Interview with Maud Bailly, CEO of the MGallery, Sofitel, Sofitel Legend and Emblems brands. On the occasion of the opening of the Domaine de la Reine Margot - MGallery Collection and after 9 months at the head of this new area, she talks about her ambitions and priorities. (Video in French)
The Domaine de la Reine Margot - MGallery Collection is steeped in history, a specificity that required all the expertise of the Accor group
It took 4 years of hard work, with the covid health crisis in the middle, to bring to life the jewel of the Domaine de la Reine Margot, which is a hotel under the MGallery banner.
It's a hotel that's very dear to our hearts because it's rich in history. In 1606, it welcomed Marguerite de Valois, the famous Queen Margot. It was her refuge, where she welcomed poets, philosophers and even the future king Louis XIII.
In 1655, the Compagnie des Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice bought the building, which was subsequently listed as a Historic Monument.
It's a magnificent place steeped in history, and we've tried to protect and renovate its heritage. After 4 years of hard work, we are very proud to see the birth of the Domaine de la Reine Margot - MGallery Collection.
It has also been a team effort. What really touched us was to see the alliance of so many profiles from different backgrounds. Architects, of course, and designers, with the invaluable support of Jean-Michel Wilmotte's firm, as well as elected representatives, including the deputy mayor André Santini, without whom nothing would have been possible, and also priests, with the support of the Compagnie des prêtres de Saint-Sulpice. There are also passionate craftsmen who have helped us to restore and breathe new life into a place steeped in history, but which had nevertheless been damaged by the passage of time.
Accor began this project when I was General Manager of Southern Europe, and it was very moving for me, a few weeks ago, to take part in the inauguration of this hotel. It's always very moving to witness the rebirth of a place as magical as this one, which will be opening its doors very soon.
A perfect location for the MGallery brand
MGallery is a collection of hotels that are all unique, all different and all selected. Today we have more than 120 MGallery hotels around the world, and the philosophy is to have charming boutique hotels with a history. These are often historic places or places that had a use before they became hotels.
We opened The Porter House in Sydney, which used to be a tannery. There are many objects echoing the art of leather. In Santa Teresa, Brazil, it's a former coffee farm, with a tribute to coffee everywhere. In Troyes, we opened the Hôtel De La Licorne, which used to be a police station. We also opened the Hôtel de la Cité in Carcassonne, which was built on the site of a bishop's palace.
Finally, of course, the Domaine de la Reine Margot - MGallery Collection is part of this tradition of converting sites, protecting their history and reinventing them to serve our hotel customers.
What really touched us about this place was the chapel that we restored. There's a modern building set in a botanical garden, with an orchard and vegetable garden that will provide enormous inspiration for the cuisine of Jean-Philippe Perol, our chef. This establishment retains the idea of a refuge, and the Domaine de la Reine Margot was the Queen's refuge during the troubled times she lived through. We hope that for all the people of Issy, all the Parisians and all the tourists who come here, the Domaine de la Reine Margot will be true to its history and will be a refuge hotel with an extremely inspiring past.
How would you sum up these first 9 months?
It's very rewarding to manage brands on a global scale. I was lucky enough before to be in charge of digital transformation. Then for just over 2 years I was in charge of Southern Europe. That's 1,900 hotels in 7 countries, including France, all brands included. It was very interesting, with the need to differentiate between ibis, Novotel, Mercure, Raffles and Sofitel. I learned about the operational side of the hotel business during that period.
Having only four brands now, with just 250 hotels worldwide, means that you have to go into the depths of a brand's identity.
For MGallery, for example, we are working in depth on brand standards, the service qualities associated with the brand and development criteria.
Is our network coherent enough? Which brands do we need to remove, which hotels are not MGallery or are no longer MGallery, or which really need to be renovated if they are to remain MGallery.
Together with my teams, I approve each new MGallery hotel that joins the network. It's quite a formidable task; it's the work of a jeweller, in depth, to convey the ambition, values and commitment of the brand.
This is also part of our partnership strategy. We recently launched a partnership between the MGallery brand and the women's nightwear collection launched by Robin Wright, based on pyjamas for Pink October.
The idea is to systematically remain consistent with our very strong boutique hotel brand identity, with its historical roots, a story to tell, many CSR commitments and a very strong commitment to women. We reflect this identity in a network that is consistent worldwide, in training programmes for our employees that are consistent, and in collaborations that reflect this commitment.
We are adopting the same approach for Sofitel Legend and Sofitel. We are preparing the new Emblems brand, which is a collection of boutique hotels consisting mainly of suites and villas.
What's exciting is that we've built up a team in 9 months. We've gone from having almost no-one to over 120 employees at central level to run these 250 hotels. We created a network of regional relays.
One by one, we have chosen each of our talents, for their professional skills and their heart. Because hotels are a job for the heart.
We have started to open or inaugurate new renovated hotels. Last week I was in Vietnam to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Sofitel Saigon, and also to celebrate the renovation of the Suhumvit Sofitel in Bangkok. I opened the Sofitel Legend in Panama and the MGallery Palazzo Tirso in Cagliari, Sardinia.
Your portfolio includes brands that are symbols of French-style hospitality
It's magical to not only see the birth of a luxury house around these four brands, to define the standards, to create the teams and then to accompany the first openings, to sign the first developments.
It's quite exciting to have this luxury brand expertise, and this is only the beginning.
I chose Accor because I find the world of travel and hotels fascinating. I also chose Accor because it's a French flagship.
I had worked for 10 years in the public service in various financial inspection roles, but also at SNCF in the field as a station manager, and at Matignon in the Prime Minister's office. So I was looking for a new step in the service of a French flagship. A major private French player with 5,500 hotels in 110 countries and 300,000 people working in hotels under the Accor banner is a kind of French 'Cocorico' impact.
Within the Accor group, I now have the opportunity to manage luxury brands that also have a French touch. It's a kind of consistency.
Sofitel has that touch of excellence, of French luxury. A French touch that is never arrogant, that is never in a high position, but rather tells the story of French know-how, French excellence, whether in cuisine, in the art of wine, in design, in the art of sleep with Sofitel mattresses. For Sofitel's 60th anniversary next year in 2024, we have really pushed forward all this French savoir-faire, which is also a philosophy of life, a way of enjoying life in all its dimensions.
Sofitel Legend is the even more luxurious version of Sofitel, and it obviously has this brand with French DNA at its heart.
MGallery is the little collection that's on the rise, with more than 120 MGallery hotels around the world and 38 to be opened over the next 3 years. It's an extremely dynamic development. In my opinion, MGallery brings together a number of jewels with this aesthetic, this taste for refinement and this search for the non-standard, this French signature and this touch of commitment to women that speaks to me so much. Finally, Emblems is the luxury version.
Within Accor, the French flagship of the international hotel industry, these are very French brands, and I'm very proud of them.