After his experiences at the 2018 Americas Lodging Investment Summit, Greg Doman, senior vice president of development at AccorHotels, was optimistic about the current mood in the industry and his own company’s development prospects. He shared with LODGING how his company—which has a strong presence in Asia and Europe—plans to establish a stronger presence in the North American markets, especially with the newly added luxury brands Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissôtel, which were part of its 2016 acquisition of FRHI Hotels & Resorts (FRHI).
What has been happening in AccorHotels’ North American markets since its acquisition of FRHI Hotels & Resorts in 2016?
It’s an exciting time for us. We’re hoping to open some big flagship properties soon now that Fairmont and AccorHotels are coming together. This will include the second largest Fairmont in over 50 years in the booming market of Austin. After that, the next flagship—also a Fairmont—will be on the West Coast, where we’ve always been strong. Part of the billion-dollar-plus development of the iconic Century Plaza, this hotel will have almost 400 guestrooms and 63 branded residences on top, plus two separate luxury residential towers and a significant retail component. It’s really high profile. It’s a perfect fit for our Fairmont brand—iconic and historical for L.A. We’re also very focused on continuing to build our luxury and lifestyle presence, and would like do it by establishing Raffles and Sofitel, which have been primarily located in Asia and Europe, in the North American market.
How do you plan to gain brand recognition for AccorHotels in this country?
Because AccorHotels is an umbrella brand, no specific hotel brand had previously been associated with the name, although we have a loyalty program called Le Club AccorHotels. We are in the process of rolling out a new loyalty program that will be integrated with the already existing Fairmont loyalty program. This will enable us to leverage the Fairmont footprint that we have already in North America; then, as we expand, we can continue bringing in these lifestyle brands and tying them all to the AccorHotel Group.
How do you approach the lifestyle hotel segment?
The upper-scale luxury lifestyle product resonates with a lot of developers and partners in the United States who are looking for something new, something different, so we need to be part of it. However, our approach has been somewhat out of the box. Instead of starting from scratch to offer our customers the kind of unique experience that is the hallmark of this segment, we’ve formed strategic partnerships with two best-in-class hotels already occupying the upper lifestyle segment, Mama Shelter and 25Hours. Our 35 percent stake in Mama Shelter gives them access to our development and distribution network, so they can accelerate their openings while bringing us into this segment.
What would you consider to be AccorHotels’ greatest strength in pursuing its goals?
What I really want to convey is a sense of AccorHotels’ innovative use of strategic partnerships, as with the lifestyle hotels Mama Shelter and 25hours, to benefit its partners as well as its own guests and portfolio. We’ve demonstrated this as well with multiple luxury brands, including the Banyan Tree and Orient Express.
The strategic alliance with Banyan Tree enabled that company to remain independent, while giving Banyan Tree-branded hotels around the world access to AccorHotels’ global reservations, sales network, and loyalty program. It also forged a path by which AccorHotels and Banyon Tree will co-develop and maintain the character of the iconic brands owned by Banyan Tree around the world. This will bring scale to the network through our ability to develop and manage the Banyan Tree hotels while also strengthening our leadership in the luxury hotel space.
In the Orient Express deal, AccorHotels and existing shareholder, French rail operator SNCF, develop a range of hotels under the Orient Express brand name, which also takes an innovative approach to giving AccorHotels a greater presence in the luxury space.