After months of meetings and planning following the mid-year take over of FRHI by AccorHotels, the group is now in a prime position to gain market share in 2017. Exclusive interview with Mike Taylor, Director, Global Communications & PR – Luxury brands.
Earlier this year, AccorHotels Group officially announced the acquisition of FRHI Hotels & Resorts (FRHI) and its three prestigious luxury hotel brands: Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel. The addition of these three remarkable brands instantly positioned AccorHotels as a leading player in the global luxury hotel market, increasing long-term growth potential and profitability, and significantly expanding the company’s footprint in North America.
At ILTM, we caught up with Mike Taylor Director, Global Communications & PR – Luxury brands and asked him for an update…
Over the past few months, the teams have really been working on planning and executing the integration of the two groups and combining the two groups. That first phase of activity was recently completed over the last month or so, where the first steps of that initial integration have taken place. Everyone in the company knows now where they stand, what their new roles will be, what teams they’re sitting on, and what scope they have. As part of that, a completely new structure within the company was created – and we’re calling it the “Luxe Groupe” or the “Luxury Brands Group”. It’s really going to just focus on the six core brands: Fairmont, Raffles, Swissôtel, MGallery, Sofitel and Pullman. New teams have been created to focus on the guest experience, products and programming, positioning (brand marketing, etc). There will be a new brand-marketing leader on that team, who reports directly to the CEO of Luxury – Chris Cahill. That individual is going to have individual brand leaders reporting in to him. The thought behind that is that we want to avoid brand creep. In addition to the core team there are also people on an operations level who are focussing just on luxury and supporting that luxury structure at a corporate centre level. We’re bringing in people like general managers, people from design and construction… think of all the functional areas of a hotel… to come in and help us validate that the things we are doing in creating that platform for luxury and for the brands is actually happening on the ground at a hotel level.
You’ve come over from the FRHI group… How do you feel this merger adds value to the offering from your point of view?
The deal made strategic sense on a number of levels. AccorHotels already had over 4,000 properties – and a good portion of that is in the mid-scale and economy. We have significantly increased the group’s presence in the luxury segment – adding three new brands into the mix. We also brought a much bigger footprint in North America. If you look globally at AccorHotels, they were leader in Europe, leader in the Middle East, but in North America, they just didn’t have a lot of products. Fairmont in particular has a very big presence in North America, so we’ve given them a lot more distribution in one of the key markets globally. The deal was very complementary in the sense that FRHI had a lot of things that AccorHotels needed, and there’s the talent and culture mix as well. FRHI is bringing in a lot of leaders with extensive experience in managing luxury hotels. The deal made a lot of sense, because there wasn’t a lot of overlap – only a little. For the most part the deal was very complementary.
How does the French culture of the AccorHotel group filter down through the company?
Of course AccorHotels is a French group, but they want to be recognised as a global leader. I do think that looking at FRHI’s culture compared to AccorHotel’s culture, there were enough similarities that the integration has been quite easy.
What are the good points of the AccorHotels group that are being brought into the equation?
We’re already starting to see it for the former FRHI brands – AccorHotels has massive global distribution that’s very robust. We’re even seeing it on the development side from both companies. FRHI played just in the luxury space. We were talking to developers but didn’t have any midscale or economy options for them. For AccorHotels, they were dealing more in midscale and economy with some luxury. Now as we are talking to developers it’s opening up new opportunities. We just have many more brands to sell to the development community. A perfect example is that since the deal was announced back in December 2015, and then closed in July, FRHI has had a record year for signing letters of intent on new management contracts. So yes, we are already starting to see opportunities presenting themselves.
ACCORHOTELS LUXURY HIGHLIGHTS
The following provides a few highlights of recent and upcoming news.
New appointments to the luxury team
Andrew Gibson has been appointed Vice President, Well Being, Luxury Brands with responsibility for the spa strategy within AccorHotels’ luxury and upscale brand portfolio. With 30 years of international experience and a founding board member of the Global Spa and Wellness Summit and the Global Wellness Institute, Gibson was most recently Vice President, Spa and Wellness at FRHI Hotels & Resorts. Pascal Visintainer has also joined the team as Vice President, Luxury Sales from his previous position as Vice President Sales, Revenue Management, Distribution & Reservations for AccorHotels. Visintainer will lead the luxury sales teams and oversee the company’s sales and trade marketing strategies for the luxury segment. Duncan O’Rourke joins AccorHotels as Chief Operating Officer, Europe, Luxury. O’Rourke brings over 30 years of hospitality experience to his new role and will oversee all operations of the company’s luxury hotels in Europe. Most recently, O’Rourke served as Group CEO Hospitality at Emerald Palace Group.
Recent Sofitel Openings in 2016
Frankfurt is officially magnifique with the opening of Sofitel Frankfurt Opera. Designed in the style of a 17th/18th century hôtel particulier, this noble city palace features 150 rooms and suites infused with the essence of Parisian art de vivre. Sofitel Tamuda Bay Beach and Spa in Morocco also recently opened. Featuring stunning architecture, modern design and an ‘arty chic’ atmosphere, this lively Mediterranean resort offers a vibrant and fun atmosphere for the whole family. In February, the new 77-room SO Sofitel Hua Hin in Thailand opened as the first SO Sofitel resort in Asia Pacific. The resort recognises the growing segment of travellers, particularly in Thailand and within Asia, who seek a fun and design-led atmosphere with a distinct style and attitude.
Recent MGallery by Sofitel Openings in 2016
In 2016, MGallery by Sofitel has set sight on growth with two new country openings: Hotel Santa Teresa in Rio de Janeiro and Hotel David Tower Netanya in Israel. In Rio, the hotel is situated in the bohemian Santa Teresa district famous for the marvellous city’s artistic and musical heritage. In Netanya, the property is just steps away from
the beach promenade and overlooks the blue and golden coast on the Israeli Riviera. In France, 2016 marked the arrival of the first 5-star hotel in eastern Paris with the opening of Hotel Boutet Paris Bastille – a former joinery workshop and chocolate factory.
Recent Pullman Openings in 2016
Three gorgeous new Pullman hotels have recently opened, including Hotel Pullman Riga Old Town, a 155 room five star hotel in the heart of Riga, Latvia. The Park Lane Hong Kong, a Pullman Hotel has opened in Causeway Bay as the ultimate sanctuary in Hong Kong for the modern urban nomad; and, Pullman San Francisco Bay, a prime destination for business travelers and tourists, has opened on the shores of a tranquil lagoon within the upscale community of Redwood Shores.
Sophisticated new suites
Recently, The Savoy, a Fairmont Managed Hotel, debuted its new Royal Suite, an elegant procession of rooms spanning the entire Thames River view side of the iconic hotel’s fifth floor. With a classically posh, residential design style, guests of the Royal Suite have access to a dedicated Savoy Royal Entourage including a Savoy Butler and a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce.
In Vancouver, super luxe Fairmont Pacific Rim rolled out its collection of Owner’s Suites, with glamorous, mid-century modern interiors influenced by fashion, art and music and featuring the city’s most spectacular harbor and mountain views. Swissôtel Zurich has introduced holistic luxury with The Vitality Room, a well-being concept room designed to help guests “live it well” with circadian light features, ergonomic furniture, hydrating beverages, superfood snacks and a fitness wall for a private workout.
Raffles Singapore redux
As of January 2017, Raffles Hotel Singapore, the most iconic and celebrated hotel of the entire Raffles portfolio, will embark on a meticulous restoration program. During the first phase, the Raffles Hotel Arcade will undergo renovation while the other areas of the property continue to operate as normal. The Arcade is home to 40 boutiques, cafés and bars including the Long Bar, creator of the original Singapore Sling. Phase Two will begin mid-year, when restoration will commence on the main hotel building, lobby and some hotel suites. The final phase will require a closing of the property near the end of 2017. The unveiling and grand reopening of this National Monument of Singapore will occur in the second quarter of 2018.
Arabian nights in 2017
Also set to open its doors in early 2017 is Fairmont Fujairah, nestled on the east coast of the United Arab Emirates, between the rugged peaks of the Hajar Mountains and the calm waters of the Gulf of Oman. With 180 guestrooms and suites, this Arabic bohemian hotel is committed to contemporary art while honoring the rustic elegance of its surroundings. Fairmont also plans to open Fairmont Marina Resort in Abu Dhabi; Fairmont Riyadh and Fairmont Amman in 2017. Additionally, Swissôtel Al Maqam will open as a 1,624 room tower in the holy city of Makkah; in Qatar, Pullman Doha Bridge Towers will open along with MGallery Doha Musheireb.
More openings in 2017
Raffles is set to wow the Warsaw hotel scene with Raffles Europejski, a resurrected icon offering 103 guestrooms. Set in one of the city’s most beloved and historic buildings, Hotel Europejski was a grand hotel in the Russian Empire, later destroyed in WWII. Raffles will not only bring glamour and charm back to the Europejski, it will set a new standard for luxury accommodations in Warsaw.
Meanwhile, in Australia, the five-star Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour will deliver smooth cosmopolitan luxury, with 590 guestrooms and suites. Combining French elegance and modern design with breathtaking views of the harbor, the hotel is adjacent to the new International Convention Centre in Sydney. Additional luxury hotels set to open in 2017 include MGallery London Leicester Square, Sofitel Singapore City Centre and Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Damansara.
Fairmont Quasar Istanbul will open its doors in January 2017. Rising above the slopes of The Bosphorus, Fairmont Quasar unites the sophistication of modern Istanbul with the unique lineage of its location, steeped in centuries of sacred history. Fairmont Quasar is the first hotel for Fairmont in Turkey and the fifth property of AccorHotels’ luxury brand portfolio within the fabled city, joining sister properties Raffles Istanbul, Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Pullman Istanbul Airport and Convention Center and The Elysium Istanbul MGallery by Sofitel. AccorHotels presently has 32 hotel and resort properties across Turkey, with an additional three hotels slated for opening in Istanbul in 2017, including Galata Hotel Istanbul MGallery by Sofitel.
An array of culture and events
Sofitel makes it a point of honour to celebrate its French heritage via numerous cultural events linked to literature, fashion and art. This idea includes the signature party concept, La Nuit by Sofitel, designed for cosmopolitan travellers and stylish socialisers. Perfectly integrating Sofitel’s key pillars of culture, design and gastronomy, the parties take place around exclusive international cultural events such as art and design fairs as well as film and music festivals. La Nuit by Sofitel has hosted celebrations in Cannes, Marrakech, Budapest, Vienna, Los Angeles, Dubai, Paris and Rio de Janeiro. The anticipated 2017 opening of Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour will bring this event concept to Australia.
Milestone birthday for Canada in 2017
In Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, Fairmont Château Laurier is the place to see and be seen. This grande dame will be the home base for many VIPs during Canada’s 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. In preparation, the hotel is expanding and polishing up its Fairmont Gold program, adding new services and amenities designed to impress. A packed itinerary of festive activities is planned for 2017, culminating in three days of Canada Day festivities in July and a Great Canadian Birthday Party. Fairmont hotels across the nation, including Fairmont Banff Springs and Fairmont Royal York, will also celebrate with exclusive events, offers and other festivities throughout the year.
Celebrated icons prepare for fresh new looks
With all eyes on Canada next year, Victoria’s Fairmont Empress has undertaken a $40 million, two-phase restoration project to create a spectacular new space, including the lobby, spa, all 235 guestrooms, an expanded Fairmont Gold floor with a new lounge and terrace, and the addition of a sumptuous 1,600 square foot Royal Suite overlooking the magnificent Inner Harbour. Meanwhile in the always fashionable Montréal, Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth has closed its doors for a $140 million top-to-bottom transformation. Some 500 guestrooms will be refreshed and all-new restaurants and lounge spaces will be added, including an immersive business campus designed to be the most modern in North America. Both projects expect to be fully completed during 2017, so as not to miss out on the nation’s anniversary celebrations!