SLH is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2015. It has 520 hotels in its portfolio and is growing every year.
During his address to journalists at the International Luxury Travel Market in Cannes before our meeting, Paul Kerr stressed the importance of brand with the disappearance of independence – this is especially noticeable in the High Street. SLH offers a variety of choices of properties and unusual experiences – something he suggests the savvy luxury hotel must tap into.
On the balcony overlooking the yachts in the harbour of the SLH stand, Kerr spoke to me about his travelling experiences.
Career to date in three sentences
I qualified as an accountant and eventually, years later ended up as financial controller at Cunard Hotels. They were members of SLH. I put some money into SLH with a few other investors to be able to market it properly and the rest, as they say, is history.
Fondest childhood holiday memory?
I have lots of fond family memories. My father believed in holidays and treated them as a priority. We went away caravanning for at least three weeks in the summer, usually to France – all over – but in particular we liked St Jean-de-Luz in the southwestern region, south of Biarritz. I particularly remember hanging up a Union Jack tea towel as a flag in 1966, to the annoyance of the Germans in the next caravan.
Favourite holiday destination?
It used to be France but nowadays I like the Greek islands and Majorca as I’m a keen sailor.
What sort of cuisine do you like?
I like simple food, cooked well. I call it ‘family food’. It’s quite hard to find nowadays. I like sharing food, like you do at home. Lamb is my favourite meat. Cooked with a little garlic and served with mint sauce, I’m in heaven.
What is your biggest hotel bugbear?
I don’t have just one! I suppose the most important to me is lack of power points, especially near the bed as I have sleep apnea and need to plug in my machine. Another one is room service that’s too slow or that delivers the wrong thing, or quite often both. They get it wrong, missing something vital and by the time they come back, your original food is cold. And many hotels don’t seem to be able to make tea properly.
Favourite travel website or app?
Apart from SLH, I like the EasyJet and BA sites, both are very easy to use.
What major challenges face hotels over the next ten years?
Oversupply in some areas is a concern. The spiralling cost of energy is another worrying trend.
How do you manage to switch off?
I find it really easy. I go on my boat or I cycle.
Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you’d like to?
I have lots of places I’d like to go to. Whether I can fit it all in remains to be seen. Up the Amazon would be good; it’s my dream destination. In my boat, of course.