A New Hotel Every 36 Hours

AccorHotels presents its new enlarged portfolio for the first time at ITB Berlin

Jean-Claude Balanos Vice-President of Leisure Sales at AccorHotels worldwide is in charge of three key pillars: Setting the strategy for the entire group in terms of the B2B leisure segment (covering a number of different subsegments) and adapting the strategy across all regions; Managing the animation of strategic clients all over the world; and examining ways to digitise the segment (which remains quite traditional) for both individual or group clients. We asked him what he sees as being the key trends in the market today…

In terms of global trends, revenues are increasing, because tourism is on the rise all around the world. What is changing is more and more the channels through which they are booking. Looking at the different regions, in the AccorHotels group we measure the regions by large zones. In the Asia-Pacific region, which is doing very well, there is an increase in intra-zone travel. You also have a lot of “Rest of the World” going to Asia-Pacific… so these zones are booming in terms of tourism. North America is also booming – in a similar fashion to APAC. We have some difficult zones, such as Middle East, Egypt and Africa, due to all the geopolitical problems in those regions. Then we have the case of Dubai, which is a different issue, more due to the opening of a lot of new properties, meaning demand has not increased as we might have hoped. Eastern Europe is doing very well, while the rest of Europe is quite stable, despite problems in France and Belgium in 2016 due to the terrorist attacks. We are starting to see a recovery in these regions this year, nevertheless these difficulties have been compensated by southern Europe – Italy, Portugal and Spain, and also Eastern Europe. South America can be divided into two, as Brazil has been suffering since last year, while the rest of the Hispanic countries are doing very well. Our footprint is now very important in France, Brazil, Dubai, Egypt and Morocco, so even if we compensate by other zones, these countries are still quite affected.

How are group travel bookings evolving?

As you probably know, three years ago, we launched a new tool – an online group booking tool – which was a major innovation. We were the only hotel group to do that – allowing a client to directly book online for a group, by blocking the allotment with the best rate of the day. They can do this at any time, from any place, from any computer, iPad or smartphone. This tool enables the user to save a lot of time by booking online. For the rest – the traditional bookings, or via contracted clients, the trend is quite stable. There has of course been some degree of geographical evolution due to global political events, but the trend has been maintained and is even increasing, especially from the Chinese and the Indian markets. All the rest of the markets remain stable, whereas Japan and South America are not performing well. The US and Australia are remaining stable, but I foresee that the group business will continue to increase across the board.

At this year’s ITB Berlin, we are highlighting our Leisure Online tool for groups, as we have added a brand-new important function to this. Now, groups can book online on a halfboard package basis… this was introduced just last month. This is the only such online tool available in the market done directly by a hotelier. The first version was introduced two years ago, and it has already been working very well, so with this new functionality, it will be taken to a new level and we expect to have a rise in bookings due to this.

Looking at the individual leisure segment, what is your strategy there, and how is this strategy evolving at the moment?

The strategy is evolving through connectivity. We want to develop more and more connectivity with our clients, giving a freer level of rates. Today, with dynamic rates, we have the possibility to put the best rate of the day at the right time. On the opposite side of the coin, if you have a static rate that is negotiated one year in advance, of course you can never match the reality of the day. So we tend to reduce the number of individual static contracts and go towards connectivity.

Obviously in the past months we have seen big news with the integration of new luxury brands into the group. Why has this been so important?

It’s a great opportunity for us to include those luxury brands into the AccorHotels portfolio. On the one hand, they are luxury brands, which is an added value for us. On the other hand, they are based in a region where we wanted to have more presence – North America. This gives us a better footprint in these regions, and in this market segment. The brands have been totally included in our day to day life and they are fully part of our negotiations. They have a very good visibility towards our clients and they are now following our strategy. The teams from these groups have also been integrated into the AccorHotels system. This is an interesting factor as well… Yes, because there’s a mix of cultures. Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtels Hotels, as you know, have a strong US culture. This is quite interesting for us, as it brings us a lot of fresh air and new ideas. We are trying to take the best from each side in terms of processes and negotiations with clients. The cultural mix is enriching for all of us and brings more added-value for the client, who of course is the most important part of the equation! In sales, we have one single contact and approach per client, for the whole portfolio.

What will be the key difference at your stand at ITB Berlin this year?

It will be the first time all our brands will have been included on one stand at the same major show. Up to last year, we had two separate stands. We are also including our new lifestyle companies, such as 25 Hours, the brand based in Germany… or Mama Shelter. The entire portfolio will be at the stand. While ITB Berlin brings us the opportunity to show that we are now “all in one” with our new brands, it also gives us the opportunity to present our private rental brands, such as Onefinestay.

What does the future hold?

The first thing that’s important to remember is that we are opening a new hotel every 36 hours. This brings us more and more opportunities with our existing brands… and there are always ongoing negotiations for more acquisitions