Markus Keller, senior vice-président Ventes et distribution d'Accor.Markus Keller, Senior Vice President Sales and Distribution at Accor.

In view of the results recently announced by your group, do you feel that the worst of the crisis is now behind you?

Markus Keller – We are confident that the recovery is here. We are still anticipating a tight monitoring of our business over the next six to twelve months, we are closely following the booking trends of the last seven days. And week by week, we’re seeing that the gap between 2022 and 2019 is narrowing. Already last year, revenue per room for all Accor hotels had improved by an average of five points each month since April. Despite the context, this trend should continue. We hope to be able to return to the 2019 figures more quickly than expected. Having more than 40 brands to capture demand across all segments and ranges, our ALL-Accor Live Limitless

program and the experiences offered to our loyal customers, the evolution of our digital platforms, our CSR policy and our commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050: all of these elements give us confidence for the future.

Are you just as confident about the corporate segment?

M. K. – In this market, we are seeing three things. First of all, that SMEs are returning to our hotels more quickly than large companies. For both health and economic reasons, the latter are going to hold off on this policy for a little longer, until they are sure that the recovery in business is real. Secondly, business travel is still done on a local or even regional scale, as we see in Europe and the United States, where this segment is doing very well. On the international side, however, there is still some way to go. The gap between the recovery of domestic travel and international business travel should be between 12 and 24 months. Finally, some changes are becoming evident today, some of which started before the crisis and have accelerated since.

What are these developments that you are thinking about?

M. K. – For example, Accor started thinking about this topic back in 2017 by investing in Wojo. Coworking spaces are now well established in the landscape

. Remote working has become a common practice. According to the latest studies I’ve read, the number of permanent teleworkers is expected to double during 2022-2023. We have t

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e learned, in a forced way during the crisis, that it was possible to work remotely. But it’s even better to work in a nice, friendly place, hence the importance of our concept of “workspitality”, the crossroads between work and hospitality, supported by our brand Wojo. It’s a real concept that we support, because this momentum, already identified before the crisis and accelerating during it, will continue

. Pullman Paris MontparnassePullman Paris Montparnasse

Despite the rise of remote working, meetings seem to be enjoying a revival.

M. K. – Indeed, the physical meeting is probably even more essential today, whether it is to recreate a corporate culture with employees or to reestablish links with customers. Even if there will be a place in the future for hybrid meetings, which is why we created the ALL Connect

partnership with Microsoft, the return to the physical meeting is obvious. At this stage, it is mainly small and medium-sized meetings that are driving this activity, but in the second half of the year, and in 2023, we should see the return of large events and trade shows.

However, aren’t leisure customers taking precedence over business customers in your priorities?

M. K. – It is certain that today, leisure is driving the recovery of our business, with a gap of 6 to 12 months depending on the region. This was initially thanks to a domestic and regional clientele, before expanding internationally in recent months with the reopening of routes to the Middle East and the United States. However, we are surprised at how quickly business travel has picked up since the beginning of this year. But in the end, when everyone realized that the impact of this variant was less important, business travel started up again at the same pace as in the fall after a few weeks

.

We are amazed at how quickly business travel has picked up since the beginning of this year

Given the growing importance of leisure customers, is the business segment still as essential for Accor?

M. K. – Absolutely, there is no doubt about it. Of course, the pandemic will have a lasting effect, and some companies will be looking to save money. But the value of physical meetings, whether in-house or with clients, remains essential. For now, large companies, especially in the U.S., are still cautious about international travel. But for most of the companies I talk to, the issue is all these rules about entering or leaving a country, which make things complex. When things get simpler, it will help to resume travel. That’s what companies are waiting for today.

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oday. In this context, re-assurance on health conditions continues to be a topic, and we continue to strengthen our ALL Safe

protocol, launched at the beginning of the pandemic in partnership with Bureau Veritas, and now in place in 97% of our facilities.

During the pandemic, the extension of business travel time was mentioned as a future trend. Are you seeing this in practice?

M. K. – We are indeed seeing this increase in the number of nights spent on business trips. Our figures show this trend towards “travelling less, but better”, with longer journeys, allowing for a greater number of meetings to be organized on site. This trend can be explained by economic reasons of course, but also by the fact that we have moved from “work from office” to “work from anywhere”. This changes habits. For example, now, rather than making a 48-hour round trip to Singapore, it is more efficient to stay one or two days longer in order to continue working in the same time zone.

This is

where lively lobbies and functional coworking spaces come to allow this transition

. Novotel Le Havre Bassin VaubanNovotel Le Havre Bassin Vauban

With its trendy lobbies, is the lifestyle hotel industry, which is very much in vogue today, also turning towards business travelers?

M. K. – It fits perfectly with this idea of “work form anywhere”. Working in the lobby or bar of a Mama Shelter or a Hoxton is always fun. These are lively, animated places, where hotel guests mingle with local residents. That’s why you feel like you’re not in a hotel, but in a place where people live. Many people are looking for this spirit. By focusing on both design and the Food & Beverage experience – with a strong emphasis on dining and bar – lifestyle hotels appeal not just to young people, but to all types of guests. In our partnership with Ennismore

, we have brands like Jo&Joe and Mama Shleter that are more budget and mid-range and others that are more upscale like Delano or Hoxton. This segment is one of the fastest growing in the hotel industry today, which is why the creation of this lifestyle division with Ennismore is one of the strategic pillars for Accor.

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Let’s go back to the arcana of business travel. Last year you announced a solution for online meeting reservations. What is the status of this project?

M. K. – In October of last year, we launched a partnership with Groups360, a player in which Accor and three other major groups have invested (editor’s note: IHG, Marriott and Hilton). Groups360 will take over the management of the business.

harge the white label management of our Meetings & Events website with the goal of selling both accommodation and meeting rooms online. This means that companies will be able to find meeting rooms in an efficient way. This solution is still in the “test & learn” phase and will be launched in the coming months, starting with the call for tenders part, followed by online and real time booking. As we can see in the “workspitality” segment, everything is already simplified. For example, at Wojo, you can book rooms for a half-day or a day. Extending this dematerialized approach to our hotels is a natural progression, to meet the needs of organizing less complex meetings. This is particularly important for SMEs that do not use travel agencies or large corporate platforms.

As the first to take over business travel, are these small and medium-sized companies becoming increasingly important for Accor?

M. K. – We mustn’t forget that most companies in the world are small. Perhaps they have not been followed enough, with programs that were essentially built for large companies until now. We are now seizing the opportunity to rebuild this relationship around a product that is close to their expectations. That’s why we launched theAccor Business Offer Auto-Enrol in January. With this offer, an SME can easily register online on our website dedicated to business travel. One day later, they automatically receive an access code that allows all their employees to take advantage of preferential rates and discounts of between 5% and 9% in 4,000 hotels around the world.