After a two-year postponement due to the Covid pandemic, the 10e edition of Accor’s Global Meeting Exchange took place July 18-21, bringing together top guests, company management, hotel representatives and various corporate partners for networking, education and a chance to experience the historic Fairmont San Francisco.
For Accor, it was an opportunity to outline a major reorganization of the global hotel company which will take effect on October 1 and to underline its commitment to sustainable development and the emphasis on well-being. Also on the agenda was information about meeting and incentive properties under development.
Patrick Mendez, commercial director of the group, explained to the 300 participants how the hotel giant is realigning itself internally. After growing from 12 brands eight years ago to 42 brands today, the company is now split into two major divisions, Power Brands and Luxury/Lifestyle.
The Power Brands division will encompass budget, midscale and upscale hotels such as Novotel, Pullman, Swissotel, Ibis and Movenpick and will be overseen regionally (Americas, Europe and MEAPAC). On the other hand, the Luxury/Lifestyle division will be led by the brand with a CEO for each of the four pillars: Raffles and Orient Express; Fairmont; Sofitel, MGallery (boutique collection) and Emblems (a new luxury collection launching later this year); and Ennismore. Lifestyle-focused Ennismore includes brands such as 21c Museum Hotels, SLS, The Hoxton, Gleneagles, Hyde, JO&JOE and Morgans Originals.
At this stage, the changes do not affect the group’s sales, according to Marcus Keller, director of sales and distribution, who noted that the reorganization allows brands to focus on their priorities. “The fundamentals of running luxury brands are quite different,” he says, noting that “the depth of experience, programming and product” expected of a luxury/lifestyle hotel. “Without taking anything away from Power Brands, they should be much more driven by consistency, simplicity and automation than is expected of luxury/lifestyle brands.”
Main trends: well-being and sustainability
In his keynote address to the GME audience, Keller noted three lasting impacts on travel and tourism, and the meetings industry in particular, that have resulted from global events in recent years: increased attention to CSR” and our responsibilities not only to the environment, but also to our social responsibilities in terms of gender and racial equality”; the acceleration of technology; and “probably more importantly” a shift in priorities within the workforce. It seems “we’ve all taken the opportunity to look at ourselves and what we want out of this life and the time we have on the planet,” Keller said. ” People want work from home and be able to travel more slowly, and not constantly feel [rushed]. So you have a lot of people who are focused on authenticity and going local, and who want to co-work or work from home.
With these shifting workforce priorities and expectations in mind, Accor designed its client event to showcase different ways planners can put wellness front and center on a meeting agenda:
• Morning exercise options included yoga sessions specially designed for the group in the spectacular Grace Cathedral (right) as well as guided walks.
• Keynote speaker Leigh Weinraub spoke inspiringly about mental and emotional conditioning tools.
• A mini wellness fair (left) lasted several days, allowing participants to visit and try a Knesko eye treatment, a BeautyHealth HydraFacial, an immersive Resonate luminous mask, a freshly ground matcha drink, and other hands-on experiences.
• Wellness-themed giveaways included Yeti water bottles, Barker Wellness CBD sleep tincture and cork yoga mats.
• Many of the activities offered as part of the “Discover San Francisco” afternoon of the event focused on physical fitness and cultural enrichment, including biking, a visit to the spa, a guided hike and a visit of the Castro district.
Another topic highlighted at GME was Accor’s commitment to sustainability. The company hired the impressive Brune Poirson (underneath) in May 2021 as director of sustainable development, and the former French environment minister and vice-president of the United Nations Environment Assembly spoke to the group about Accor’s efforts to implement significant environmental changes. Driven by a constellation of factors beyond the right thing to do – customer expectations, government regulations, investor demands, etc. – the company is working to green all of its operations, Poirson said.
The company has pledged to halve its carbon footprint by 2030 and net zero carbon by 2050. It is also developing goals around biodiversity and nature, which will encompass efforts such as deforestation. zero by companies in the Accor supply chain, reducing waste and reducing the amount of meat on menus. A third priority for Poirson is what she called “equal opportunity” or “social elevator” initiatives. Why? “Because we think it’s fine to talk about the environment, but at the end of the day, if your people aren’t happy, if your people can’t make ends meet, and especially if that company isn’t trying to solve people’s problems rather than create them, [the business] won’t work,” she said.
The GME audience also learned more about Accor’s growing product line. The company plans to open an average of one hotel per day across the world over the coming year, many of which are interest with meeting and incentive planners.
A standout property is the crescent-shaped Katara Towers (left) under construction in Doha, Qatar, and is expected to open in time for the World Cup in November. According to Meenaz Diamond, Accor’s senior vice president of global sales, the remarkable two-brand structure – half Fairmont, half Raffles – includes one of 26 new Fairmont hotels that will open in the next three to five years. (pictured with Steve O’Malley, Corporate Vice President, COO, Maritz Global Events, left, and Frederic Bendin, Managing Director, Hopscotch Group) Other destinations with Fairmont openings on the horizon include Prague (2023), Tokyo (2024) and Vietnam (2024).
In addition to Doha, two other properties soon to fly the ultra-luxury Raffles flag are the 147-room Boston Raffles set to open in 2023, which will be the first Raffles in North America, and Raffles London at the old Win the office (OWO) opening later this year. For incentive planners, Accor’s relaunch of the historic Orient Express trains in 2024 is a development to watch. Accor Chairman and CEO Sebastian Bazin told the GME audience the story of the search for the original Orient Express passenger cars, almost forgotten in a railroad yard on the Belarusian border, and the detailed restoration which now puts them back in service. The luxury trains will run mostly on private tracks across Italy, but the company has plans to international dutyice cream in Paris and Istanbul as well. The Orient Express brand also has two hotels in the works, with an opening in Rome scheduled for 2023 and Venice in 2024 or 2025.
Accor executives also discussed their move into the upscale all-inclusive market, with 100 new properties expected over the next five years across multiple brands, including Fairmont and Sofitel.