Accor: Evolving MICE brands


Pullman, Fairmont, Sofitel, MGallery: Accor has brands which, each in their own way, are intended for corporate meetings. Update on their evolution at the recent Global Meeting Exchange event.

Signs intended for major corporate meetings such as Pullman and Fairmont and others more suited to small seminars like MGallery, some like Sofitel on “hand-stitched” MICE: the range of Accor group brands opens up the field of possibilities for event organizers. The Global Meeting Exchange event, organized this year at the Pullman Paris Montparnasse after passing through the Fairmonts in San Francisco, Montreux and Montreal, gave the French group the opportunity to demonstrate to its main customers the potential of its meetings offer. Particularly in the Europe and North Africa region where Accor has more than 3,000 hotels, “of which more than 50% have a MICE space”, underlines Patrick Mendes, CEO Europe and North Africa of the Premium, Midscale and Economy (SME) division.

While Accor has set up a new organization by separating its activities into two divisions, one dedicated to all its brands and the other to luxury and lifestyle, the Global Meeting Exchange event made it possible to highlight the evolution of its flagship MICE brands. “In our new organization, each brand will define its offer, some being much more oriented towards MICE and others more towards individual customers, specifies Sophie Hulgard, sales director of the hotel group. For example, we really want to develop Pullman as a key brand for big meetings. Large halls, large ballrooms: this is really the Pullman of the future“. A vision that the Pullman Paris Montparnasse, reopened in early 2022 after years of transformation, already embodies in its own way, but which will take on more substance in the future through the renovations and openings expected soon, among others in Lyon, Nairobi, Sydney or Singapore.

Because, while the Novotels and even the Ibis have practical and functional meeting spaces, while the Mövenpicks and Swissôtels are also ready to receive business groups, Accor intends to make Pullman one of the spearheads of its MICE proposal. “It’s our largest premium brand, with 156 hotels worldwide today,” said Alex Schellenberger, chief marketing officer for the SME division. A legendary name in the world of travel, created in 1867 around the famous sleeping cars, then reactivated by Accor in the mid-2000s by clearly orienting it towards business tourism. And which, today, is gaining new momentum.

“We have been in a transformation phase for a year,” explains Alex Schellenberger. Under the effect of the pandemic which has pushed clients to their limits, its signature positioning – “Work Hard/Play Hard” – is evolving into “Blended Business”. “Blended business is the idea that the modern business traveler is looking for pleasure, a better balance of life, a smoother mode of productivity, each at their own pace and in their own way, explains the general marketing director of the SME division. Work Hard/Play Hard: The notion of success used to be more individualistic. Today, success is defined more as a collective success, the achievement of things in common“.

So many observations that underlie the evolution of meeting spaces. “People are no longer necessarily looking for a plenary room today, but a modular experience with different spaces, configurations adapted to the needs of the moment”, continues Alex Schellenberger. With events that, if necessary, can also spill over into the common areas of the hotels. “Some lifestyle hotels in our portfolio are already doing this very well and responding to this need to have workspaces right from the lobby. For a much more authentic and immersive experience. Because, at the same time, one of the other pillars of the brand is based on “social hubs”, designer and lively social spaces, complete with bars and restaurants where you can meet and relax in contact with the local community.

Pullman and Fairmont, the experience of large meetings
So much for Pullman. But a little less old than this brand – its history only began “in” 1907 –, Fairmont stands out as the other key brand of Accor for the reception of large-scale professional meetings. “The Fairmonts are designed for this, with hotels with 300 keys and more if we take our hotel in Toronto and its 1,100 rooms”, describes Yigit Sezgin, general manager of the brand, which derives 30% of its turnover from its MICE offer. Hotels that, for some, have marked history, such as that of San Francisco, which saw the signature of the creation of the UN, among other milestones that have made the brand famous in the United States and Canada, where half of the 90 Fairmont establishments are located.

“We want to tell this story to the rest of the world,” continues Yigit Sezgin. While Fairmont has 45 hotels in its pipeline, development outside North America is one of the brand’s priorities in order to acquire new quality spokespersons like the one opened last year in Doha – in the company of a Raffles – within the emblematic Katara Towers. While waiting for others to come to Windsor in the United Kingdom, to Prague, to Hanoi, to Bangkok – for one of the rare MICE hotels in the Thai capital – or in Dubai with the Fairmont Dubai Skyline. “A hotel that has all the characteristics of the Fairmont 2.0”, specifies general manager of the brand.

Because, at the same time as the expansion of the brand, it is also its updating that is in question today. “We are making sure that we can extend the great history of this brand for the next 40 years, Yigit Sezgin. Some might say that Fairmont has been on the back burner for the past few years, that the brand was a bit dusty. But we did a good job. We are preparing our new brand book, our new bible with a complete program dedicated to our MICE offer“.

New contemporary design, F&B offer redesigned in partnership with Ennismore, lively lobbies… The 2.0 evolution of Fairmont is summed up by its new brand slogan: “stay icon“. In this context, hotel renovations, delayed for a time by the Covid, are underway with a third of the portfolio being transformed. “It’s a massive commitment,” says Yigit Sezgin. We will soon have thirty of our hotels designed according to the Fairmont 2.0 model, while waiting for the new establishments under construction“. Enough to offer companies new destinations for important events.

“If you want big conventions, you can organize very nice events at Pullman or Fairmont, Maud Bailly, CEO of the Sofitel Legend, Sofitel, MGallery & Emblems brands. But Accor has a wide selection of MICE brands. We can meet all expectations according to the spirit that the organizers want to give to their events“. Regarding the brand for which it is responsible, Sofitel, MICE represents 25% of its activity with more than 850 meeting spaces within its portfolio of 123 hotels in major cities around the world.

Among other establishments amply equipped to host large events, the recently opened Sofitel Barcelona Skipper can host events for up to 800 people, with great capacity. However, the brand focuses mainly on meetings of a hundred people, with a very personalized approach. “Hand-sewn MICE“, underlines the CEO of this brand which will soon celebrate its sixtieth anniversary. On this occasion, and in line with this idea of tailor-made events, of French elegance, the brand is in the process of strengthening the level of its offer, in particular by cleaning up its network of hotels that do not correspond to these higher standards. “I think we are on the right track,” remarks Maud Bailly.

Tailor-made MICE at Sofitel, small meetings at MGallery
At the same time, with MGallery, another brand for which she is responsible, the ambition is to make it “the champion of small events“, taking advantage of this tendency to organize five or six small seminars rather than one large annual convention. “At MGallery, you can organize a seminar in unique places like a former police station or an episcopal palace, events with a story to tell. Very standardized hotels for team buildings no longer really interest the organizers. They want emotion“, underlines Maud Bailly.

Lively lobbies, design, an attractive catering offer: the lifestyle hotel industry has been able to win over customers by going off the beaten and hackneyed paths of standardized brands. But what place in the MICE segment for this major workhorse of the French group for a few years with the acquisition of all these brands – Mama Shelter, The Hoxton, 25Hours and others – grouped together in the Ennismore subsidiary?

“It’s a complex issue,” said Bruno Marti, executive vice president of marketing for 25hours and TRIBE brands at Ennismore. We are both too small since Ennismore has a total of a hundred hotels under 14 different brands compared to more than 150 at Pullman, but also too big because of this diversity of brands“. Hence an offer that is probably less clear for organizers with European brands such as Mama Shelter, Hoxton, 25 hours, perfectly suited to medium-sized events and, at the other end of the spectrum, the future SLS in Barcelona, which will have an 800 square meter auditorium, a dozen meeting rooms, outdoor spaces on the roof and suites that can be privatized.

Another positive and negative point at the same time, most lifestyle hotels have designer meeting rooms, often inspiring, but anything but multifunctional. “If we make a meeting room for 12 people, it might be the best meeting room in the world, but it can’t be set up for 14 people. We are perfect for some things, but we can’t do everything.

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