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[#PAFh19] "Customers have very paradoxical demands"

How profitable are alternative accommodations assets? Interview with Frédéric Le Guen, CEO, Belambra Club at the Paris Asset Forum >hospitality.

Belambra comprises 58 clubs spread over the whole of France for a turnover of approximately 200 million euros each year. Belambra Club can be summarized in 3 distinctive characteristics. The first is a strong territorial anchoring in the most beautiful places in France inherited from our past. For example, we are at the end of the Giens Peninsula and at Arc 1800 with the Hôtel du Golf, etc. The second element that makes us special is a promise of freedom. We are free to do or not to do anything. It is our teams' job to make sure that we can take care of your children or help you get back in shape or leave you completely alone. The third distinctive element is the mission that our teams feel invested with, we are an operator that offers a lot of services, to work at Belambra you have to love people.

The theme of this event is investment, how do you analyze from your point of view the resort market in France? What is your observation and in which direction is it going?

I don't think there is a resort market in France, strictly speaking. The market is global, to spend a holiday in summer the competition is very wide from a country point of view but also from a hosting format point of view. Our main target group are families in the summer, they can also choose to rent a house on Internet platforms with friends, they can also go to top-of-the-range campsites that have made a lot of progress. The market is not limited to the resorts market in France. We are leaders on the French market and so much the better because the destination has become trendy again. A few years ago, it was not very statutory to say "I spend my holidays in France". At Belambra we have a club that is always less than three hours away from a major city by car. Flying is less and less popular, going abroad can be stressful.

What is the clientele mix between French and Europeans at Belambra?

In the mountains, 75% are French clientele, and in the summer we are primarily French.

The way we operate is a way to create value, how do you see the changes over the next 5 to 10 years? What is your prospective vision of this operator model?

A very important challenge: deseasonalize as much as possible. We have developed a group activity that is growing strongly and regularly. The seminar activity allows us to extend the season to times when we would normally be closed. The resort provides exceptional environments to disconnect and think "out of the box".
Another element is that you have to be a committed brand, especially with your employees when you are a service business. To please people, people need to enjoy working. We develop the involvement of our employees via digital technology to stay in touch with the company during the off-season period. We have also launched a Belambra school, where more than 100 staff members will be trained next year.
You have to be committed from an environmental point of view, it's very important for us. We are located in places that are often classified as Natura 2000.
We work on concrete digital solutions with a very pragmatic vision. Digital is at the service of service. Our commitment to our customers is very concrete, for example thanks to our application, two days after arrival the customer receives a short SMS "Are you satisfied with your stay. YES/NO". Of the 30,000 SMS messages sent this summer, 99% were "yes". These concrete tools to measure customer satisfaction are part of major future developments

What do you believe the major changes in consumer habits are?

First, there is what does not change, people want to rest when they go on holiday and they want comfort, more and more comfort. Very concretely, until 5 years ago, it was possible to do without air conditioning in the south, now it is no longer possible.

Second element, of major importance for the destination: visiting the destination. We work a lot on these subjects so that our teams can share good tips and secret places. We have set up BelRégions counters.

Last but not least, customers have very paradoxical demands. They want all-inclusive packages, but they are not willing to pay for services they will not use. They want to make sure they have a large number of activities available, but also not be forced to do them. We are faced with these paradoxes, which leads us to propose many tailor-made solutions, with drawers for each need.

What are your ambitions for development for the years to come?

For four years we have been opening 1 to 2 clubs each year and we will continue to do so in the years to come. For example, we will open in Avoriaz with a spa and family rooms after major works. We have also taken over the hotel Les Bruyères Aux Menuires and another at 2Alpes with a goal to doubling its capacity.
In 2021 we will open more than 370 lodgings at Port Camargue. We find partners for each new development.

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