"I am always happy to be among my hotel friends."
"I read an article where people were criticizing odd jobs, saying they are poorly paid. They may also be found in the hotel business, but they don’t have a very enticing image. What we call odd jobs can be real jobs if we have a perspective of evolving, of climbing the social ladder. For this we need schools and training programs like Accor Academy, which can always be improved. Perhaps government incentives. A real in-depth examination is needed: salaries are too low in our sector. There would be no problem in increasing them if we knew how. We can't relocate the hotel, so we're all together, if one increases the others will. It is an extremely difficult project, but it must be tackled. One can start with a low salary if one knows that in 6 months and then 1 year it will increase.
Salaries must be increased for a valued and rewarding profession. Young people, work, do the work. Work on the qualification of your troops and give a better image of our professions."
- And the attractiveness of our professions? How to become as attractive as start-ups?
"Of course, it's great this new way of doing business, in our time we were a start-up, we were all start-ups by ourselves. At the time it was necessary to integrate big companies and not to create a business. That's changed. It's great that young and old alike can get into entrepreneurship, but not everyone wants to. There are interesting careers in more or less large companies, we need all kinds of things, in Europe and in France we have a great array. Employees must be valued through training and salary. An effort needs to be made."
- How do you attract a young talent/entrepreneur to join you? How to motivate them?
"I'm telling my story, "I'd like to do that, are you interested?" I get yes or no as an answer. Today, I am realizing that I was so convinced of what I was saying that I could not imagine that the other person would not agree. Now I am wiser, and I realize that not everyone is stimulated by this. You have to convince, you have to seduce, you have to want to win.
I have this image from the movie Forrest Gump. We see the main character running, running, running with a whole crowd of people behind him running with him. Suddenly in the middle of a road he stops and says, "I'm done running". But the others behind him said, "What do we do?" The leader cannot abandon them, he must not either. When you have a leadership role, you can't abandon your troops."
Brands are an important subject. Earlier, Georges Sampeur said: "beware of the trivialization of brands." It's very important what he said there. Trademarks must be strong, otherwise they will disappear. In the automobile industry 60 years ago, they invested and launched the Beetle; then the Golf came along and today there is the Bentley. The group is doing well despite a few minor errors. At Accor we started with Novotel now we go from Novotel to Raffles without passing by ibis, etc... On Those that have not developed brands have disappeared: Vauxhall, Simca, Panhard... likewise, in the hotel business, who remembers Eurotel? Today’s context is a rather formidable market that has been growing globally by 5% per year for 50 years. So, what could make our sector disappear? Airbnb? I don't think so. Nevertheless, it would be nice if they respected our rules and our modes of service. There were cottage rentals. The first Novotel created a stir, but the business resisted. Traditional hoteliers have moved, renovated. Today B&B, ibis, Novotel have become the traditional hotel business. We must renew ourselves, invent. What are our strengths? Pony Express disappeared because of the railroad, then there's the car and then the plane. The railways are developing and working well. Cruises are extraordinary. The first time I went to the United States I went by boat. Today, with air travel this crossing could have disappeared. But whoever imagined fifty years ago that there would be such a development of cruises?
How can we imagine our future? Digital is not a problem. It will make our job easier. The problem is the brands in our groups. We always hesitate to invest in brands. 30 years ago, I was fighting with franchisees because the hotels were not up to standard. Today, it's the other way around. Franchisors realized that by investing they were increasing the life of their hotels but also their bottom line. The large groups do not have the same ratios. There are financial ratios, stock market ratios and for them, investing is not necessarily as interesting. So they divest from these hotels. But if they want to stay alive, they must invest in the quality of the product they sell and make it known. Communication is an essential element after making and developing the product. I consider that there is not enough investment being made today in product quality. Regardless of the group.
- The trademarks must be exemplary, and if we multiply the brands in the groups, won't that slow things down?
I'm not against multiple brands. A product must be consistent to be visible to the customer and the customer must identify with it. If you "twist" the product a little too much, the customer will no longer find his way around. Making a good brand requires work, so much the better; that is positive. However, it is true that when we develop in France and multiply the brands it is not problematic. But watch out for international development. To go international, you have to be big and multiple. Let's take one step at a time; by developing a good product and a brand in France we can develop two, three, four... it's not a problem.
To close today my two points are: training and human resources as well as investment in brands. To make brands strong and indispensable. Digital will not kill brands, this sector needs brands.
- Vanguélis Panayotis was talking earlier about the need to restore empathy in hotels, what do you think?
Empathy will come from the men and women in the hotel. The brand is made of "hard" like decoration, and it's interesting to go in the direction of fashion and trends, you have to look at them, follow them. But above that there are those who run the hotel and it is they who produce empathy. In the brand and product there are men and women. They move toward the client if they feel comfortable in their jobs, if they are well trained they will do the job well and this empathy will exist. If they are poorly trained they don't know how to do it and if they are poorly paid they feel less involved.
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