New concepts : After the buzz effect of the launch and the first openings, what results for the new brands?
Julie Fawcett, Managing Director, Qbic Hotels: "Qbic is a very young brand. We wanted our brand to be different and so we needed to understand our position and the context of what was going on around us. The first thing is that a huge growth was going on in the budget world, the second thing was a boom in the lifestyle category. People want experiences.
What we want to build things cheaply as an economy brand. With Qbic we put our rooms together in 3 hours, so a white box turns into a really functional hotel room that is more cost effectiven. A real estate proposition is not enough to make it interesting to the customer but this is the starting point. We have a simple design position that is totally made for adapting and improving. It is a fundamental point for Qbic business.
The public spaces that we put together clearly needed to be reactivated. So we brought together the community and our guests to improving our public spaces.
There are many lifestyle brands so if you want to be successful, you have to build investment into structures."
Meindert-Jan Tjoeng, Director Development & Investment, Citizen M: “We started from scratch in 2005/2006; we are real estate and hotel specialists. Now for the last few years, we have created a portfolio of 12 hotels in operation and 18 under development globally. In the next few years, we are really trying to push it to the next stages, focusing on the US, Europe and Asia. To do this we need to be a little more creative. We are focused on bringing affordable luxury to city center locations. At first we focused on airport locations and business locations, and now we are focusing more and more on city centers. We are opening in Geneva, also San Francisco, Times Square in New York…
Our focus obviously remains on rooms, but also on inspiring and relaxing spaces. We really started as a modular build hotel but now we are really focusing on guests.
In the next 10 years, we will try to keep on innovating with tools but also guest experience.”
Peter Haaber, CEO, Zleep Hotels: "We wanted to reproduce the good old budget days, which Accor did with Etap Hotel, Motel One, but we couldn’t become franchisees because the price is exorbitant and the interest in entering Scandinavia was not very high at the time. Things have changed now as even Citizen M comes to Scandinavia. So, I had to develop my own brand as I couldn’t deal with anybody. Today, we have taken a lot of good things from the bigger brands and also from the new comers and developed a Scandinavian economy brand. We are not a super budget brand anymore, we are a “lifestyle economy” brand, focusing primarily on rooms. We have 10 hotels in operation and 6 in the pipeline, in Scandinavia."
What are your perspectives then?
P. Haaber: "Outside Europe, it’s big, outside the Nordic countries it’s big, so if I can say Germany I begin to like that idea. We want to develop each country one at a time. We’ve done Denmark, we are going to do a few more, Sweden is a huge opportunity for us as well as Finland and Norway."
Hannes, can you tell us about the DNA of your product?
Hannes Spanring, CEO, Meininger: “We are a hybrid, we have established ourselves quite strongly in Europe in this moment; a development in the US was initiated. We actually have four different customer segments: school groups, family travel, business travel, and individual travellers. All are combined in our hotels.
Meininger has run a massive rollout especially in the last one and a half to two years. We are running 20 hotels now with over 10,400 beds. We have 16 hotels under construction in Europe, we are going into major cities at this moment.
We have a good combination, our partner Cox and Kings is actually the largest travel organisation in India. We also have very good European partners like Foncière des Régions. Meininger has very interesting perspectives for the next few years. We also signed an agreement to do the same as we did in Europe and in the USA where we have created a pipeline of around 25 hotels.
In Europe we have about 120 projects at the moment all in major cities.
This hybrid model, this kind of mindset - a “millennial mindset” - is quite disruptive in the industry. We have very clearly based the design of our product on the customers’ needs.
Serge, did you wish to disrupt the hospitality product?
Serge Trigano, CEO and Co-Founder, Mama Shelter: "We thought that there was something to imagine in a slightly different hotel concept, which opened the hotel at the doors of the city, which made people discover different districts and in which the catering would be more important than what was being done at that time in the hotel business, where there was a room for breakfast and there was no question of mixing the two.
We have gone so far that today we are more of a restaurant chain than a hotel chain with 55% of turnover on the Mama Shelter restaurants and 45% on the hotel division.
We actually tried to break the codes, as we didn't come from the classic hotel business; we brought the zest of Club Med and from different universes we created our own universe. It could have been a total and complete failure, we are doing pretty well, we try to be careful to reinvent ourselves permanently and not rest on our laurels. We have an unfortunate tendency to question ourselves every morning even when it works well."
Is there anything you wanted to change, to disrupt with Qbic?
J. Fawcett, Qbic Hotels: “We saw restaurants and F&B in hotels as a problem. And it is a massive opportunity, to turn a concept into something that integrates the surrounding communities. We are absolutely part of the community."
How do you consider yourself with Zleep Hotels?
P. Haaber, Zleep Hotels: “We first only focused on the bed, but today we focus on the hotel experience and sleep experience. We have been working for 15 years now. We are not going to be something else, we have our identity. We are a sleeping station for people focused on high quality. B&B hotels would be a company similar to ours. We are not able to work like Mama Shelter yet.
10 years ago, you received an Award at the Worldwide Hospitality Awards, what statements would you make today? What is the feedback?
M-J. Tjoeng, Citizen M: “Guest reviews are very strong, every score is around 9, so guest reviews are positive, but it can always be improved for sure. We are on upscale projects trying to offer affordable, luxury and give this to the mobile citizens of the world. We want MICE travellers to feel at home at the hotel and want to come back. It’s more grab and go, when I stay in Paris I don’t want to eat at the hotel, I want to eat in a restaurant the city. If I need a quick bite, I can find what I need in a Citizen M.
On the one hand we have business travellers who represent about 70% of the bookings and they are all gone during weekends. So, we have to propose a funky nice place to stay with very good beds.
What about the industrialisation, to grow and reach the critical size? How do you set targets and objectives?
H. Spanring, Meininger: “I think we have reached the critical stage and size already. A massive stage was when we teamed up with Foncière des Murs/Foncière des Régions. That was a strategic part, it was very important for us to team up with an entity that has the same vision, that was very helpful. We do not see ourselves as a disrupter in the business. We are actually serving a specific purpose, a specific lead which already exists, that’s the sharing experience.
We are going to double or triple our portfolio. Not many people have heard about Meininger before, trust me you will hear more as we have a massive rollout in France (Paris, Lyon, Bordeaux) with hotels under construction."
Serge, what is the feedback? What does that bring for the future?
S.Trigano, Mama Shelter: "What I believe is that imagination is everywhere in our business today. The hotel business is a profession that slept gently until the early 2000s, there were no great innovations after the phase of great innovation with Accor, Hilton and others. Today, there is innovation coming from all over the world. It is up to us to invent and reinvent ourselves.
I try to make Mama Shelter a bit of an antidote to everyday life. We try to bring our clients, in a rather complicated and difficult world between strikes, wars, diseases, etc., a little moment of happiness. Our claim is quite simple.
I believe this profession is reinventing itself, that there will be room tomorrow for what we are doing but also for the classic hotel business in the traditional sense of the term. The same customer will want to go to a Zleep Hotel, a Citizen M, Meininger, Qbic or other and then tomorrow to stay at a Novotel that reinvents itself or a Holiday Inn or other because our tastes change inlife.
We try to stay one step ahead by keeping in our hearts the idea that the hospitality business is first and foremost about bringing happiness and first and foremost about the quality of the men and women who do this job.
How do you accelerate Qbic in terms of development? How do you want to tackle this challenge?
J. Fawcett, Qbic: “The first thing is to get an investment, then work hard. You have to go out, find the site, the opportunities. We are very clear where we want to be. We have to find opportunities.”
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