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Ted Teng

Ted Teng

Chief Executive Officer
Leading Hotels of the World

Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) is a representation and marketing group representing some 450-luxury hotels and resorts around the world. At a time when brand is supposed to be everything and there has been a proliferation of new luxury hotel brands, LHW is focusing on individuality and family ownership of its properties. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up to CEO Ted Teng during a press briefing at The International Luxury Travel Mart in Cannes, France.

Ted Teng, CEO Leading Hotels of the World

Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) is a representation and marketing group representing some 450-luxury hotels and resorts around the world. At a time when brand is supposed to be everything and there has been a proliferation of new luxury hotel brands, LHW is focusing on individuality and family ownership of its properties. Recently Elite Traveler Editor-in-Chief Douglas Gollan caught up to CEO Ted Teng during a press briefing at The International Luxury Travel Mart in Cannes, France.

ET: Tell us about your new tag line?

Ted Teng: It’s “All kinds of one-of-a-kind”. When we look at our hotels the words that come to mind are originals, authentic, unique, adventure, family, luxury for the individual. Whereas with the corporate brands, the brand defines the hotel, with our hotels the hotel defines the brand. We’re defined by our hotels.

ET: What’s behind this?

Ted Teng: Our hotels are all family owned or family controlled. Families tend to look long-term where corporations look quarter by quarter. To underscore this, in our directory we have profiles of 23 of the families that own Leading hotels, and each one has been owned and operated by the family for at least three generations.

ET: Why does family ownership matter?

Ted Teng: Hotel investors invest for three to five years. Families look at the business for the next three to five generations. Families know there are efficiencies they are missing, but they also feel they would loose their identity. Families are present at the hotel. When they travel and see a piece of art or furniture they like they buy it and bring it back. The hotels reflect the family taste, not a corporate designer. We have one owner and she has sat in every chair at every table in her restaurant because she wanted to understand the view and experience for each customer who will dine there.

ET: Is there a benefit in service from family ownership?

Ted Teng: The staff knows things aren’t going to change every three years or less when a new General Manager comes in or there is a new corporate direction. We have General Managers who have been at the hotel for 30 years and we have General Managers whose fathers were General Managers at that hotel. The General Managers and management staffs know the destinations they are in. In the corporate world, GMs transfer around the world and its great for their careers, but often they are not that familiar with the local markets they are in.

ET: So is it a more personal level of service for elite travelers?

Ted Teng: One example is a guest was telling the owner he was interested in contemporary art. The owner then arranged a private dinner for the guest with a local up-and-coming contemporary artist. It wasn’t a pre-arranged experience‚ but came naturally. Our owners are in their hotels. They see each new guest as an opportunity to create a new guest for life and create an evangelist for the hotel.

ET: Are independent, family run hotels at a disadvantage during downturns?

Ted Teng: Not really. In corporations every five or seven years they come up with re-branding and new design and the hotel owners have to spend a lot of money to change everything. With family runs hotels they tend to be more balanced in renovations, usually they renovate a few rooms a year during the low season, or one restaurant. Because the hotel has been in the family for generations they are aware of the cycles so they are less likely to spend a lot when times are good then cut when times are bad. They take a consistent approach. They understand that even in bad economic times, if they have to lower their price, the guest still expects they same level of service and amenities.

ET: Your background is with big hotel companies. What do you bring to the table for these family hotels?

Ted Teng: As Leading we are in a unique position to tell their unique stories. On a personal level, my corporate experience has given me a broad understanding of consumer trends and technology as examples, so I am able to help give them insights that perhaps they wouldn’t have at a local level.