Eric Viale, directeur général Europe du Sud d'IHG. Eric Viale, Managing Director Southern Europe, IHG.

As the fifth wave of the economic crisis rages in France and Europe, how do you see 2022?

Eric Viale – I am approaching this year with cautious optimism, but with confidence. The advantage is that we have the lessons and best practices to apply today, in addition to the advances in science and vaccination efforts. We continue to do everything in our power to help our hotels and owners, but also to work with governments to keep our industry supported. As a company, we have shown great strength throughout the pandemic so far, with our performance and data showing that when people can travel, they do.

As a hotel group, how are you supporting your hotels and guests through this troubled time?

E. V. – By providing our teams with the operational and business support needed to capitalize on demand and drive performance, as well as in the areas where we see the greatest resilience. In particular, we are focusing on our domestic markets, looking for new opportunities where they are right for us, as well as continued flexibility for customers and a strengthened offering for meetings and events.

How has your hotel occupancy changed in recent months?

E. V. – The situation is not without its challenges in general, but we have seen a real dynamic in recent months, which is obviously still fragile, but which has pleasantly surprised us since last summer. In France, some hotels have even outperformed 2019 thanks to the domestic leisure market.

In this context, has the recovery in the business travel and MICE sector also lived up to your expectations?

E. V. – We are not witnessing the burial of business travel as we may have heard. For major international accounts, the recovery is admittedly a little slower, with some large groups still favoring a hybrid mode of work. However, as far as individual business customers are concerned, business travel is still a reality, probably less frequently but for longer periods. As for MICE, we were pleasantly surprised by the resurgence of small local seminars. Our regional accounts produced quite quickly.


course, we have learned to work in a hybrid way, but there is always this need

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to meet.

We are not witnessing the death of business travel as we have heard.

How do you reassure companies about their employees’ travel and the holding of their events?

E. V. – Companies need to meet, as we saw in the third quarter. From the very beginning of the pandemic, we have focused on traveler safety with pre

igher health protocols to restore confidence. For our seminars, this has resulted in the implementation of the Meet with Confidence program. This means giving confidence in terms of health, flexibility in terms of reservations and confidence in the quality of services, with the implementation in our hotels of technological solutions for hybrid meetings

. While we are seeing a return to face-to-face events, this may remain a small segment in the future.

Let’s move on to your group’s news and its presence in France. Is it still a key market for IHG?

E. V. – France is one of the most popular destinations in the world, with an extremely rich heritage, a long tradition of hospitality, and a tourism sector that represents more than 10% of GDP. It is therefore a priority market for IHG. We currently have 64 hotels and 16 other projects already signed as part of an ambitious development plan, because we have the opportunity to develop all our brands there.

Which segments are the most promising for the development of IHG in France?

E. V. – Today we have a leadership position in the luxury hotel sector thanks to our InterContinental hotels in Paris – including Le Grand, whose rooms and the famous Café de la Paix have just been renovated – but also in Bordeaux, Cannes, Lyon and Marseille

. In the latter two cities, we have demonstrated our ability to transform historic buildings into InterContinental hotels and make them even more beautiful. Still in luxury, but with a more relaxed approach, we have also introduced the Kimpton brand in France. Widely present in the United States, this luxury and lifestyle brand, a segment that is so popular today, has begun to be developed in Amsterdam, the United Kingdom, Barcelona and is now present in Paris with an emblematic hotel that takes place within the walls of the former Samaritaine luxury hotel. This hotel offers an exceptional rooftop and will undoubtedly be a strong point for the growth of this brand in Southern Europe.Le Séquoia, sur le toit-terrasse du Kimpton Saint Honoré Paris.The Sequoia, on the rooftop terrace of the Kimpton Saint Honoré Paris.

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Could your new luxury brand Vignette Collection also use this strong positioning to make its appearance in France?

E. V. – Our credibility in this segment is obvious.

ident. This augurs well for the potential of this new brand in France, which is aimed at owners of exceptional hotels who want to access the commercial power of a large group, while retaining the distinctive identity of their hotel. In Paris, as in the major French cities, there are a number of hotels that are not branded establishments and to which the Vignette brand can give this global visibility.

Beyond luxury hotels, you undoubtedly have ambitions for all your brands.

E. V. – The confidence in our future development lies in all the opportunities that arise in both large and medium-sized cities. Let me take the example of Paris, where we have 22 locations. All our brands coexist there, offering distinct experiences to our customers. Similarly, there are a number of regional cities where several of our brands can be located in parallel. As for Holiday Inn Express, with this budget brand, we can continue to cover the entire country, since it can be adapted to a large number of destinations.

In recent months, we have opened a number of hotels in the south of France. Why this new direction?

E. V. – We can see a covid effect, with a change in consumer expectations, now more focused on more regional and leisure destinations

. In fact, we recently opened the second hotel in France under our Indigo boutique brand in Cagnes-sur-Mer. A Holiday Inn Express in Arcachon-La Teste, on the Atlantic coast, was also inaugurated, and we are waiting for another establishment of this brand in Ajaccio. We have also completed a project for a Crowne Plaza in Marseille, while in Cannes, a Staybridge Suites extended stay hotel will open soon. This extended stay brand, first developed in the United States, has begun to grow significantly in the United Kingdom. It will make its debut on the French market. We are seeing a real demand from customers and investors alike for this type of long-stay accommodation. This is a

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real potential for Staybridge Suites in France

. Holiday-Inn-Express-NiceHoliday-Inn Express Nice Grand Arenas.

Your Holiday Inn family of brands – Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express – is in full evolution. How far have you come and how does it meet the expectations of business travelers?

E. V. – Today, 90% of our hotels have already set up these new spaces or begun their renovation. This ambitious project comes at a time when, with the pandemic, customers are increasingly looking for ways to combine leisure and business. At Holiday Inn Express, for example, guests will find a new generation room that capitalizes on the new expectations of business travelers

with flexible workspaces, an ergonomic chair and a smart TV. Beyond the brand’s DNA, which is based on breakfast and quality WiFi, the design is warmer and more contemporary. The same is true for Holiday Inn, which has improved its quality to meet the needs of its customers, with an open lobby concept combining the reception, the bar, leisure areas where guests can relax, and other more business-oriented areas where they can work as needed. Thanks to this open lobby, our customers’ satisfaction has increased by more than four points. This also translates into an increase in catering and other ancillary revenues, as customers like it and spend more time there. All in all, we are very proud of what we have managed to do in these complicated times.