During these unprecedented times that the whole world, and specifically the hospitality industry, are going through, it is essential to highlight the sustainability strategy of leading industry brands. HN spoke to Mark Willis, CEO Middle East & Africa of Accor, to shed light on the chain’s success formula.
How do you assess the performance of the hospitality industry in the MENA during the time of COVID-19 and how do you benchmark it versus its global counterparts?
We are seeing a very positive demand from both local as well as regional markets for Middle East and North Africa. With the ease of travel restrictions, we are seeing bookings coming from neighboring countries in the Gulf region, as well as demand for local staycations from residents and locals within the markets.
Staycations are proving to be quite popular since the ease of restrictions, especially in the UAE which was one of the first countries to ease both internal travel and international travel. We are also seeing the same trend in Egypt and Morocco, where locals and residents are choosing to spend their weekends in hotels. Until international travel resumes to pre-COVID levels, and travel restrictions ease, we are seeing staycations as a very positive trend.
How did Accor reinforce its market positioning during the crisis?
Transparency in communication: guests want to feel safe and be aware of everything we are doing to ensure their safety more than ever before. For this reason we have launched the ALLSAFE program in partnership with Bureau Veritas to ensure guests can be aware of all steps that are being taken on a daily basis in the hotel.
Flexibility in cancellation: We all know that making long term plans can be quite tricky nowadays. As Regulations change very regularly which may impact travel, therefore we need to ensure we provide enough flexibility for our guests to be able to move or cancel their stay at short notice.
Technological advancements: Hand in hand with safety, COVID has accelerated the need to advance technological features in the hospitality industry. Some of these have been included in our ALLSAFE program, such as digital menus that can be viewed on your own mobile, whatsapp communication with hotel teams and self check in/check out when at the hotel.
Value for money: This year has impacted everyone to some degree. At Accor Middle East & Africa we recognize the need to be able to offer guests our services and fantastic locations at an affordable rate. With this in mind, we have launched an exclusive 50% off for our loyalty members when they sign up for the program (which is free) and book our hotels through their profile. This offer is running until the end of the year for stays until March 2021 and will have following exclusive offers and promotions the months after.
How key was the diverse hotels (different categories and customer brackets) you have in your portfolio to allow you sustain?
With over 25 hotel brands which range from economy with Ibis and Novotel to Luxury with Raffles, Fairmont and Sofitel, we offer owners a wide selection of brands and opportunities to fit their project. Being able to cater to different requirements of guests has allowed us to create tailor made experiences.
What can you tell us about your development strategy and your key markets after the crisis?
Our development strategy continues to be strong and focused in the region. We are currently looking for new developments that will allow us to bring new products and brands into our area, while we also consider takeover and conversions of existing properties which are looking to change their management company,
Development at the moment is seeing an increase in demand for projects which are leisure destinations, with focus on all-inclusive concepts and lifestyle geared brands.
Key destinations for us continue to be UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco.
Will you continue your growth plans as per your agenda?
Our development plans continue to progress as per our strategy:
- Current portfolio Middle East & Africa: 299 properties (64,856 rooms)
- Pipeline Middle East & Africa (36 months): 103 properties (25,814 rooms)
Where do you see Accor in the next five years?
With over 25 hotel brands which range from economy with Ibis and Novotel to Luxury with Raffles, Fairmont and Sofitel, we are a key player in the region.
For the Middle East & Africa region, our aim is to continue to grow our footprint and brand portfolio by bringing in new concepts such as 25 Hours, The House of Originals and Mama Shelter. We also want to continue increasing the presence of our existing brands, such as Rixos, Raffles (which offers all-inclusive options for guests), Fairmont and Sofitel, which prove to be very popular with travellers in our region.