Accor Meets Again

i By September 23, 2022 No Comments

How do hotels meet the wellness needs of guests? How can they facilitate sustainable travel and events? What’s in the development pipeline? These were just some of the questions answered at Accor’s first post-pandemic Global Meeting Exchange (GME), the international hospitality company’s annual gathering of top executives, hotel representatives and MICE planners and press.

The event was held over the course of four days this summer at the Fairmont San Francisco, the brand’s first property and the hotel slated to host the GME before the world locked down to battle COVID-19 in March 2020. Together, the 350 attendees experienced the City by the Bay, discussed the impact of the pandemic, had one-on-one meetings, learned about Accor’s wellness and sustainability initiatives, and leaned hard into the industry’s recovery and meeting again. The hours of meaningful presentations, discussions, experiences, and networking delivered a load of information. Here are The Incentivist’s takeaways.

Fairmont San Francisco was opened in 1907. Sitting at the summit of the city’s famous Nob Hill, the property has 606 recently-renovated guestrooms, three restaurants, a health club and 72,000 square feet of meeting and event space across two buildings – the historic Main Building and the Tower Building. The jewel in its crown is the 6,000-square-foot Penthouse Suite, which spans the entire eighth floor of the Main Building. It’s incredible.

Accor’s evolution continues

In an opening day session, Patrick Mendes, Accor’s chief commercial officer, gave an overview of the company’s growth in the last decade. Achievements since 2013 include growing from 13 brands to 43 brands, expanding beyond Europe to become an international force, and developing into the world’s leading company in the eco/mid category and the number two hospitality company in the luxury and lifestyle category. Mendes went on to explain that the next step in the company’s evolution is a reorganization taking effect on October 1, 2022.

The reorganization will see Accor restructured around two dedicated divisions with a holding company on top. The first, and largest, is Economy, Midscale & Premium, which will include brands such as Ibis, Novotel, Swissôtel, Mövenpick and Pullman. It covers 4,816 hotels worldwide and 948 new properties in development and will be structured geographically around four regional headquarters in Paris, Sao Paulo, Singapore and Shanghai. China, a particularly strong growth market for Accor, will be a standalone unit within the division.

The second division – Luxury & Lifestyle – brings together Accor’s luxury brands as well as its lifestyle entity, Ennismore, and covers 488 hotels globally and 266 new properties in development. This division will be structured by brand around four pillars: Raffles & Orient Express, Fairmont, Sofitel & MGallery, and Ennismore. It is committed to strengthening the identities of iconic brands, selecting the best locations and offering unique, innovative experiences.

The holding company topping the divisions will oversee shared services and initiatives, including procurement, loyalty, sustainability, and technology. Fortunately for planners, Accor’s global sales force will continue to represent all brands.

In a press release announcing the reorganization, Sébastien Bazin, Accor’s chairman and CEO, explained that it is a natural step in the transformation of the company initiated several years ago. “By evolving from a generalist to a multi-specialist model, our aim is to further improve Accor’s appeal in the eyes of talents, owners, partners, and investors. We capitalize on our leadership positions to accelerate our development, better focus talents and expertise, and improve our performance.”

All-aboard and All-Inclusives: What’s in the pipeline

Today, Accor has more than 1,100 properties in its development pipeline. These properties are spread across all its brands and around the world. In 2021, the company opened 288 hotels and resorts, adding 41,000 rooms to its inventory. Growth is just as robust this year and into 2023, with Accor opening a number of flagship properties, including Raffles London at The OWO; Raffles & Fairmont Doha (Qatar); Raffles at Galaxy Macau; Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel & Residences; Sofitel Barcelona Skipper; Sofitel Shanghai North Bund; The Admiral Hotel Manila – MGallery; Pullman Orchard Singapore; Novotel Mexico City Insurgentes; and more.

GME 2022: This is a collage image of four Accor properties. (clockwise from bottom left) Raffles London at The OWO; Orient Express train; Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Panama; and Raffles & Fairmont Doha, Qatar. All photos courtesy of Accor.

(Clockwise from bottom left) Raffles London at The OWO; Orient Express train; Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Panama; and Raffles & Fairmont Doha, Qatar. All photos courtesy of Accor.

But the most notable development news at the GME centered on Accor’s new All-Inclusive Collection and its revitalization of the renowned Orient Express brand.

In 2016, Accor entered into a joint venture with Fettah Tamince, founder of Rixos Hotels, to develop the all-inclusive segment. In five years, the partnership has seen Rixos, a leader in the luxury all-inclusive segment, triple its network to become the dominant leader in Turkey, the Middle East and Central Asia, with 24 hotels (10,000 rooms) in operation and 26 hotels (14,000+ rooms) in the pipeline.

This May Accor announced that it would be expanding its all-inclusive offering by including its luxury and premium brands with Fairmont, Sofitel, Pullman, Swissôtel and Mövenpick in the Collection. This expansion will be centered in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Turkey, Asia and Central America and the Caribbean. Criteria for development include the growth potential in a destination for the segment and the strength of the brands in the target markets.

Attendees at the GME, which was originally a Fairmont event, were teased with news that the popular MICE brand might be opening all-inclusive properties. However, at a press conference, Mansi Vogt, global brand leader and vice-president for Fairmont, explained that the development of a Fairmont all-inclusive was still very much in the discussion phase and it is imperative that they integrate the brand experience and the all-inclusive experience in the right way. “This is a completely separate product [from the Fairmont hotels],” she said. “Guests want the Fairmont experience in an environment where everything is taken care of. We’re having lots of conversations about what that could look like.”

The revitalized, renovated Orient Express trains are another new product in Accor’s development pipeline. The first train – La Dolce Vita – is expected to welcome guests aboard in 2023. Markus Keller, Accor’s sales and distribution officer, explained that the train, which departs from Rome, would, in large part, run through small villages on private tracks.

Designed by Dimorestudio, each of the new trains will have 11 cars with 12 deluxe cabins, 18 suites, one Honour Suite, and a restaurant delivering five-star food and beverage service. According to Keller, the coming months will see more announcements about Orient Express projects and hotels.

Wellness for all

Wellness was one of the GME’s central themes. Attendees arrived to find ready-to-use Yeti water bottles and complimentary yoga mats in their rooms. They were invited to download an app and go for a guided run or attend an early-morning yoga/meditation class at Grace Cathedral, the beautiful church a block away from the Fairmont San Francisco. During the day, they could pop into the Wellness Lounge for a fresh beverage from the juice or matcha bar, and a rest in a massage chair. During sessions, they heard how Accor executives had embraced wellness during the pandemic and were treated to a keynote by Leigh Weinraub, founder of Mind in Motion, who shared tools for mental and emotional fitness.

GME 2022: This is an image of the entry drive and front of Fairmont Windsor Park in the United Kingdom. Photo courtesy of Accor.

Fairmont Windsor Park

Wellness is now an essential part of Accor’s DNA, explained Emlyn Brown, the company’s global vice-president of Well-Being. And it is his goal to democratize it across all of Accor’s brands.

According to Brown, recent research shows that four out of five hotel guests, regardless of age, demographic or country, are taking daily steps to improve their well-being. “We need to be matching, meeting and exceeding that demand – from an ibis or Novotel all the way to a Raffles or Orient Express.”

“There is a real concern that wellness has been traditionally considered as a one-percenter or a five-percenter aspiration, but it needs to be for all. Particularly for young people, coming into the workplace or starting out in life. Wellness must be accessible. That was one of the main reasons why we launched our Health to Wealth [podcast] series,” he said. “Everyone should have access to well-being in our hotels – to eat well, to sleep well, to take moments to pause and have time. That’s really our mission – to make wellness democratic, and for all demographics.”

It is certainly front-and-center at many of the company’s new properties. For example, Fairmont Windsor Park (UK), which opened in 2021, has a spa that spans more than 26,000 square feet across two floors and includes 18 treatment rooms, four wellness rooms, indoor and outdoor pools; Himalayan salt room; Cryotherapy Chamber; 4D body scan; and more.

But there are a variety of ways to integrate wellness into the guest experience. “Novotel’s partnership with Calm is a great example, it’s all about rejuvenation, sleep, mental health, and well-being – through a digital delivery,” Brown explained. “Meanwhile at our Raffles properties, emotional well-being is at the forefront of our wellness experience for guests, so we’re doing live mediation practice, yoga, and having different wellness specialists coming in to teach and guide guests. We’ve created bespoke content for each brand, all around the idea of mental health and well-being.”

Earlier this year, Accor launched Health to Wealth, a podcast that explores wellness topics and trends and interviews thought leaders in the field. In this episode, Emlyn Brown explains why Accor commissioned the podcast and how the hospitality company intends to democratize wellness across its brands.

A Planet for All: Accor’s sustainability revolution

Accor’s sustainability strategy was also in the spotlight at the GME. Building on its Planet 21 initiative, the company has made care of the planet and care of people a foundational focus of its operations. In May 2021, Brune Poirson, joined the company’s Executive Team in the role of chief sustainability officer. She is responsible for defining, driving and monitoring the commitments, strategy and roll-out of the Group’s sustainable development action plans. She is also responsible for the Accor Solidarity Foundation and the ALL Heartist Fund, the €70m fund created by the company to support employees affected by the pandemic.  In her presentation to attendees, she stressed that sustainability is being shifted to the heart of the business, explaining several of the company’s goals (reduction of carbon emissions, elimination of single-use plastics, food waste, diversity actions, eco-building, employee support, etc.) to attendees. She said that the world had been through the digital revolution and now it was going through the sustainability revolution. Companies had to act for the good of the planet and its people, and for the good of their bottom lines. She spoke about the increased demand for sustainability initiatives and a hotel product rooted in sustainable practices from younger customers, government organizations and non-government organizations. To illustrate Accor’s commitment, she shared that it had a €700m bond linked specifically to setting and achieving sustainable development goals (SDG). To learn more, view this video.