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[Vidéo] "Physical distancing must not interfere with the social bond"

An opportunity to federate the sector and reinvent the tourism of tomorrow. Interview between Vanguélis Panayotis, CEO MKG Consulting and Franck Gervais, Managing Director Europe Accor. [Video in French]

On a personal note, everything is going well. I think that's the most important thing in this period. We are in an unknown period that no one had foreseen. We are happy to see the light at the end of the tunnel and to be able to project a little more.

Yes, we have to adapt to a new context. In collaboration with Hospitality ON, we have published an analysis of the weight of hotel groups in terms of EBITDA and enterprise value. Obviously, the number of rooms is important but financial strength is essential. So how would you describe Accor's structuring role in our sector?

We have exercised Accor's leadership in two key areas. Key subjects on which we didn't just tell you "it's Accor that does this" but "it's Accor in connection with others or for others". »

The first case is all the solidarity actions to help all those who were on the front line during this fight against the virus. First of all, it is to be able to accommodate the medical staff in our hotels (...) Always on this first aspect, the fact of housing homeless people but also beaten people or people who continue to work.

The first part is solidarity and usefulness during the crisis and then gradually to get out of it. We propose some hotels for the deconfinement. We accommodate Covid+ carrier patients, which is called asymptomatic (...) For example, Accor has a charter for welcoming homeless populations and we were delighted to share it with the entire profession.

The second part is really about getting out of confinement and gradually getting back into business. First hotels and then cafés and restaurants. It should be remembered that hotels in France are not administratively closed. They are closed because people cannot move around.

We have played our role as leaders in writing a protocol, a commitment, a health charter, which says, "here are the conditions, dear customer, dear employees, dear ministers, Commissioner for Containment and Mr President of the Republic, this sector is ready to bounce back. "

Of course, masks and charlotte must be worn in the kitchens by all food preparers. Of course, we will serve in the restaurant with gloves and of course we welcome in the hotels with a mask. But this is not going to last and will be reviewed as each government's health doctrine develops.

Rather than each one going to propose its operating mode for its branch, its brands and its sector, we took the initiative to understand how we could get together. I think we can write a leaflet on how in 72 hours we managed, together with all the independents and representatives of the chains, to align ourselves to come up with the same protocol. There was no false note, everybody went in unison. This gives us ideas for the future.

What are your relationships with your other partners?

It is up to the partners and owners to answer. I have the impression that we have never been so close, so tightly knit and so united. We have been more attentive and more sensitive. The Accor group, without its 400 franchise partners in France, is nothing. These are all individual cases that we have to consider, that we have to value, that we have to protect and that we have to support.

That is what we did in our discussion with the government. We have spoken on behalf of all our partners. And I think the relationships are very good. There is listening, understanding, respect and trust. I think all the ingredients are there and that's good. Talking about some misunderstandings has brought us closer together. It's a very good omen.

What do you think tomorrow's big trends are going to be?

This pandemic, this first half of 2020, is going to mark a turning point in the history of tourism in particular. Everyone felt that we were living the last hours, weeks and months of this consumption pattern. There was no longer any limit. We felt that at some point the rubber band, by dint of pulling on it, was going to break.

Concentrating so many people in the same period of time in the same place was not sustainable. Indeed, it is not responsible. Tourism will become responsible. It will ensure good cohesion, good communion and good respect for visitors and locals alike. They will no longer be able to oppose each other. 

I am not judging, but it is not normal that we have mayors of large cities such as Barcelona, Amsterdam, Dubrovnik or even Paris, who talk about tourism in terms that are not necessarily negative, but as if it had gone on too long. We have gone too far.

Tourism needs to be more authentic, more respectable and much more local. Our hotels must be places where people can meet visitors and tourists. And that there is not this anonymity, where the guest has not had this contact with the local population. Maybe they will be longer stays, less distant, less numerous. We'll have to go through that. It's a conviction.

We're asking ourselves the question, how will our sector fit into the long term? This prompts us to reconsider everything we were proposing. Are the brands consistent with what it says is what they are? Are the brands consistent between what they say to customers and how they relate to their employees? Are employees given every opportunity for training or development? Is there a constructive dialogue with the customer? Are we a responsible player from A to Z?

I am convinced that this is what more and more customers are looking for, but also employees. We will be able to distinguish between people who are authentic and those who are more surface and artificial. 

Is it time to reinvent or readapt our concepts? Aren't there opportunities to launch new brands?

I am convinced that this is what more and more customers are looking for, but also employees. We will be able to distinguish between people who are authentic and those who are more surface and artificial. 

Isn't it time to reinvent or readapt our concepts? Aren't there opportunities to launch new brands?

Yes, there are opportunities to launch things around this soul and these encounters. We create, at last, encounters and discoveries. Clients come away with at least two things: a smile and having learned something.

I am thinking of our lifestyle brands such as Mama Shelter, Tribe or greet, which revolve around meeting people and authenticity. But also our core brands, which must retain an imprint, a message, a global consistency with greater local anchoring.

This is the case of an ibis that is open, but to whom and to what? It is open to talents who around the hotel want to come and sing or give lessons. It is also open to the internal talents of the hotel who can deliver their passions. It is to say to oneself "here is what one of the hotel's guests is proposing this evening at 6 pm, because he has this passion or he came to exercise it". It is to have much more natural expression and this is done through personalities and individualities. I think we have a great opportunity to reinvent everything around "co", such as coworking or coliving. It's a life around sharing that we're going to have to push while taking several precautions to distance ourselves. We must know how to marry them together.

Social distancing in terms of semantics is very penalizing. It would be good if the profession were to unite on a terrain that is more physical distancing.

Physical distancing must not in any way obviate social distancing. These are new rules for living well together, where the social will have its full role. We can do a lot of things with 1m of distance and then gradually with vaccines and protection, everything will rise. If you agree, we can banish this term of social distancing.

In the course of interviews with all the players in the sector, I can only observe that everyone remains positive in such a difficult situation. We are one of the most affected sectors, but everyone is coming together to make passion beat is the heart of this business. I congratulate you.

It is the soul that expresses itself. The will to give and to express the fact that the other is better off. I know few sectors that do about 10% of their business and that always express themselves with such enthusiasm and generosity. This shows that man has not been broken by this crisis and that he will come out better. I am convinced of this.

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