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Analysis

How Accor transforms its brands and forecasts the advent of augmented hospitality

Accor pursues its progressive evolution towards the new hotel model, augmented hospitality. This involves major changes, in terms of the type, image, name and renewed style of its brands, as well as substance, by transforming the very architecture of these different brands. A look at this global strategy that is evident in its actions daily.

A year after buying 85% of shares in the American brand focused on art, the French hotel behemoth decided to absorb 21c Museum Hotels in its collection MGallery. Created in 2006 by two passionate art collectors, the brand is well established in the United States (Arkansas, Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Oklahoma). Today it has eight boutique-hotels, and there are three more to come (297 rooms in Chicago, Illinois; 131 rooms in Des Moines, Iowa; 200 rooms in St. Louis, Missouri), a contemporary art museum and eight restaurants.

Yohan Amiot, Vice President of MGallery By Sofitel, justifies this decision by explaining that it allows the group to set a foot on the American continent, in addition to the fact that "the  21c brand is the perfect complement to MGallery's concept of bespoke, creative hospitality for lovers of travel, the arts and immersive experiences." It also offers them the possibility of reinforcing their presence on the boutique-hotels segment. Mr Amiot nonetheless explains that this connection will have very little impact on the identity of 21c, because it "will remain very much as it is".

This action makes it possible to begin renovating the brand MGallery in the months to come. In fact, Accor launched a renewal program for all its brands, starting with ibis red. The brand's economy hotel concept was fully revised and shifted from standardization to thematization, divided into three scenarios: the Plaza concept by  FGMF (the prototype of which was elaborated in Sao Paulo), the Agora concept by Innocad (prototype based in Austria) and Square concept by Soda (prototype based in Bangkok). In addition to a renewed and diversified look, the approach also consists in integrating a new dimension in the hotel industry where music is key. Concerts by local artists will be organised and a partnership with Spotify is planned. All these new features will provide the properties with an additional source of income. The same strategy has been developed for the Mercure properties, which were redesigned with the help of the contemporary furniture company Ligne Roset. The idea is to distinguish them from similar luxury offers within the group, such as Novotel or Mama Shelter.

But Accor's strategy goes even further. It consists of an overall reinvention of the identity of the group, whose name and logo were anticipated. Delphine Dauge, Agency director at Brandimage in charge of redefining the image if the Accor group, explains: "Accor had an active acquisition strategy, with more than 35 brands present under the aegis of the group, some of which are not hoteliers. A year ago when we presented ourselves for recreating the image, management presented us with the problem of the incarnation of augmented hospitality. […] This means that the group wants to anticipate the needs and desires of guests, who don't just go to the hotel occasionally for leisure and business excursions, but rather accompany them in all the moments of their life." This is why the group has opened up to other activities such as "entertainment"  and co-working through their brand WOJO that has just been launched. More than diversification, it is about integrating all the aspects of the lives a property's clients to create an ecosystem. This is why the slogan for "augmented hospitality" is no less than "Live, Work, Play".

Finally, the other goal is to unify and simplify the Accor universe. As Delphine Dauge says "within the brand architecture there were a plethora of different names". This required regrouping certain brands. The last example to date is 21c Museum Hotels which has joined MGallery, as explained earlier, in fact "today, it is necessary to describe products under a single brand name, like Amazon or La Poste"  (Delphine Dauge).

The last word goes to Sébastien Bazin, CEO Accor, who said at the Global Lodging Forum 2019: "It is important to expand the touch points, we must reach out to you when you are not traveling, when you just need a concierge, to go out, to work, to go to the restaurant... This is Accor Augmented Hospitality's strategy: increase touch points. We have 20 years ahead of us to take the right decisions. Create an Accor universe."

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