The new Accor brand says a lot about the future of luxury hotels

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Skift take

Yes, it’s easy to poke fun at Accor by launching yet another brand. But making deals with independent luxury hotel owners requires a collection that the Paris-based hotel company didn’t easily have in its 40-plus brand lineup.

Cameron Sperance

Another day, and another soft brand that ties properties to a large hotel company but without all of the design and standardization requirements of something like a Sofitel or a Fairmont, is entering the hotel orbit.

Accor this week launched the Emblems collection, a luxury hotel brand, starting with the 64-suite Guiyang Art Center Hotel in China’s Guizhou province. If it looks like the pool of sweet brands is a bit crowded, that’s because it is.

Emblems Collection joins Accor’s other soft brand, MGallery, and comes after others like IHG’s Vignette Collection and Wyndham’s Registry Collection Hotels were announced earlier this year. Marriott and Hilton are already competing in this space with several soft brands each.

Has the hospitality industry gone from a brand bloat concern to a soft brand bloat company? Maybe, but Accor executives see their latest news as an essential tool in making deals with luxury hotel owners during the pandemic recovery.

“There are several competitors, but we are not at all afraid. We think it will be stronger, ”said Agnès Roquefort, Director of Development at Accor, in an interview with Skift. “Some markets like Europe are still huge independent hotel markets and this is where we are very strong in terms of distribution, marketing and loyalty. “

Emblems Collection targets more traditional luxury hotels than MGallery, which has attracted more than 100 hotels since its launch in 2008. Accor plans to have 60 hotels in the Emblems Collection portfolio by 2030.

While some may roll their eyes at the launch of another brand by Accor – the Parisian hotel company already has more than 40 – a soft brand targeting luxury hotels is a missing link compared to its competitors.

Marriott offers the Luxury Collection. Hilton has LXR. Recent launches by Wyndham and IHG are also targeting the upscale independent hotel sector, a signal the industry sees more in the courtesy of independent luxury hotels.

Targeting the luxury sector is the latest of the big hotel companies trying to win over independent hotel owners with soft brands, giving them more autonomy in areas such as design and operations while benefiting from the belonging to the loyalty network and distribution platforms of the largest company.

Large hotel companies like Accor predict this to be a major selling point for hotel owners looking for maximum exposure to potential travelers emerging from the pandemic.

“Whether you are in a developed or a developing market, we are in a time where owners are smarter than ever, depending on what the world has been through,” said Gary Rosen, CEO of Accor for Greater China. “So they’re looking for ways to make sure that they can actually deliver a great bottom line. Being part of a larger network without losing your own identity is a perfect marriage. “

A haven of peace in Europe

For once during the pandemic, Accor’s significant exposure across Europe will be a huge advantage. This has been a handicap, given the different waves of lockdowns and the pandemic mitigation strategies by individual countries.

But Europe has many independent hotels that might decide that some sort of brand affiliation is an advantage during the takeover.

There are 3.3 million independent hotel rooms in Europe compared to 2.1 million branded, according to STR. This is a lot of conversion potential compared to the United States, where nearly 4 million rooms are labeled and 1.5 million independent.

Other hotel companies are also seeing opportunities in Europe, as Hyatt’s recent $ 2.7 billion acquisition of Apple Leisure Group was fueled by the company’s drive to strengthen its presence on the continent. The deal bolstered Hyatt’s European presence by around 60%, but Accor’s management doesn’t seem too intimidated by others rushing into their backyards.

“They should. They crushed me in America and China,” Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin told the Skift Global Forum this year of its American competitors stepping up their European plans. “I’m not going to them. crush because Europe is big, but I’m not going to make it easy for them. “

Accor’s expansion strategy with Emblems Collection focuses on negotiations with owners of already developed properties. Conversions, when an existing hotel owner takes up a brand affiliation, is a major source of growth for soft brands.

Accor predicts that more than 70% of the growth of its new flexible brand will come from conversions, both conversions of existing hotels and conversions of other types of buildings such as offices. The Guiyang Art Center Hotel building was originally built as a private residence.

But business leaders do not rule out the arrival of new hotels in the collection either.

“Even in China, where there is a lot of pure new construction, we can have these opportunities. So we are pretty confident that we will have opportunities, ”said Roquefort. “Once again, it is about strengthening our luxury positioning and showing our great expertise in this segment.

Geographic strategy

Accor’s geographic strategy with the Emblems collection may seem a bit of a puzzle: a first hotel in China with the Australian Gold Coast and Sydney among the markets pre-selected for future projects.

Bazin and Jean-Jacques Morin, deputy managing director of Accor, pointed out earlier this month that the two countries are slowing the company’s performance with lockdowns and closed borders.

There are many other cities and regions mentioned as potential future homes for an Emblem Collection hotel like London, Seoul, New York, and Havana, as well as other resort destinations like Tuscany, Mykonos, and the Riviera Maya in Mexico.

Rosen maintaining the tighter lockdown stance of some of the company’s major Asia-Pacific countries is not an eternal problem, and China remains a critical part of the company’s growth plans.

“It’s in the short term,” he said. “The government is obviously really trying to make sure that it puts in place additional palliatives … It is not a question of not opening the borders.”

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