MR-AND-MRS-SMITH-FOUNDER-JAMES-LOHAN-CHANGES-HOTEL-INDUSTRY-FOR-GOOD

Mr and Mrs Smith founder James Lohan changes hotel industry for good

01.01.18

Mr & Mrs Smith began life in 2003 with two adventurous hotel lovers  - our real-life Mr and Mrs: James and Tamara Lohan - and has evolved into a global travel club with a million like-minded members in more than 100 countries. James Matthews caught up with the duo to find out exactly what ticks the Smith box in the ever-changing menu of tailor-made travel

How have your own travel experiences influenced the portfolio you have?

When we started out with our guidebooks nearly 14 years ago, Tamara and I did all of the research. We spent a lot of time on the road, scouring the UK and Europe for exciting properties to include. As we became more successful and moved the business online, we grew the curation team – now it’s their job to be ahead of the curve to find new and undiscovered properties that will fit our collection. We still try to travel as much as we can, but now it's often with our two kids in tow. Recently we were in Colorado – we started in Denver and ended up in Vegas and signed a fair few hotels along the way. It’s never really a complete holiday for us, not that we’re complaining

What makes a Smith hotel? 

Hotels can’t simply pay their way into the collection, they have to be invited to join. We don’t judge hotels by how many stars or diamond-award plaques they have on their wall – it’s about the qualities that actually mean something to the guest; the originality of design, the attention to detail, the quirky touches that live long in the memory.

That’s what makes them ‘Smith’. We never work with a hotel until at least one person from the Smith curation team has personally visited. We also send tastemaker couples to anonymously review all our hotels as a final seal of approval.

Are you branching out to new destinations in the coming year? 

Chile is an incredibly exciting destination for us. We’ve launched a series of new hotels in the region over the past couple of months, particularly around the Atacama Desert. I love the vast differences of climes across the country, it’s so extreme. You have the world’s driest desert in the north to active volcanoes, glaciers and huge expanses of forests right down in the south. There’s so much to see and do here from horseback trekking through the Chilean pampas to sandboarding Death Valley’s giant dunes. If you’re visiting Patagonia, stay at Awasi, it won our Above & Beyond category in last year’s Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards.

Are there particular locations that fit the luxury villa template to perfection?  

We have a hand-picked collection of more than 100 luxury villas and extraordinary houses, mainly concentrated in Ibiza, Mallorca, Italy and the Cotswolds. In the Balearics particularly, the properties are made for more social, secluded stays that don’t falter on hotel-worthy design, ranging from modern minimal villas to more traditional fincas. I think this particular region fits the luxury villa market really well. We’re also celebrating our villa collection by adding the ‘Best Smith Villa’ category into our annual Mr & Mrs Smith Hotel Awards.

In a world of aspirational travel – how do you keep the ‘next best thing’ client experience alive?  

We strive to keep our customers engaged and talking. Curation is important for keeping things fresh and presenting new and exciting hotels or destinations to our audience is key. We respond to trends in luxury travel that we see demand for, but with our own take and style. In November we held out first exclusive experiential retreat in partnership with Garance Dore in Marrakesh. There were three workshops over the space of three days were guests learned about letting their art live and breathe. It was a huge success and something we will look to repeat in the future.

www.mrandmrssmith.com

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