19 Nov Interview With Jonny Tindal From Mr & Mrs Smith
There are few jobs in the world more appealing or more mystical really, than that of a “luxury and boutique hotel reviewer”. Exotic destinations, the best accommodations, the finest service: all part of the daily grind for these professionals. Yet they persevere to provide an important service, helping to give us all an inside look at the quality of many of the world’s most popular and exclusive hotels, read all about their pros and cons, and ultimately make an informed decision about whether or not to book a trip around the world to stay at them.
With social media having an undeniable effect on the hospitality industry,with guests can quickly share their experience or publish a review of every hotel they’ve stayed at, helping sway the opinions of friends, family and like minded connections and readers. And jokes aside about professional hotel reviewers, we need a trusted voice among all the noise of social media and online review sites.
I know I’ve looked at countless hotel reviews for my work and for travel and most people have too. And you’ll see the best hotel, with people praising it with 5 stars and people slamming it with zero. And reading them you can tell how much the reviewers attitude or personal experience is effecting their review, which could little to do with how you’ll stay will be. So having a online travel agency like Mr & Mrs Smith that stakes its reputation on the hotel selection they promote along with their objective reviews and recommendations, brings a valued service to the discerning luxury traveller.
To get a better idea about how this process works, the history behind the brand and a look at this dream job, we spoke with Jonny Tindal, Travel Team Manager at Mr & Mrs Smith:
Luxury Branded: What is Smith Hotels and why does the luxury travel industry need it so badly?
Jonny Tindal: Mr & Mrs Smith started as a hotel guidebook back in 2003. After a number of less-than-romantic weekends away, our co-founders James Lohan and Tamara Lohan couldn’t find anything that recommended stylish hotels for people like them, so they decided to create their own guide. Two years later, they took it online, and became a hotel booking service.
There are now more than 900 boutique hotels in the global collection – each one personally visited and anonymously reviewed. The nature of our curation is probably what makes us most valuable to luxury travellers. We recognize that different hotels meet different needs: sometimes you might want five-star indulgence; at others you might prefer a cosy inn in the countryside. Essentially, we’re a travel club, offering more than 800,000 members worldwide all sorts of perks, including free extras on arrival, money back on every book with our loyalty scheme and, of course, the best available rates.
We pay attention to detail and provide a personalized service with a 24-hour Travel Team.
LB: How did you first get started in the travel business?
JT: My family has worked in travel for over 30 years. I always knew I wanted to be part of the industry in some capacity. As soon as I could, I left home to chase the snow, travelling across Europe and North America snowboarding. I worked for various luxury tour operators along the way to fund my travels until, unfortunately, my knees retired!
After a brief stint in the less-inspiring world of insurance I knew where I wanted to be and moved to Thomas Cook and haven’t looked back since – the travel industry is definitely my calling!
LB: What is your role at Mr & Mrs Smith?
JT: I manage the Global Travel Team, which has its headquarters in London, as well as teams in New York and Melbourne. My role is to motivate and develop the team, ensuring we are truly customer-centric and consistently providing our members with the superb level of service that they expect, while creating experiences that, we hope, will live long in the memory for all the right reasons.
LB: How central is the travel team to the overall marketing plan at Mr & Mrs Smith?
JT: The Travel Team is at the heart of the business. Telephone bookings are extremely valuable and help build and cement client relationships, and also encourage repeat business. The Travel Team is the front line – the personal voice of Mr & Mrs Smith – so it’s important we represent the brand appropriately.
LB: How big of an impact does social media have on hotels these days? Do customer reviews really matter?
JT: Customer reviews and feedback are extremely important to us – we address complaints with the relevant hotel as soon as they come in, and if they prove consistent or irresolvable, we remove the hotel from the collection. You can only comment in the Smith Guestbook if you’ve actually booked the hotel concerned with us, so other members, who expect a similar standard, can get a trusted opinion. Social media is becoming very important in all sales and customer-service businesses, including travel.
Twitter and Facebook are often the first places many people turn to when they’re looking for holiday inspiration, and if someone has a bad experience, they can share it with millions in seconds. This obliges hotels to be more transparent, and it makes clients more discerning than ever before. Hotels have to work tirelessly to keep their standards up; they are only as good as their last stay.
More and more people are searching for hotels and holidays using images, too – so Pinterest is an important source of inspiration. At Smith, we use Facebook and Twitter to speak directly to our customers, which could mean giving hotel suggestions, resolving issues in real time, promoting offers, or just chatting about things that interest us. We also use Pinterest and Instagram as a means of sharing images of our hotels, shots from our own travels and other behind-the-scenes photos of what we do day-to-day.
LB: What are 3 simple things that any boutique hotel can do to go above and beyond the competition?
JT: Service is undeniably the most important thing hotels needs to not only get right, but also to exceed expectations. A personal touch is very memorable and can make all the difference to a customer’s experience.
Next I’d say attention to detail: great hotels think of those little extras that make a big impact, such as locally sourced produce in the restaurant or a personal welcome.
An impression is made the moment a guest sets foot through the doors, so that’s your chance to set the mood – get the ambience right and choose the right music and lighting.
LB: Gorgeous hotels, exotic locations… Be honest with us: do you have the greatest job in the world?
JT: Frankly, as far as I’m concerned, yes. I work in travel and I love it. I also love managing the team – they are fantastic to work with. We’re all passionate about our product and being surrounded by likeminded people is inspiring. Mr & Mrs Smith is a very exciting place to work, it’s fast-paced and challenging with a real entrepreneurial spirit.
Connect With Mr & Mrs Smith Online
We’d like to thank Jonny and the rest of the team at Smith Hotels for taking the time to talk with us. You can visit Mr and Mrs Smith online at SmithHotels.com, on Twitter via @smithhotels, and through Facebook at Facebook.com/smithhotels. If you prefer a more visual guide, check out their Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr feeds! You can also connect with Jonny on Twitter via @JonnyTindal.