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Join the Trip with Leading Women

March 5, 2020



Edith. Mary. Shannon. 85+ female Leading Hotels general managers, commercial directors and owners. Since 1928
The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd. (Leading Hotels) has been shaped by visionary female leaders and hoteliers.

  • 1950: Ms. Edith L. Turner named as the company’s first president
  • 1966: Ms. Mary Homi named as the company’s president
  • 2019: Ms. Shannon Knapp named as the company’s president and chief executive officer
  • 2020: 85+ female LHW general managers, commercial directors and owners at the helm of Leading Hotels’ more than 400 properties that span over 80 countries
"Generations of intrepid females have paved the way for extraordinary women in hospitality. Our first President was a woman. Edith Turner was one of the first two employees hired in 1928 in the NY office and her career spanned almost 40 years,” said Shannon Knapp, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Leading Hotels of the World. “I am proud to lead a progressive company that has championed women in leadership from the very beginning and continues that commitment today. In 2020, women represent nearly 40 percent of Leading Hotels’ senior leadership team and 30 percent of our board. I look forward to a future where the discussion is no longer focused on gender parity because it is the norm to have women equally represented at all levels in the workplace. It’s exciting to see many companies, like Leading Hotels, creating these changes."

Meet some of Leading Hotels’ influential women leaders who are transforming how global travelers experience the world.



Ms. Shannon Knapp, President & Chief Executive Officer, The Leading Hotels of the World

I have always dreamt of visiting…Africa for a safari and staying at Shambala Private Game Reserve and Thanda Safari. I would end the trip in Mauritius, because for me the perfect holiday always includes a beach. My children are just one and three years old so they are too young for this type of travel now, but in the not too distant future, I hope to plan this family vacation.

My must-have item in my suitcase is…my electronics case that includes my Tumi adapter and chargers for every device I own. I have duplicates of all my chargers in the case so that I never ‘forget’ to bring them.

My most memorable Leading Hotel trip was…to the Amalfi Coast with my family and colleagues visiting Santa Caterina in Amalfi, Le Sirenuse in Positano and Palazzo Avino in Ravello. Beyond the breathtaking Mediterranean setting and exceptional hospitality at these properties, what makes them so special are the families that run them. Santa Caterina and Le Sirenuse have been owned the Gambardella and Sersale family, respectively, for generations. From arrival to departure, you truly feel like you are a guest in their homes. They exude the family’s personal styles and warmth. During this trip we made a stop in the charming hilltop town of Ravello at Palazzo Avino. At this point Palazzo Avino was not a member of Leading Hotels. Three sisters run the property, Mariella, Attilia and Mariavittoria Avino. The sisters represent the next generation of both family and female-led hospitality. Their attention to quality, detail and tradition, while always adding new dimensions to the property is remarkable. Needless to say, following the visit Palazzo Avino was very quickly invited to become a member of the Leading family.

If I could plan a group trip with inspiring women (past or present) I would invite… Katharine Graham, Edith Windsor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Madeleine Albright, Oprah, and Ellen, to name a few. I admire the confidence, intellect, humor, and intrepid nature of each of these women. It would be fascinating to share a glass of wine and thank these trailblazing women who changed the world and created a new reality for the next generation of women.



Ms. Ruth Jones, Commercial Director, The Ritz London
Executive Committee Member, The Leading Hotels of the World


I have always dreamt of visiting…India to see tigers in the wild.

My must-have item in my suitcase is…a pashmina.

My most memorable Leading Hotel trip was…not just a singular visit, but a daily occurrence in my world. The passion and creativity that my colleagues use to create magical and memorable experiences for our clients at The Ritz London is inspiring.

If I could plan a group trip with inspiring women (past or present) I would invite…my mother, Baroness Thatcher and HRH The Duchess of Cambridge.



Ms. Deborah Yager Fleming, Chief Executive Officer & Partner, Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach
Executive Committee Member, The Leading Hotels of the World


I have always dreamt of visiting…the Dolomites and staying at Rosa Alpina for a mountain vacation. The history, food, and beautiful scenery are very appealing to me. I would also love to reunite with my fellow Kilimanjaro climbers - we climbed Kili in October 2018 - for a group trip to this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Several in the group own and manage Leading Hotels. For a sea trip, Mykonos with a stay at Katikies is on my list. I have never been to Greece and I hope to visit several areas of this ancient and mystical country, perhaps even go island hopping.

My must-have item in my suitcase is…my Tumi Global Adapter.

My most memorable Leading Hotel trip was…my stay at the Royal Mansour in Marrakech. My luxurious riad was fit for royalty and the management and staff’s hospitality made me feel welcomed. The grounds were breathtaking, behind every corner there was another joyous place to bask in luxury. Every detail was carefully planned and well executed from the spa experience to the restaurants, evening events, and tours, my entire stay was magical. It is a testament to how consistency makes a place really stand out. The best part of my stay was learning about the hotel’s three charities Fiers & Fort which is a center for orphaned and abandon children, Trait D’Union a day center for handicap children, and EFA Education for Girls. The charitable efforts made to give children and girls a future by providing food, clothing, shelter, education, and love is admirable especially since the management and staff collect and give without expectation of anything in return.

If I could plan a group trip with inspiring women (past or present) I would invite…Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey and my sister Laura Hernandez who passed away in August 2012. Sheryl, who I think is one of the most clever women in the world, on a Ted Talk advised women to sit at the table because no one gets to the head of the table without sitting at the table. Tina because she is not only an amazing talented trailblazer, she is exceptionally entertaining. My sister because she would be pleased with the strides we are making as a gender in the workplace, but would ask us what else we will be doing to make a difference.



Ms. Marie Louise Scio, Chief Executive Officer & Creative Director, Pellicano Hotels

I have always dreamt of visiting…Antarctica and viewing the penguin migration. I love traveling were there’s peace and wild nature.

My must-have item in my suitcase is…a cashmere sweater.

My most memorable Leading Hotel trip was…recently at Borgo Egnazia, in Puglia. It is such a magical place. I have had so many memorable travel experiences in Leading Hotels during these years it’s hard to name just one.

If I could plan a group trip with inspiring women (past or present) I would invite…Oprah Winfrey, Amelia Earhart, Louis Bourgeois, and Luise Heise.



Ms. Beatrice Tollman, President & Founder, The Red Carnation Hotel Collection

I have always dreamt of visiting…Russia and especially St. Petersburg, for its rich history, exceptional architecture, the churches and cathedrals, art and museums, and our family roots are originally Russian as well. We have a rivership from our company Uniworld that sails from Moscow to St. Petersburg and this would be my ideal way to travel there.

My must-have item in my suitcase is…my medicine bag because I travel often and prefer to be prepared for anything that may come up as it’s not always easy to find a good doctor at the last minute.

My most memorable Leading Hotel trip was…at beautiful Ashford Castle, which I am proud to say is a Red Carnation Hotel. Ashford is especially close to my heart, as we put so much love, care and attention into this historic property that dates back to over 800 years. Whoever visits Ashford is especially touched by the warmth and caring service of our wonderful team. The property’s standards are so high, providing the best service and attention of anywhere I have stayed in the world. There are over 30 activities, from falconry to boating, and the facilities are so beautiful, whether dining at the George V Dining Room or The Dungeon. Every time I visit Ashford I leave with a full and proud heart.

If I could plan a group trip with inspiring women (past or present) I would invite…Golda Meir, Simone Weil, Margaret Thatcher, Christiane Amanpour, and of course my two daughters Vicki and Toni who I work with side by side. I am inspired by so many women and colleagues, but there are some that have left a special impression or place in my heart for their outstanding achievements, leadership qualities, or strength of character and for inspiring so many other women.



Ms. Anne Benichou, Head of Global Communications, Oetker Collection

I have always dreamt of visiting…India and Sri Lanka by train. I’d also love to discover the world’s southernmost continent, Antarctica, on a cruise ship to reconnect with myself while being immersed in a silent and nature-filled environment. However, my dream trip will always be Italy. 2020 will emphasize this feeling as my husband and I are about to open a small guest house in the south of Puglia. Most of our free time is spent there overseeing the construction of our “Casa.” Traveling is part of my DNA and meeting new people, embracing new cultures, new cuisine and discovering uncommon places and retreats is something I absolutely treasure.

My must-have item in my suitcase is…my iPhone, but not to check my emails and receive phone calls, just to use my camera to take stunning pictures of where I am. I love photography and photos create memories and forever immortalize landscapes, family and friends.

My most memorable Leading Hotel trip was…at Palácio Tangará, one of the most luxurious retreats in Brazil that belongs to Oetker Collection’s exclusive portfolio. It is hard not to be stunned as you drive through the alley of Imperial Palms and spot Palácio Tangará for the first time. The hotel is located in the heart of the economic capital of the country, in bustling São Paulo, surrounded by the iconic Burle Marx Park, home to a wide variety of rare tropical birds and flora which is just amazing. Nature is magically omnipresent, and almost enters the property, giving it a very special feeling and embracing your entire stay.

If I could plan a group trip with inspiring women (past or present) I would invite…Frida Kahlo, Simone Veil, Meryl Streep, Michelle Obama, Melinda Gates, Anna Wintour, Celine Dion, and I would also invite my constant inspiration, my mom. All of these women represent the core values that are essential for me: passion, courage, determination, kindness, gratitude, generosity, loyalty, creativity, and elegance.

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About The Leading Hotels of the World, Ltd. (Leading Hotels)
Comprised of more than 400 hotels in over 80 countries, Leading Hotels is a collection of uncommon luxury hotels. Rooted in the locations in which they are found, members embody the very essence of their destination. Through varied styles of architecture and design and distinct cultural experiences enhanced by passionate people, the collection is for the curious traveler looking for their next discovery. Established in 1928 by several influential and forward-thinking European hoteliers, Leading Hotels has a nine-decade-long commitment to providing remarkable, authentic travel experiences. The company selects only hotels that meet its high standards for quality and distinctiveness, resulting in a curated portfolio of hotels united not by what makes them the same, but the details that make them different. Leaders Club is the company’s exclusive tiered guest loyalty program, consisting of like-minded travelers seeking uncommon travel experiences. The program provides its members with personalized service and exclusive travel benefits to enhance their stays at any Leading Hotel around the world. For more information visit: www.lhw.com, Facebook at @LeadingHotels, Twitter at @LeadingHotels and Instagram @leadinghotelsoftheworld

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