank high on the Happiest Places To Live lists that circulate through the media every year.

Still, that’s not to say travellers have turned their backs on much-loved cities that have been hit by tragic events. “Sometimes, when you have something horrible happen in a city, you want to support it even more,” Stiffler said.

Preferred Hotels and Resorts, in particular, is closely watching how their customers book travel, which led the company to launch a mobile app and member rate program last April.

The iPrefer mobile app allows customers to book their travel plans directly from their smartphone, and represented a major enhancement to the company’s points-based rewards program.

“The new mobile app and member rate program are designed to better connect today’s travellers with the unique appeal of the independent hotel experience through a seamless loyalty program that delivers exclusive, on-the-go access to an attractive rate, points, and valuable on-property perks,” Casey Ueberroth, chief marketing officer at Preferred Hotels & Resorts, stated in a release issued last April.

Through the app, which was built in collaboration with American Express, members can search and stay at more than 600 iPrefer participating hotels worldwide and access exclusive offers such as member rates and iPrefer last-minute escapes.

“We’re a brand that goes after that independent traveler who wants that unique experience, not a cookie-cutter experience,” Stiffler told PAX. “None of our hotels are alike.”

For more on Preferred Hotels and Resorts, go to