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Agnès Roquefort: Accor maintains a steady pace of development despite the crisis

Interview with Agnès Roquefort, Chief Development Officer at Accor. A discussion with Vanguélis Panayotis, CEO MKG Consulting.

Following the publication of the ranking of hotel groups, we note that Accor is positioned among the ten global groups by number of rooms.

We are proud of this ranking. Despite the context, we continue to grow. We have many partners who believe in us and owners who have signed with us in 2020.

Is the group's historical DNA an indicator of its development?

We have a good balance between our roots in the economic and mid-range segments and our development towards higher-end segments, from premium to ultra-luxury and lifestyle.

You have just been appointed head of global development at Accor. Have you had time to get your bearings? Have you defined your vision, your strategy and your roadmap?

I am honored to lead Accor's development. Every day is full of energy.

Recently, we completed a world tour of development challenges with a virtual event that brought together all 150 developers, designers and DNTS teams. From the Australians to the Americans, we had a sharing of the vision, the objectives, the launch of the year but also moments of conviviality and team building.

Do you still feel the appetite for investment in development?

We have opened 200 hotels in 2020. Our usual pace is 300. We are impacted, but we have several partners and investors who say it is time to invest and prepare for the recovery. The paradox is that there is still a lot of cash available in the market and they want to continue to invest in the hotel business because they believe in it.

To undersand our own development at Accor, let me share with you the road map and the strategy we have built with our team. We have name it UP with three pillars: Keep up, Upgrade and Leverage up.

Keep up is eco and midscale because it is in our DNA. We have strong leadership position in different regions of the world and that is very positive for our development. We can not rely only on our historical eco and midscale brands.

Our second pillar is Upgrade. Upgrade our development and that is where we have a new balance between eco midscale and upper segments. Today, our development is already driven at 60% in value by our upper segments from premium to ultra luxury and lifestyle.

And Leverage up our key partners because for development that is key. 60% of our development each year is achieved and delivered thanks to our existing partners. There is strong loyalty with our owners and partners. We must continue to grow rapidly, but in a very qualitative way.

What do you propose to these investors? What is your strategy today?

We have a broad portfolio of brands that we consider to be a real asset. We have brands that respond to customer demands and that will position themselves in niches or broad perimeters, ranging from business to leisure.

With MGallery, you have a hotel with its own personality, its specificity and its uniqueness, even if you join a large group. But we also have long-established brands, such as ibis, Novotel, Mercure. These brands are there to provide more standards and support investments that want to enter the hotel business without investing in design.

What do you think of this patchwork of products and all these contrasts on a global scale?

Being global allows us to detect trends or promising concepts that we can export to other areas. When we acquired Fairmont, Raffles and Swiss Hotels, Fairmont was very present in North America and Raffles in Asia. Now these are brands that we are deploying everywhere.

We know that the domestic clientele will pick up quickly, unlike business, which will be limited. There are also areas that will recover more quickly, such as North America and China. We remain positive about areas such as the Middle East, Africa and Northern Europe. We also have territories to conquer such as South East Asia. We have a lot of international flows, but we should also benefit from intra-regional flows. We are preparing for a real rebound. We fully expect it in the second half of the year.

And where does France fit into all this?

At the beginning of the year, there was a wait-and-see attitude, as it was the case everywhere. The context is what it is, but we remain positive for the rest of the year.

We have good drive on development projects that are in the leisure business. The owners are saying it and the customers are asking for it. They are extremely interested in and attracted to leisure offerings. For example, Rixos, our All-Inclusive resorts, is experiencing strong growth, but our challenge is to strengthen the family offer and to introduce more experiences around well-being.

What have you set up regarding co-working and hybrid meetings?

There are habits that are now rooted, such as mixing both business and pleasure or reducing travel time. This inevitably has an impact on our hotels and on the way we host seminars.

We recently signed a partnership with Microsoft to create All Connect and introduce hybrid meeting offers in our hotels. Then there's workhospitality/co-working. While we wait for business and MICE to come back, we are offering our partners mixed use. We wanted them to have classic hotel rooms, but also private offices or co-working spaces. These are models that we are starting to implement.

This concept was already active in branded residences. It's a trend that was either American, Asian or Middle Eastern and it's coming to Europe. In 2020, we have made our record year in this segment. All these uses, including co-working, will develop in the years to come.

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