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#GLF19 | "There is a contradiction in the independent hotel business, between a determination to consolidate and pool on the one hand, and on the other to remain each on their own side"

Consortia, brands and franchisees, new challenges lie ahead to establish themselves on the international scene and continue to perform. Brand identity, management of the quality of products and services, distribution and awareness… What are the avenues and what are strategies for the future?

How are you bringing your hoteliers into the digital era?

Isabelle Rochelandet: The switch to digital necessarily takes more time depending on whether it is for franchises or consortia. It must be done internally and then hoteliers need to be convinced to adopt it. It all begins with the mother company, first technological investment. At Choice, we are developing through internal ressources: first we "create at home", then we develop. We have a new CRS, and our first goal is for 100% connectivity: all our properties must be connected with our CRS, either through the house PMS or interfaces, in order to be able have a unique inventory and avoid disparities and incoherence in terms of visibility and  rates. But it is also about rebuilding Internet sites. The biggest risk when you begin to invest in digital is that there is cannibalisation, and expenditures in digital go to waste. We also worked on the "customer journey", which consists in following the customer's itinerary, becoming a part of it from the outset. Just under two years ago we created an inspirational website: Travel Top 6. It does not send clients directly to hotels, but makes them want to move, to discover, to meet, to visit… This will make it possible, in the end, to bring clientele back to the hotels, because one travels not just for a hotel but above all for the destination.

Marc Plisson: It was necessary to evangelize our hoteliers regarding the advantages and benefits of digital. The most difficult was to make everyone understand the tool, its usefulness and put it to work. There is such as diversity of hoteliers that it was very difficult to make it widely accepted. It has been accepted in terms of reservations, but evangelization remains to be done on the social networks.

Karim Soleihavoup: We have all the connectivity, but for us digital is all about innovation. We have completely digitized the customer experience in terms of loyalty. This gives our employees back some time to ensure that our hotel-restaurant operators focus on smiling with the customer. We also need to train our teams, because it is an intense profession. We use the Logis Académie, which is a totally digital tool, for remote training of all employees and members. But we also do product innovation. We have thus modernized our bathrooms, through a partnership that gives us connected showers. You can connect to the shower via your smartphone, and listen to a podcast, your favorite program or music... We work simultaneously on customer experience, product innovation and training innovation.

Philippe Marguet:

This does not prevent us from working on innovating the customer experience and the product. We didn't necessarily start from zero. We had accumulated systems that didn't communicate with one another. In order to allow our properties and hotels to manage their reservations and distribution in a simplified manner we had to undertake a major digital transformation project. We have thus completely redesigned our website. We created a new booking platform, Theoriginalshotels.com that brings together the group's 600 properties. The aim was also to improve customer recognition, which is not necessarily easy in the independent hotel industry, since hoteliers are rather reluctant when it comes to sharing their customer databases. But today it is necessary in order to offer a loyalty system, and thus promote all the richness and diversity of an independent hotel industry. This organization is necessary, and we need to promote it and enhance it.

IR: There is a contradiction in the independent hotel business, between a determination to consolidate and pool on the one hand, and on the other to remain separate. All these barriers must be abolished.

PM: It is also necessary to provide much pedagogy, explanations, support. It is important to be transparent about where we are headed, to demonstrate that we share a vision and thus offer reassurance about a shared future.

How do you see rural hospitality in a few years in light of competitors such as Airbnb, vacation rentals and guest rooms and HPA?

IR: It will be complicated. The last regulations were already complicated for our trade. Not to mention problems with operating costs, recruitment, etc.

KS: Logis has a history in rural areas. I am more optimistic, as long as activities are differentiated. The smaller the property in terms of rooms, the more important it is to focus what is local and connect to the territory: it is important to be shopkeeper, restaurant, stopping point, etc. It  is important to be as much of a hybrid as possible and count on local, seasonal products. Whence the creation of Auberges de Pays: from proximity to trade, local restaurants, and small hotels.

PM: It is also important to upscale both product and service. I think it is important to be part of a cooperative, which the others don't have. One of the strengths of being independent is being able to choose to go collective.

Mixed-use is a major trend in commercial accommodations, what is your approach?

MP: Independent hoteliers also do mixed use. For example we have two hotels with mixed-use. They are a blend of classic hotel, residence hotels, and youth hostels. There is also a floor for co-working and light dining. We are interested in mixing different types of accommodations, and this approach corresponds increasingly to different needs. We are testing this in Bourgogne and at another site on the Atlantic coast. It is truly the emanation of what we are feeling from the market. For example, there are new uses tied to co-working. Before, Hotels were alive from 5:30 pm and 6 am. Today, the goal is to have them alive 24/7 thanks to a commercial space and a good WiFi connection. This is also what the general public is seeking, to be able to work in hotels.

PM: We do not have a co-working or co-living approach strictly speaking, but we have built a property in Montmartre. It is an eight-story building that includes a hotel, a restaurant, a whole set of seminar rooms, and a rooftop with a bar and a view of Montmartre. Inside this building there are also the headquarters of the cooperative, where we can receive our members, as well as a training school. It is a space created with a possibility for a wide range of activities, and we would like to develop this concept in Paris.

IR: Mixed-use is on the rise among franchisees, starting with local initiatives. It is a bit difficult for existing products since there is not necessarily the surface area required. New build constructions are better adapted. Previously we could not sell rooms except as such, and only per night. The advantage of this system is that it makes it possible to subdivide the property, and thus rooms and meeting rooms, for a day, half hour or several hours). 

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