It's hard to keep your wanderlust at bay when you're interviewing Pegi Amarteifio. Upon discovering travel PR is a real role (and a fulfilling one, at that), she shifted gears and started what turned into a rich career in the comms world. Case in point: today, she heads up global PR and communications for Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which is comprised of over 500 hotels. Read on to learn more about her career, how hospitality and travel PR have changed and the locales not to miss when you're in London.
How did you get your start working in PR?
I fell into PR many, many years ago. After leaving university, I had my heart set on being a journalist – an investigative journalist, to be precise – but I wanted to travel first and had very little money. A friend suggested I do interim temping, so I registered with a recruitment consultancy. During my initial meeting with the consultant, he stopped me mid-way and said that he could see that I didn’t really want to be a temp and that he thought I would do very well in PR. His wife was a director at a leading PR firm, so he arranged work experience for me. After two weeks, the agency offered me a job; the rest is history.
What drew you to the world of hospitality and travel comms?
I had worked in PR for approximately five years – initially in beauty and consumer PR, and then broadcast PR – when a journalist contact from a national newspaper first introduced me to travel PR. He was at the time responsible for a Q&A column as well as the travel pages, and he suggested sending me and the talent I had pitched to him for his Q&A column on a girls' cruise trip for a review in the travel pages. We never made the trip, but he certainly inspired me, as before that, I didn't know that such a role in travel PR existed. The idea that I could get paid for promoting and travelling to amazing hotels and destinations was foreign to me. I then researched it, found a freelance opening at one of the leading UK travel and hospitality PR agencies, and secured a permanent role there after some time.
They say you'll only want to do this type of PR once you do travel PR, and that's my experience. Hospitality and travel PR is inspiring and rewarding as I constantly learn about new destinations and cultures.
What does your current role as VP of global PR and communications entail?
I love the diversity of my role because one day, I’ll be sitting with a journalist pitching new hotels and destinations; on another, I’ll be sitting with a sustainability expert learning about ground source heating; and on another I’ll be hosting a fabulous dinner for our hotels somewhere far-flung. There’s no room for boredom. We’re a small and nimble team at Small Luxury Hotels of the World, and we individually turn our hand to many things. I’m lucky to have over 520 characterful hotels with compelling stories to pitch to the media. Our focus is always on how we can promote our portfolio and our brand’s point of difference.
Is your role or strategy different now than a few years ago, as a result of the pandemic?
My role has definitely evolved and shifted as a result of the pandemic. My team and I have had to adjust to stay relevant and effective. The pandemic brought about many changes in the world – from how people consume information to how they communicate. The most significant impacts for us have been the increased focus on digital channels, the ongoing crisis management, greater empathy for our hotels, partners and media, more purpose-driven communication, and greater collaboration.
What keeps you inspired and engaged professionally?
I am very privileged to be able to do a job that I enjoy. I get excited every time I learn about a new corner of the world, and it’s this aspect of learning that keeps me engaged. We also have owners that are constantly reinventing their numerous businesses, and they’re always open to new ideas, so that’s a bonus because it allows my team and I to be continually creative. During the last two years, the launch of our Considerate Collection – our actively sustainable luxury hotel collection- has inspired me. We launched it in 2021 with 25 hotels and now have over 50 hotels within the Collection. The storytelling aspect around the hotels' efforts in terms of the community, culture and environment is really admirable.
How do you define luxury, having been with SLH for several years?
Our hotels are unique, fun, people-centric hotels that often immerse guests in a destination, allowing them to experience small light-hearted moments. It’s the sum of all these parts that we deem to be luxury. Luxury, as we know, means different things to different people and is constantly evolving. For us at SLH, we believe sustainability is helping redefine what luxury is; to that end, luxury and sustainable luxury are becoming interchangeable. In today’s world, we can’t indulge in destroying the eco-system in place of big shiny hotels, using unnecessary private jets, using wasteful single-use plastic amenities and feel that it is ‘luxury’. For SLH, sustainable luxury travel is about being considerate of the planet we live in. That consideration leads to us exploring the world with intention and having meaningful travel experiences while protecting people and places with integrity.
How does a brand successfully convey the touchpoints of luxury?
For Small Luxury Hotels of the World, consistency across our portfolio is hugely important as this fosters trust with our guests. We have a unique quality inspection programme at SLH whereby approximately 125 SLH guests anonymously inspect our hotels for us annually. It’s a tough 800-point criteria which focuses on product and service levels and helps us maintain high standards across the portfolio. Additionally, attention to detail, excellent customer service and personalisation are all touchpoints that we strive for as a brand. Over and above that is the brand storytelling often showcased through the experiences at our hotels.
We’re excited to host our first in-person event in London later this year. What are a few spots not to miss when we visit?
Very excited to welcome you here in London. Foodie spots – try Opso for melt-in-your-mouth Greek cuisine. I love the dim sum at Royal China on Baker Street. It's such good value that it's easy to overeat, so be careful. Science Afternoon tea at The Ampersand Hotel (SLH Hotel) is always a good idea, and it's a stone's throw from The Science Museum, V&A and Natural History Museum if you fancy a bit of culture. Liberty's is an all-time favourite for shopping –always great for sourcing new luxury brands. The carrot cake in Arthur's café on its second floor is worth visiting for. There's a new Flipper's roller-skating rink in West London which I'm keen to check out too, so if you're after a fun night out, try that.
What do you predict to be the top travel destinations this year? What locations are on your list for 2023?
I think people are definitely focused on trips of a lifetime. Even with the cost-of-living crisis, our guests are not giving up that holiday. Brazil is definitely at the top of my list – we have a fantastic new-to-SLH hotel called Barracuda Hotel & Villas that I’m keen to visit. It’s a secluded retreat in a place called Itacare and it’s also part of our Considerate Collection so features a great sustainable ethos.
White Lotus has certainly thrown Italy in the spotlight. Italy is the country where we have the most SLH hotels (over 70) so I think it will continue to reap the benefits of the show. We have many hotels in Sicily… Hotel Villa Carlotta, Hotel Villa Ducale, Q92 Noto Hotel are just a few. Q92 Noto Hotel is an impeccably restored 18th-century palazzo on the banks of the Corso, with just nine bedrooms
Northern Greece is causing quite a stir, too, and I'm seeing more and more media requests for it as an alternative to the typical destinations in Greece. We have a lovely property in Metsovo with a view over the Pindos peaks that's also on my list of places to visit - Grand Forest Metsovo.
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