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What is the role of franchisees in operational marketing?

During the 19th edition of the Global Lodging Forum, the role of franchisees in operational marketing at hotel groups was the subject of a round table bringing together sector representatives such as Maranatha Hotels, Louvre Hotels Group, Accor, Foncière des Régions, Invest Hotels and Restomurs.

Patrick Jacquier, President Invest Hotels, multi-brand franchisee:

At first we followed the pioneers such as Gérard Pelisson and Paul Dubrule. They trained the system. It was a new market where development was evident and absolutely possible. Today, the market has broken into segments and competition has grown gradually. The first thing a franchisee needs to do is a market study of the product that is missing in the given location and to see what product is bast adapted to the place. To me it is absolutely necessary to belong to a hotel chain, not only for brand awareness, but also thanks to the challenge it offers. As soon as the competition is established it is important to break down the market and develop better awareness of customer expectations. If at a given moment, a hotel chain cannot give us the product we are looking for, then it is normal to look elsewhere. That's not being unfaithful. One must see opportunities. We must ask our franchiser to point us toward the best product for clients, toward costs that are right. Nonetheless, we will never prevent a hotel manager from playing a commercial role at his hotel. That's part of a franchisee's work.

Dominique Ozanne, Directeur Général Hotels & Hospitality Management Foncière des Régions et Président de FDM Management: 

With the creation of FDM Management, we adapted to the evolution of the business model of our clients. The latter are looking for partners to accompany their brand, and we, as owner, believe we can create value out of both the walls and the business. With this strategic move, we will be able to work with many operators. We will have renewed growth and will be better able to respond to the problems of our current partners.

Since ten years ago new concepts, new brands have developed. Now we talk about the customer experience. After real estate asset management, we have begun brand asset management. Moreover, we are not opposed to franchising. We will thus build a team that is able to manage assets and takeover operations at certain hotels in major European cities. It is possible to adapt to the brand's problems. Today we work with fifteen brands and are able to obtain partnerships that are strong enough so that we can work with more brands tomorrow.

Being a franchisee means being the brand's ambassador, a local representative of a concept. The franchisee manages the business every day and is thus better placed for sharing eventual evolutions. Thus it is all the more important since today we may from among many brands. The franchisee must thus be increasingly heard. And the franchiser must adapt.

Régis Donzeau, President, Association des franchisés Louvre Hotels:

The term "lobby" does not bother me as long as it is used within a constructive approach. The AIFE (Association des investisseurs franchisés du pôle économique de Louvre Hôtels) regroups 400 hotels. It is thus necessary to work within a logic of common interest, even if there are areas where we disagree and demands. A franchisee cannot simply trust a brand. It is important to challenge the franchiser. We have more than thirty active members who are involved in the association's operations. We must be able to make offers. Beyond the brand image and the evolution of concepts, it is important to rework the operational content product. Operators have totally eliminated operational marketing. They rely on us. If we communicate customer information, it is their job to retreat the information received and thus ensure that the operational processes are appropriate.

Arnaud Fayet, Franchisé Accor et Président de l’Association des franchisés Accor (AFA):

Accor franchisees are historic. Before there was one association per brand, which was hard to manage. Today, we are a group of 350 owners in the AFA, representing 1000 hotels. 50% of Accor properties in France are franchises. We are working with commissions (ex: RH Marketing, Distribution, Achat).  We are trying to target essential criteria because we do not have the capacity to represent all Accor's different divisions. For the first time we have organized our own convention of franchisees, alone in order to try to move ahead in areas such as low cost. We are trying to become professional, to have an exchange and outside view with respect our franchiser. it is important to have a great deal of transparency. We also work a great deal with digital. We question the importance of brands for clients. Does the ranking of groups matter? How is it possible to be better referenced on the Web? No one just Googles "three-star hotel". W want to give visibility.

When franchisers decided to reposition certain brands, we were very enthusiastic. However, the awareness of a brand such as Etap Hôtel was very strong. Much more than Ibis Budget is now. At Accor, there is no major tension but permanent discussions take place. We have implemented "marketing foundations" which allow us to express our opinion. For example, Ibis Budget franchisees did not wish to implement Ibis Music because it does not fit the economy segment.

Olivier Carvin, President, Maranatha Hotels, multi-brand franchisee: 

When we buy a hotel there are three solutions. We can operate it under the hotel's brand, we can consider increasing the added value of the building in partnership, or we integrate a new brand. Everything depends on the destination. In the mountains, brand's aren't as important. It is also necessary to see who the competitors are and what kind of added value can be given to the property. We also need to see how the business evolves. As an entrepreneur, we will try to reduce customer acquisition costs. Brands can help in that area; they offer added value. This does not prevent being multibrand. 

Major brands missed the Booking trend. Now they can't miss the alternative accommodations trend such as Airbnb. It is important to look around, analyze and fight together. We are lucky to have a customer, they just have a concept. Finally, the only place we're competing is in terms of distribution costs.

Salim Nazaraly, Accor franchisee: 

Globally speaking, we have remained very loyal to the group we grew up with. How ever at one point in particular Accor could not give me a brand, so it' becomes necessary to look elsewhere. This did not prevent us from working together when the next hotel came around. To a certain extent, we had the DNA of all the Accor brands from the start. The franchiser is there to bring what we cannot afford: marketing tools, distribution, innovations. It is our role to work to keep them informed of any difficulties we run into.

Samuel Thomas, Gérant de Restomurs, multibrand franchisee:

After the sale of Balladins in 2007, I did not want to stop when things were going so well. We got caught up in the game of buying up hotels. We remained faithful to Anglo Saxon brands in order to have the same foundations. It is much easier for training on the field. It makes it possible to save time and thus we are more precise with the teams. Moreover we systematically update our assets.

When we were a franchiser, we thought about spending a lot of time on each franchise hotel, but in the end we could see them only one or two times a year. Now as a franchisee, I understand the problem of franchisers better. So we tried to be more autonomous. The brand gives us visibility, marketing, and we try to relay a maximum of information to the brand.

Also read:

  • Global Lodging Forum 2015: advice from Paul Dubrule
  • Global Lodging Forum 2015: promote the destination to encourage hotel development?
  • Global Lodging Forum 2015: seven work axes of the government to encourage tourism

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