Founded by Rebecca Masri, Little Emperors is a private hotel club, offering access to preferential rates and guaranteed benefits at the world’s most exclusive hotels, handpicked by a team of travel advisors and luxury experts. With both web and app presence, they are investing more in technology to ensure a seamless experience for their 35,000 members. With a portfolio of over 4,000 luxury hotels around the world, the key to their business is offering the lowest rates combined with the most efficient four-click reservation process.
How did you first become interested in the hospitality industry? I have always liked to travel. I find traveling best for education, relaxation and I have always preferred to spend my time and money on new travel experiences, meeting new people, getting acquainted with new cultures and religions. I have learned my best lessons while traveling and I love working in an industry that allows me to do what I love. After the 2008 crash, I identified an opportunity in luxury travel and moved from working in the City at an investment bank to starting a travel agency.
What gap did you see in the market that led you to found Little Emperors? In 2008, the market fell and the world headed into a global recession. At that time I was working at Goldman Sachs in the City of London and saw that the list of approved hotels for the business travel program had also changed significantly with most luxury hotels being phased out. This, coupled with the increase in small and medium-sized businesses that did not have the volumes to negotiate rates, I identified an opportunity. And with college friends, we created Little Emperors, a member-only luxury club hotel, offering corporate rates and leisure benefits. Using the collective purchasing power of our members, we negotiate rates at luxury hotels around the world and, using cutting-edge technology, present our member base of 30,000 people with an app that helps them. allows you to make reservations in four clicks. Little Emperors offers value, both time and money.
What technological innovations are helping you and your business get through Covid-19? It’s an interesting topic right now, as technology may have already been seen as depersonalizing experiences. When I started my tech journey at Little Emperors, a few years after our launch, I received negative comments from a few large luxury hotels. The concern was that technology would take away the personalized experience that people might expect from a luxury hotel. Today, I see an evolution towards tech, because the Covid may have led people to want to depersonalize! Hotels are investing in their own applications and this shift to technology in travel is definitely becoming more prevalent.
Hotels are introducing keyless entry, check-in and check-out via the hotel app, in-app chats, in-room meals, and restaurant menus – all can now be controlled from your phone. Some hotel apps even let you control room features like TV or blinds!
How do you specifically expect the hospitality industry to change after Covid-19 There are so many opportunities for change, some of which were already happening before Covid and others triggered by the pandemic. Disinfection and hotel protocols to ensure guest safety are driving changes in the industry. It’s pretty amazing the number of Zoom calls and webinars my team and I have participated in focusing on new hotel metrics. Regular cleaning, with more powerful cleaning products, masks, testing, fewer touch points, more breakfast buffet and a shift to technology, these are just a few examples.
Health and wellness have been at the forefront of people’s concerns throughout the pandemic and will undoubtedly continue to be a priority. Wellness trips give people the opportunity to detox, detox, reconnect, take time for themselves, and work on their personal health goals. I see hotels offering more in-depth wellness programs. Reconnecting with nature, especially if you’ve passed confinement in a densely populated urban environment, is also a trend in wellness travel.
Another trend we have identified is experience-driven travel. This is a direct result of the closures, where people have been confined to their homes and are now looking for adventure and activity. The traditional party where people just wanted to sit on a beach has moved to people who want to experience things and be active. The demand for fresh sea air in coastal destinations has increased alongside the demand for mountain vacations in places like Switzerland, as travelers seek these great outdoors. I think this will continue in 2021.
Finally, there is an obvious trend towards flexible hotel cancellation policies. Everyone knows someone who has lost money due to a hotel or flight reservation, or who has received unwanted vouchers or credits, hence the fear of engaging in bad policies. Non-flexible cancellation deterred people from booking in advance. Booking times are now much shorter and hotels that have flexible policies are definitely preferred.
What gives you hope right now? The “working while on vacation” trend is gaining momentum. People who can work remotely can take this opportunity to do so, as offices remain closed and governments encourage working from home if you can. In response to this trend, we have seen some very attractive offers from hotels that want to encourage longer stays. At Little Emperors, our average length of stay has increased from 5 to 10 nights, and 70% of the bookings we have made in the past few months have been extended after customer check-in.
What are the most popular destinations for the trips you notice? Has it changed? Safe destinations with good health care and a low crown are proving to be the most popular choices for our members. Dubai is very popular for us right now along with the Maldives. Both of these destinations require a negative corona test on entry and both offer plenty of outdoor spaces and activities.
What changes in your business in particular and in the hospitality industry in general do you think will be permanent after the virus? I think business travel has been and will continue to be hugely affected as it has literally been interrupted with virtual meetings over the past few months. While there are certainly many benefits to meeting in person, such as building relationships over meals, in boardrooms, or even through a simple handshake, it’s safe to say that the virtual route is. of course cheaper, avoids the health risks and the simple stress of international travel, which makes it very effective. People have gotten used to virtual meetings, and I think business travel will take a long time to recover. At Little Emperors, knowledge of our hotels is essential. My team often visits our hotel partners to find out about brands, hotels and destinations. It has shifted to virtual familiarizations, which are decidedly not the same, and I hope the physical moves will resume soon. Once governments allow it, we will lead by example!
What makes a property a perfect fit for the Little Emperors Platform? Our members determine our hotel partners. Our typical member is 35-50, quite hip, maybe an entrepreneur, and the majority are men or young families, and we have a lot of French and English members. Our hotels range from five-star Four Seasons-style luxury hotels to designer boutique properties. We select an average of five hotels per city and channel the volume to those properties, to ensure the best rates and benefits year on year. Luxury is the key to all of our hotel partners, and the hotels we book most often have a strong link with their location.
What is the story behind the name of the company? I am often asked this question, and I don’t really have a story! We wanted it to be something a little original and under the radar. My sister Charlotte actually came up with this name. We wanted to imply that this was a secret club. There are so many travel agencies called “luxury this” and “elite that”, and we wanted to be different, so you wouldn’t know what we were unless you were one of us!