HotelsAlmost every single market saw growth in 2022, while the group is set to see injection of new brands and destinations in 2023.

Accor keeps the good vibes going in Asia expansion

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"At Accor we also have a tradition of being pioneers, to be the first ones in some destinations," says Accor's Agnès Roquefort.
"At Accor we also have a tradition of being pioneers, to be the first ones in some destinations," says Accor's Agnès Roquefort.

In 2022, Agnès Roquefort, global chief development officer for Accor, had a busy year. Between new signings and hotel openings, on average she added roughly one new hotel to the Accor portfolio each day.

The group saw growth in almost all markets, including on its home turf in Europe and through notable deals like the AU$620 million (US$428 million) agreement with Salter Brothers in Australia to convert 11 existing properties to Accor brands. But the upswing in tourism came back to Asia more gradually.

Now that almost all restrictions have been lifted across the region, “You can feel the good vibes,” she said.

Appealing to guests and owners

With 30 brands globally, not all of which are present in Asia-Pacific, Roquefort says the variety is a great advantage for Accor not just to appeal to guests but also to support owners and investors, depending on the destination.

“Owners come to Accor because there is a fit with the brand,” says Roquefort, often “because they have stayed in a hotel and they love the brand.” In her experience, affinity and gut feeling often precede questions about performance and commercial terms.

This is particularly important as a younger generation of hoteliers takes over. “We can see the new generation who want to continue to develop the family business,” while leaving their own mark.

She also sees new players entering the market. “There are digital, high net worth individuals who now want to invest in the hospitality sector. For them, lifestyle hotels are super cool and correspond to their generation, their way of living, and partying.”

Differentiation is key

However she underlines the importance of giving each brand a distinct personality. “We love our brands and our brands have a heart and a soul whether for business, leisure or bleisure.”

“It’s great to go to a Novotel for corporate [travel] because you have a convention or business travel and a Mama Shelter or an M Gallery in a leisure destination,” she says. A Mercure, she notes, will have more local flair as how a Novotel is more modern, while Ibis offers affordable hospitality and design. 

Agnès Roquefort likens Accor to Zara, sharing that the group has an eclectic range of brands from budget to luxury for every traveller.
Agnès Roquefort likens Accor to Zara, sharing that the group has an eclectic range of brands from budget to luxury for every traveller.

When asked if the range of choice is like a retail experience in a shopping mall, she grins at the comparison. “We are the Zara of hospitality with [mid-scale brands] Ibis, Novotel, Mercure, Pullman that are very well-known brands in the sector, scalable brands that have to be very agile and on trend.”

The group’s luxury and lifestyle brands like Raffles or Fairmont are “more curated and personalised, with more expertise and depth,” she says. “This is the differential.” She cites examples like Hôtel des Arts in Ho Chi Minh City (“pretty spectacular”), the recently opened V Villas in Phuket, both part of the M Gallery collection, as well as upcoming projects like Singapore’s second Raffles in Sentosa or the Fairmont in Tokyo.

Markets with potential

“We are in many markets in APAC where we are leaders. Historically Thailand and Indonesia have been strong for us but in 2022, Vietnam was particularly on fire.”

There are still destinations that are just waiting to be discovered. “We already have properties in Cam Ranh [in Vietnam]. In the Philippines we are looking at some projects, nice places that are not yet overcrowded, taking some risks with our investors and partners.” Lombok is another destination where Accor was the first international group to invest.

There are also destinations that are a good fit with flagship properties of different brands. “In Singapore we will open a Mondrian, so a lifestyle brand. We’ve opened Tribe in Phnom Penh with a great rooftop.” She also singled out the Grand Mercure in Phu Quoc and the Pullman in Orchard Road in Singapore as properties that epitomise their brands.

There is every reason to believe that the growth will continue, despite challenges that the world is facing, from inflation to conflict. “There is a true bounce back, but let’s be humble,” concludes Roquefort.

Editor’s note: In January 2023, Accor reorganised its hotels into two divisions. Roquefort became a member of the Luxury & Lifestyle Executive Committee, and was named the chief development officer of the division.

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