SPOTLIGHT ON Ron Pohl, President, WorldHotels™

Hotel Alhambra Palace, WorldHotels Luxury

In a recent conversation with Ron Pohl from WorldHotels, the ILHA discovered the brand’s ambitious expansion plans, their unique approach to customer loyalty, and how they are reshaping guest experiences. From their roots in Europe to their growth in Asia, and now their focused expansion into North America, WorldHotels continues to redefine luxury hospitality. 

Personalization is a key trend in the hospitality industry. How does WorldHotels ensure a personalized experience for its guests, and what innovative strategies are you implementing to enhance this aspect?

The guest experience at WorldHotels is deeply intertwined with the narrative of not only the brand but also the individual hotel. We collaborate closely with our hotels to ensure guests fully understand what they can anticipate at each property. This involves implementing specialized training and procedures that help curate a distinctive and individual experience. The focus isn’t solely on the hotel product, but also on the emotional resonance a guest feels upon arrival. This emotional connection is further enhanced by how well it aligns with the local culture and environment. We assist hotels in embracing this concept, effectively making them a part of the customer’s journey.

In this journey, the careful and meaningful integration of technology is crucial. It helps us meet the diverse expectations of today’s unique travelers. Striking a delicate balance between crafting an experience that resonates with each hotel and aligning the staff to be enthusiastic about creating unique experiences is key. From the moment a guest arrives until their departure, our staff is passionate about making their stay memorable.

Ron Pohl, President, WorldHotels™

The ultimate measure of success is when the guest departs with a unique story to tell. We strive to craft memorable experiences that stand out from any other experiences they might have had. To achieve this, we’ve created a new brand narrative, “Welcome to Our World”. This narrative is designed to enthrall customers with unique experiences at WorldHotels and is built on four pillars: A World of your Own, A World of Care, A World of Connections, and A World of Good. Each pillar is further refined by the hotels to create, embrace, and implement their unique story. This process is brought to life through an on-site two-day immersion session, effectively becoming part of their culture.

Recognizing that the customer journey often begins with a search for a destination, we’ve also redesigned the WorldHotels website. This new design reimagines the booking process, further enhancing the customer journey from the very beginning.

Eden Roc Miami Beach, WorldHotels Elite

Luxury is often associated with high-end hotels. How does WorldHotels define luxury, and how do you ensure that luxury is woven into the fabric of each property within your portfolio?

WorldHotels defines luxury not just by the product offerings or location of a hotel, but by the passion and vision of the owners and operators. Many of our hotels are natural landmarks, historic buildings, or unique destinations, each with its own story to tell. We take the time to meet with the owners and operators, to understand their vision, to feel their passion, and form a partnership that is committed to creating unique guest experiences and nurturing their connection to their community.

Luxury, in our perspective, is about three elements. The location of the property is certainly one, but equally important is the person who owns or operates the hotel and their passion for what they envision the hotel to be. This is their story, and our role is to help them embrace and enhance that. We view this as a long-term partnership, not just a business deal.

Our hotels, whether it’s Alhambra Palace or The Ness Walk, are part of the fabric of the communities they’re in. We’d rather have a unique collection of luxury hotels that truly embody the essence of their locale, than a vast number of luxury properties.

This commitment to authenticity and uniqueness needs to be in the DNA of the hotel itself and the community it operates within. That’s why we’ve taken a careful approach to adding hotels to our luxury collection. We work directly with them to ensure that our values align and that we can both be successful.

This success is ultimately measured by the guest experience at each property. At the end of a guest’s stay, we ask ourselves, did we create an experience that will be remembered for a lifetime? That, to us, is the true meaning of luxury and the ultimate measure of success.

Many travelers seek authentic experiences when they visit a new destination. How do WorldHotels encourage properties to connect with the local culture and provide guests with an authentic taste of the destination?

WorldHotels encourages properties to connect with local culture by choosing hotels that are already deeply ingrained in their communities, often for decades or even centuries. These hotels are representatives of their local culture, with their unique histories and stories contributing to the overall character of the destination. Hotels such as Alhambra Palace in Spain, Karel V in the Netherlands, The Ness Walk in Scotland, and newer hotels like Prestige Oceanfront Resort in Sooke, BC, and The Daxton in Michigan, are all examples of this.

Take, for instance, Karel V in Utrecht. This iconic hotel has been around for centuries and offers a truly unique experience that cannot be replicated elsewhere. The community has evolved around what this hotel provides and stands for, making it an integral part of the local culture.

Our role is to help these hotels embrace and refine their messaging to customers around the world, encouraging them to select these properties for their unique, authentic experiences.

We also recognize the diversity of our guests. For the first time in the industry, we’re catering to a cross-generational customer base, spanning various age groups and ethnicities, each with their own unique expectations. It’s not about categorizing guests into groups like baby boomers or Gen Z, but about understanding each individual’s needs and wants for their journey or vacation. Our goal is to identify and meet these expectations, providing an authentic experience that caters to each guest’s unique preferences.

Eden Roc Miami Lobby Bar

WorldHotels Rewards is a key aspect of your loyalty program. Can you share some exclusive member-only offers or benefits that will enhance the guest experience?

Our loyalty program, WorldHotels Rewards℠, is designed to enhance the guest experience by rewarding our most frequent travelers. At the platinum level, members can expect complimentary upgrades in accommodations and special recognition upon arrival. We also offer a unique guest amenity that reflects the local culture of the community, further enhancing the authenticity of the guest’s experience.

Members of WorldHotels Rewards also have access to our best rates and an easy booking process. With access to their historical data, we can better understand and meet their travel preferences.

However, the true value of our loyalty program lies in the data we collect about our customers. This allows us to anticipate their needs and preferences without them having to specify them each time they travel. Our aim is to wow our guests with little details that they didn’t have to tell us about, and we consider this the highest measure of success for our loyalty program.

In addition to these benefits, we also offer a status match, where we match the guest status of all other hotel loyalty programs. Furthermore, the points earned in our program never expire, providing our guests with more flexibility and freedom.

In summary, WorldHotels Rewards offers best available rates, recognition upon arrival and throughout the stay, upgrades when available, a welcome amenity with a local connection, status match, and points that never expire. These exclusive member-only offers and benefits are designed to enhance the guest experience and make their stay with us truly memorable.

In terms of expansion, what are the key markets or regions that WorldHotels is targeting for growth in the coming year? What factors influence your decision to expand into these areas?

WorldHotels has a rich history spanning over 50 years, with its roots in Europe before expanding into Asia. Now, our primary focus for growth is North America. This region has become increasingly important for us to meet brand and traveler expectations, especially since we acquired the brand in 2019.

However, our expansion strategy is not limited to North America. We’ve experienced great success in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly in Vietnam and Japan, where we’ve seen strong interest and conversions. This year, we also made our debut in Latin America, opening hotels in Brazil and Mexico City, as well as in Greece and Spain in Europe.

While we are looking at the entire world for potential growth, our fastest-growing markets currently are North America and the Asia-Pacific region. In the past year, we have nearly doubled our portfolio in North America, reflecting the region’s importance in our expansion strategy.

In the Latin American region, we have just opened our first two hotels in Brazil and Mexico, with more to come. The Asia-Pacific region remains one of our fastest-growing areas, with new hotels in Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, and South Korea.

In the EMEA region, we continue to grow and add some iconic hotels throughout the region. Our decision to expand into these areas is influenced by market trends, traveler preferences, and the potential for growth and success in these regions.