Accor is one of the leading hotel operators in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region, with 288 operating properties (62,597 keys) and another 161 hotels (13,642 keys) in its development pipeline.
Recent acquisitions and partnerships involving Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Rixos, Mantis, sbe and 25Hours have consolidated the group’s position of strength, bolstering its portfolio to more than 35 brands strong.
ACCOR’S KEY PROGRAMMES
Later this year, Accor will mark a major milestone in the group’s evolution with the launch of Accor Live Limitless (ALL), merging its distribution platform (Accorhotels.com) with its loyalty programme (Le Accor) to create a single global gateway for customers.
This massive transformation offers members new premium statuses, enriched benefits, exciting partnerships and inspiring experiences, and reflects Accor’s role as an augmented hospitality group with a growing portfolio of brands and services designed to shape the way its guests ‘Live, Work and Play’.
RiiSE is Accor’s global network, promoting diversity and gender equality in the workplace. It’s committed to sharing knowledge, solidarity and combatting stereotypes.
Over the past year, the group’s MEA business has taken a leading role in expanding the RiiSE network. In less than 12 months, Middle East membership has grown 363% to 4,800 hotel colleagues or 35% of the 25,000-member-strong global network (up from just 8.5%).
This was significant, not only because it was biggest increase worldwide, but because a substantial percentage of new members came from Accor’s properties in Saudi Arabia, where the government’s Vision 2030 is driving change and championing diversity and equality.
As the Middle East and Africa’s largest hotel operator, Accor is committed to promoting sustainability across every aspect of its operations. Its global corporate social responsibility programme, Planet 21 – Acting Here, encapsulates this ethos, providing a detailed roadmap for all of its hotels to follow.
Planet 21 comprises 71 sustainability actions focusing on two key priorities – food and beverage, and buildings – and involves four main stakeholders: Employees, Guests, Partners & Local Communities. Primary goals include reducing water and energy consumption, and eliminating waste from its hotels, as well as initiatives that benefit the local community and environment.
Chief Executive Officer, Middle East & Africa
What are the main challenges you face in hotel management and operations?
The Middle East and North Africa hospitality market has become highly competitive, with many hotel companies embarking on ambitious expansion plans. At the same time, some markets are experiencing a temporary oversupply of rooms, which is impacting room rates.
However, Accor is in a strong position to overcome these challenges. We have an unrivalled portfolio of diverse brands, from budget to luxury, and a clear development strategy that focuses on introducing new lifestyle concepts, branded residences and all-inclusive luxury entertainment resorts.
At the same time, we’ll continue to capitalise on the success of existing brands, identifying destinations with untapped market demand for each. The region’s development potential is significant, particularly in fast-growing markets such as Saudi Arabia and Morocco, re-emerging destinations such as Egypt and GCC tourism powerhouse, the UAE, which continues to attract significant investment and calls for sophisticated and cutting-edge hospitality solutions that Accor can provide.
What do you think are the most important criteria for a smooth flow of F&B operations?
Today, the smooth flow of F&B operations hinges on sustainable food practices that deliver benefits to our guests, partners, communities and business. As part of our Planet 21 platform, we’re committed to reducing food waste by 30% across our F&B operations by 2020, with strong headway already made at our properties in the Middle East and Africa.
We continue to roll out advanced AI technology to monitor food wastage and help our chefs and F&B teams identify ways to reduce it. At some properties, this has resulted in a 69% reduction in food waste over the past three years. Accor has also set out ‘9 commitments’ in its global healthy and sustainable food charter, with targets that range from eliminating single-use plastic to favouring local food suppliers and seasonal produce. This is a win-win situation for Accor as it protects the wellbeing of our environment and guests, rationalises costs, and improves efficiency at the same time.
You’re known as a true champion for guest satisfaction. What are the foundations of a good guest experience, and how do you ensure that that happens again and again?
Creating a positive guest experience all comes down to staffing people with good attitudes, people who bring others together. You hear a lot of companies talking about this, about hiring for attitude first and training staff members for the skills they’ll need—but the difference is that we’re actually doing it.
When one of our team members visits a property, I don’t want to know how her meetings went. I want to know how many people she made smile.
You’re overseeing a highly diverse region in the Middle East & Africa. How do you think about diversity and gender equality within AccorHotels?
I don’t agree with the whole ‘male fraternity’ thing that often develops in big companies. Four years ago, I employed the first female GM in Saudi Arabia, and we’re up to more than a dozen there now. I’m doing the same today wherever women are still underrepresented.
Accor is an extremely agile, dynamic organisation, which means we’re able to move fast in these areas. You can be good at what you do, and you can work hard, but we all need some help along the way.
What’s it like to manage a group with more than 4,000 hotels from more than 30 different brands?
Managing so many distinct brands can be difficult, since the mindsets that come with running a mid-scale economy property and a luxury property can be very different. However, I’m a firm believer in the simplicity of what we do: every guest, whether they’re paying $50/ night or $400/night, expect good value for their money. It’s our job to provide them that value.
That’s why we have brand custodians who vigilantly protect each brand and ensure that it’s about giving guests exactly what they expect. We closely monitor technical specifications like room size, furnishings and design to provide a reliably positive guest experience. Most importantly, though, good guest experiences come from the little things, the housekeeper who smiles and says “hello” as you walk back to your room. Those moments are what Accor is all about.
How do you see the future of the chain?
Accor’s strategy remains clear – to build on our leadership position in the region by identifying opportunities for our growing portfolio of brands. In the Middle East and North Africa, key development markets include the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and Egypt, while we continue to grow our footprint in Bahrain and Jordan as recent signings and openings, including Raffles Bahrain, Mama Shelter Bahrain and Mövenpick Hotel Amman, reflect.
We’ll also continue to invest in talent to support our regional expansion, with a goal of growing our workforce from 38,400 to over 50,000 employees by 2021. The imminent launch of ALL will mark a major milestone for our business and we expect to reap the rewards in the Middle East and North Africa as members leverage the raft of exciting benefits and lifestyle-driven experiences this platform offers. This also underscores our ongoing commitment to digital transformation across our business.