Françoise Houdebine, Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Louvre Hotels Group.
Has the pandemic slowed down your ambitions?
Françoise Houdebine – We did not fall asleep during the crisis, far from it. We took advantage of the crisis to implement several concepts that we hope will be successful in the future. This spirit of innovation is instilled by a body, the Global Innovation Center, an innovation center opened with our shareholder Jin Jiang International, which has one foot in Shanghai and another in Paris. We work together in China and France to come up with new ideas, launch new services and offer technological innovations, such as the first Campanile with the “Smart Inside” label, which opened in Shanghai in 2016. We had to export this concept to Europe, with the first “Smart Inside” establishment opening in Lyon a few months ago.
How does this concept, which puts technology at the forefront, materialise?
F. H. – Technology is present at every stage of the customer’s journey and makes the experience more fluid. At the Campanile Smart Lyon Est, for example, you will find recharging stations for electric cars or kiosks in the lobby for checking in and out. Guests are also invited to scan a QR code to download a web app onto their smartphone. An app that gives access to a multitude of services such as calling the elevator, controlling the smart TV, controlling the intensity of the light or heating in the room, or even asking a robot to come and deliver extra towels.
In the middle of the last decade, robots started to appear in hotels, but the momentum seems to have slowed down. What is the real interest of this innovation?
F. H. – Let’s face it, it’s a gimmick, but it’s used. The robot has a playful aspect, but it also provides services. And, above all, it is the best ambassador of Smart technologies within the establishment. Seeing it walk through the lobby, the customer immediately understands that this is not a classic hotel and it encourages them to discover the other innovations and to install the web app on their phone
How have the customers of the Campanile Smart in Lyon welcomed this concept, and will it be used elsewhere?
F. H. – Since it opened a few months ago, customer feedback has been very positive, with a satisfaction score of 4.6 out of 5. Given the reception of this concept, we intend to use this technology in future projects for Campanile, but also for our other brands
s. Why not a Première Classe Smart, a Kyriad Smart or a Golden Tulip Smart? In large cities where there is often a plethora of hotels on offer, being labelled “Smart Inside” allows establishments to stand out from the crowd. When a customer searches for a hotel in a reservation system, seeing the smart label makes them wonder. It’s a way for our hoteliers to differentiate themselves both in their distribution and in the experience they offer to customers
We had done a lot of work on the common areas of the Campanile. We also had to rethink the customer experience in terms of accommodation, with a real move upmarket
However, this technological aspect is not the only new thing at Campanile?
F. H. – Indeed, in 2021 we also unveiled the new Campanile room. We have worked a lot on the common areas of the establishments
in recent years. From then on, we also had to rethink the customer experience in terms of accommodation, with a real move upmarket. By offering 80% of the comfort of the top of the range for 20% of its price, Campanile intends to reinvent the standards of the mid-range hotel industry with a premium design. The customer benefits from a real bubble of decompression, the room being separated into four distinct spaces. One enters, not through a corridor as is often the case, but through a dressing area and the bathroom. The night space is separated from the bathroom by a sliding door, and is therefore completely isolated from the noise coming from the corridor. A lounge area and a work area complete the bedroom layout. The new Campanile will be equipped with this new room, which will also be incorporated into future renovation projects. The new Campanile room, separated into four distinct areas.
In the evolution of its offer, the Campanile brand has not only focused on the latest technologies or the atmosphere of the room. It has also turned to sports with its Fit Up concept. What motivated you to move into this area?
F. H. – We wanted to democratize access to sports in the mid-range hotel sector, a segment where this type of experience is not traditionally offered. The Fit Up concept translates into a fully-fledged gym within the room, which guests can use whenever they want, in complete privacy. This is another example of the interactions made possible by our innovation center, since it first appeared in China, in partnership with Decathlon China, before being rolled out in France. The partnership with a reference brand such as Décathlon Pro guarantees access to quality equipment – mats,
Dumbbells, straps, weighted balls… – for the Fit Wall equipment. In addition, there are eight coaching videos custom-designed by the experts of the TrainMe coaching app. For our hotels, this is a new way to differentiate themselves. We have seen with this crisis how important sport is for our health. This Fit Up label could also work very well in other brands such as Kyriad, or even in Golden Tulip hotels that do not have gyms.
Among the other initiatives of Louvre Hotels Group, your group has also opened up to residential accommodation with the Tulip Residences brand. Is this move related to the expected development of long stays?
F. H. – We are indeed taking advantage of the upheaval in behaviours linked to the crisis of the covid. In order to limit the carbon footprint, business and leisure stays will be optimised and will probably be longer. The launch of Tulip Residences in Joinville-le-Pont
and Warsaw is therefore very timely, but we had already started working on this project two years ago, driven somewhat by demand from our network. With this new brand, which combines studios and apartments, services such as a café, a fitness room and a laundry, and coworking spaces, we are meeting the expectations of both customers and investors in our establishments. And it’s also the occasion of another Global Innovation Center event: when we presented this concept to our Chinese counterparts, they thought it was great and this product is going to be launched there under the name Tulip Lodge. The Hosho brand is inspired by Japanese-style capsule hotels.
Do you already have other innovation projects underway?
F. H. – Other concepts are still being incubated, but we can already talk about Hosho, whose first establishment recently opened near Paris
. With this brand, we are moving into a new segment, that of convenience hotels, with sales no longer by the room, but by the bed in rooms with 4 or 8 beds. This is very cheap accommodation – 20 euros per bed – but of high quality, with a design and practical bias. For each bed, a mini room is recreated, a bit like first class cabins. Everything is within easy reach, with hangers and shelves, a reading light and sockets for recharging your phone are integrated into the headboard. Everything is extremely ergonomic.
For this Hosho brand, you seem to have been inspired more by Japanese-style capsule hotels than by the new generation youth hostels that are springing up here and there. Why this orientation?
F. H. – We could indeed have played the card of the living place, with bar and music until 4 o’clock in the morning
. On the contrary, we have given priority to calm and security. In the living areas, travellers can work or have breakfast in peace. In the Laundry Bar, they can wash their clothes and have a snack while drying. Everything is designed to be practical. With Hosho, we are targeting a number of customers, including corporate customers, budget-conscious workers, tribes – whether it’s blended families, groups of friends or sports teams, solo travellers, for example students coming for exams or backpackers. Launching this new type of hotel in the middle of a covid period, with rooms shared with people you don’t know, was a challenge, but the hotel has done very well this summer, and since the start of the school year, the results are very encouraging.
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!