Room service now via WhatsApp for Accor guests in UK

Posted by - August 10, 2018

Why call when you can type? In the age of OTAs providing customer service via Twitter and airlines helping with bookings via Facebook Messenger chat bots, AccorHotels UK & Ireland are jumping on the new-age comms wagon by letting guests communicate with hotel staff using WhatsApp.
Accor guests can now contact reception or other hotel services by simply sending a message via WhatsApp – one of the world’s most popular messaging apps with over 1.3 billion users worldwide. The service sees guests given a dedicated mobile phone number with their room key card on arrival. A member of staff monitors requests which they can immediately respond to, whether for room service, housekeeping, or a restaurant reservation.
Because guests use their own mobile phones to message the hotel, they can make requests wherever they are in or out of the hotel – before or during their stay.
The service is now available in around 90% of the group’s hotels that are run from the mobile operating system introduced last year, and will be rolled out further at selected hotels in the portfolio. In the hotels where it was first trialled it has generated positive feedback from guests, for whom WhatsApp is an increasingly important method of communication.
“Guests want to communicate using the methods they are most familiar with”
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Thomas Dubaere, COO of AccorHotels Northern Europe, commented: “Guests want to communicate using the methods they are most familiar with. The use of WhatsApp has increased exponentially over the past few years and is a platform most of our guests tell us they feel very comfortable using, so enabling them to use it to order room service or ask reception a question is a logical step to ensuring they have the best possible experience in our hotels.”
The move marks the latest phase in AccorHotels’ introduction of mobile technology to improve the guest and employee experience. In 2017 it began to run the ibis UK network from mobile devices, with employees welcoming and helping guests as well as managing their schedules from an app on their smartphones. AccorHotels also recently implemented digital technology that allows guests to order food and drink, process payment and be sent receipts from the same platform via their smartphones.
“It is much more guest-friendly… much more efficient”
Carla Milovanov, senior vice president, digital and technology, AccorHotels Europe and Northern Europe, added: “Traditionally guests have to read the directory in their rooms with one number for housekeeping, another for the gym, another for the restaurant and so on. This process simplifies communication for guests so they just have one number for all their requests.
“Because we have already introduced mobile technology to allow staff to run the hotel from smartphones or tablets, staff monitoring WhatsApp requests can action them across all the hotel’s services, wherever they are in the building. It is much more guest-friendly and a much more efficient way of managing requests.”

Western companies go east: Overcoming the Great Firewall of China

Posted by - June 29, 2018

China’s population of 1.4 billion has attracted companies from all over the world. The Asian country opens vast growth opportunities. However, travel tech companies must first overcome the Great Firewall of China.
The huge volume of Chinese outbound tourists attracts a number of western travel companies who want to dip their hands in the luxurious Chinese market.
Many western travel companies are going east by either purchasing, entering into a business venture or strategic partnership with their Chinese counterparts. China is rapidly becoming one of the most important tourism markets in the world.
According to the China Tourism Academy, the number of Chinese tourists that travelled abroad rose by 7% to 130 million in 2017. And these tourists are also biggest spenders when travelling overseas, they shopped for approximately USD 115.3 billion last year. With this jaw-dropping number, experts would say, if you get China, you get Asia.
However, China is not an easy country to get into. The Great Firewall of China (GFW) is the coined term for the different legislative actions and technologies enforced by the People’s Republic of China to regulate internet in the country.
The main role of GFW is internet censorship that blocks access to selected foreign websites and slows down cross-border internet traffic. The Great Firewall is the main reason why there is no Google and Facebook in China. This is because the country requires internet tools and mobile apps to adapt to domestic regulations. GFW also, in a way, fosters the development of Chinese internet companies as they create similar platforms offering the same services as the banned websites.
Penetrating GFW The Great Firewall was in full effect since 2011 preventing IP addresses to be routed through and blocking Virtual Private Network (VPN) services. The Great Firewall was able to “learn, discover and block” the encrypted communications methods used by a number of different VPN systems.
During his talk at the Techsauce Global Summit last week, Bob Zheng, founder and CEO of People Squared – a Shanghai-based co-working space that provides a well-equipped work environment for freelancers, shared what the Firewall does for China and how start-ups and big companies can overcome the intimidating internet filter.
Bob Zheng, founder and CEO of People Squared “Because of this firewall, there are actually a lot of new opportunities being created. So there is ‘almost’ an equivalent of anything in China.
“So, with Google, we have Baidu, which is also a search engine in local language allowing people to search for anything. There’s also a Twitter equivalent Sina Weibo. So, that actually created a lot of opportunities just within those time period to allow some local companies to grow,” Zheng said.
He said that many companies have tried and failed in trying to gain business in China. The average success rate of foreign start-ups in the country is 5%.
Then, Zheng shared the secret: “You need to look around and understand the market in a local way.”
Related Posts It seems that one of the biggest mistakes of multinational companies is their lack of knowledge of the Chinese culture. He said that companies in Hong Kong and Taiwan may have the advantage for they are quite familiar with the market.
“You need to understand the market itself in China, the user behaviour in China, the way people monetise in China are actually very different,” Zheng said.
“Be specific on who are your users. There is nothing wrong in focusing on a niche, for the market is too big and 1% in China is huge.”
Zheng said that China is a rapidly changing market and what worked a year ago may not work now. Moreover, China has moved on from being a manufacturing country to being innovative and China has become the biggest app market.
Therefore, it is best to immerse yourself and know the locals and find the strategies that work for you and not because everybody else is doing it.
He also said that it is important to know your target. “Be specific on who are your users. There is nothing wrong in focusing on a niche, for the market is too big and 1% in China is huge,” he said.
Reap the benefits While it is difficult to get inside the Chinese market, the rewards are huge in terms of profit. Start-up companies are not the only ones chasing the Chinese travellers. A number of big names in the travel industry are dipping their hands in the treasure trove.
Marriott International signed a joint venture with China’s tech giant Alibaba. The strategic partnership allows Marriott to penetrate China and for Alibaba to expand its products, Fliggy and Alipay.
Following the joint venture, Marriott and Alibaba announced that they created an exclusive booking platform for Marriott’s properties in Asia and the Pacific. Also, Alipay is accepted in all Marriott hotels in China. The hotel giant plans to expand this service globally to accommodate Chinese travellers abroad.
Marriott is not the first hotel to dive into the Chinese market, AccorHotels paired up with Ctrip too.
Even airline companies are seeking strategic partnerships with Chinese firms as the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) relaxes the rules that would allow state and private firms to independently or jointly make investments in the industry.
Chinese travellers during a holiday. “Chinese tourists are the most powerful single source of change in the tourism industry.” Taleb Rifai, secretary general of the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), said.
“Not only is it the biggest domestic market in the world, where 4.4 billion trips are made each year, but it’s also the leading global outbound market, with over 135 million international departures in 2016. This number has been increasing in double digits since 2010 and it’s merely the tip of the iceberg. The potential of the Chinese market is far greater because only 6% of Chinese people own a passport. So we expect 200 million Chinese to travel abroad in just a few years’ time,” he added.

Accor APAC’s CEO: “Almost one acquisition per month for the last two years”

Posted by - June 6, 2018

Michael Issenberg On Monday I reported on the latest in a long line of company acquisitions by AccorHotels, when the company announced its purchase of the Mantra Group, in Australia. It seems that almost every time I open my email inbox I find myself reading about another intriguing buy from the French hotel group. But what is tying all these Accor deals together?
I spoke to Accor’s CEO for Asia-Pacific, Michael Issenberg, to discover more about the company’s recent strategic plays and what the company looks for in potential investment targets.
Picking up on Accor’s most recent news. how does the purchase of hotel companies like Mövenpick and Mantra Group ties in with a platform like ResDiary?
AccorHotels is currently in an acquisition phase because we have moved to an asset-light model and sold a 55% stake in our real estate assets for €4.4bn. This will allow us to continue our transformation from a hotel operator to more of a full service operator in augmented hospitality.
We are acquiring and investing in companies and brands that will complement our existing network and allow us to enhance the guest experience for people who stay with us in hotels, in private rental or in strata.
To this end, we are investing in a range of different service providers or travel verticals including digital concierge services (John Paul); catering and event venues (Potel & Chabot, Noctis); digital disruptors (Very Chic, AvailPro, Gekko) and in lifestyle and luxury brands (Orient Express, Banyan Tree, Rixos, 25hours Hotels).
Banyan Tree Sanya Resort Spa The Mantra and Mövenpick deals are very complementary to our existing network and Mantra, in particular, allows us to expand in the management letting rights sector in strata units. ResDiary fits with our transformation well because it allows us to move into restaurant bookings, which are of course complementary to our hotels – after all, everyone who travels is also looking for restaurants to try out.
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Ultimately, all these acquisitions are about allowing us to increase the number of touchpoints we have with our guests, which builds loyalty and is very much about enabling us to provide unique, authentic and innovative experiences for our guests.
Can we expect any more headline-grabbing acquisitions in 2018 and 2019?
We have made almost one acquisition per month for the last two years and we will continue to make more acquisitions in coming years, as the tourism industry is changing quickly and we need to be agile to respond to the changing demands of our guests.
The consolidation that we have seen in the hospitality sector is going to continue because the industry remains quite fragmented compared to other industries. A recent survey by Morgan Stanley said the top ten hotel groups only account for around 37% of the market so there is still more room for further mergers and acquisitions.
“The more brands and services we offer on our website, the more we build loyalty”
What is Accor looking for when analysing a potential buy?
Ultimately, we are looking for something that complements or adds to our existing network or that delivers a product or service that is appealing for our guests. Everything we do is based on the guest, but when analysing a potential buy it is also about whether that business has potential to grow because we are a listed company so have to make returns to our shareholders.
We are looking for adjacent businesses that will help us ensure that AccorHotels is present in every part of our customers’ journey across the travel sector. In addition, the more brands and services we offer on our website, the more we build loyalty to accorhotels.com.
Next week, in the second part of our interview, Michael discusses AccorHotel’s vision for China and how it plans to succeed in the “most important travel market in the world.”

Accor becomes Australia’s second biggest employer after USD 1.2 billion acquisition of Mantra Group

Posted by - June 4, 2018

Simon McGrath COO AccorHotels Pacific and Michael Issenberg, Chairman and CEO AccorHotels Asia Pacific In recent weeks we have seen a flurry of deals and acquisitions from the French industry juggernaut Accor. May alone saw the USD 105m purchase of Chilean hotel group, Atton Hoteles and April concluded with the sensational buy-up of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts for a cool USD 567 million. That was on top of successful deals for a 50% interest in Mantis Group and the full acquisition of table reservation platform, ResDiary.
Now Accor has started June in a similar headline form with the USD 1.2 billion buyout of Australian company Mantra Group, which has 22,000 rooms, spread across 130 hotel brands Mantra, Peppers, BreakFree and Art Series brands. With properties in Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and Bali, Mantra Group is the biggest hospitality organisation in the region.
“We believe that tourism is critical to the economic growth of the region and future job creation”
Michael Issenberg, chairman and CEO of AccorHotels Asia Pacific said: “The Mantra Group is the latest chapter in the strong growth story of AccorHotels in the region. Since our launch with the Novotel Sydney on Darling Harbour in 1991, AccorHotels has become the largest hotel group in the Pacific, and Australia has always played a key role in that story.
“AccorHotels is a significant contributor to the Australian tourism industry, and this deal is a signal of our confidence in Australia both as an attractive destination for global travellers but also as a feeder market for our Asia Pacific and wider network.”

Related Posts Indeed, having absorbed the Aussie firm, AccorHotels will be responsible for nearly 340 hotels and resorts in Australia and will be the biggest employer in the country – second only to the Australian government.
Discussing the potential of the deal Simon McGrath, COO of AccorHotels Pacific, said: “The Mantra Group brands will enhance AccorHotels’ portfolio and create new opportunities for our people, partners and guests. We believe that tourism is critical to the economic growth of the region and future job creation and this deal will allow us to further develop the industry.
“Our innovation in economic business models, brands and customer initiatives has fuelled our growth over the last 27 years and the Mantra Group has built an innovative business focused on the best partnership experience for its 10,000 strata title owners.”
The Johnson, Penthouse Suite – Mantra Group McGrath closed: “Under Bob East’s leadership this bespoke approach and responsiveness has seen it maintain and grow rooms under management. We see enormous value in leveraging Mantra Group’s entrepreneurial spirit and expertise to create new opportunities.
“Mantra’s brands and properties perfectly complement the AccorHotels network and will enable us to provide new destinations and new experiences for our guests. We look forward to combining the talent and expertise of both groups to create an even more innovative, agile and dynamic team.”
Bob East, CEO of Mantra Group said, “I am immensely proud of the great company we’ve built and what we’ve achieved as an Australian-based business. It’s been an enjoyable journey for me leading the team since 2007 through to our float on the ASX in 2014 and now closing this deal with AccorHotels. I have enormous belief in the business and the team here is looking forward to working with Simon and AccorHotels to continue this success.”

Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min: the hotel that has a commitment to the community

Posted by - April 25, 2018

Overlooking the mountains and rice fields on the shore of Inle Lake lies the Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min, the first Sofitel address in Myanmar. The boutique resort, AccorHotels’ sixth property in the country, celebrated its grand opening on 5 March 2018 and may be one of the last new hotels built directly by the water because the area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere World Heritage site in 2015.
I spoke to David G. Daguise, cluster general manager for Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min and Novotel Inle Lake Myat Min, about the property – and its role in the local community.
“Sofitel are storytellers and there was a strong story here, especially with the French DNA input in Myanmar,” starts Daguise. “Everything was so relevant to Inle. When you establish a hotel in a UNESCO Biosphere, you need the think about how your property fits into the lake environment – and use that to build a story around the property.”
David G. Daguise Even the journey to the hotel can tie into the local culture. The hotel is, of course, accessible by car but can also be reached via motorboat for guests who wish to see Intha rowing, where boatmen propel themselves across Inle lake using the traditional one-legged rowing technique.
The accommodation The hotel’s 101 rooms include 36 Luxury Rooms – “in a cosy village configuration” describes Daguise – plus 25 Junior Suites, 12 Prestige Suites, 27 Opera Suites, and 1 Imperial Suite.
The resort’s architecture shows design accents native to the region and the decor features traditional Burmese materials such as bamboo, rattan and silk.
“The design scheme of each room type is based on what you can find in the local environment,” Daguise continues. “Much of the upholstery reflects local tribal colours.” For example, the Field Villas (Luxury Rooms), clustered around reflective ponds, are inspired by the reds and oranges of the headscarves of the Pa-o women.
The Marshland Villas (Prestige Suites), which feature canopy beds inspired by the region’s stilt houses, have green woven fabrics as seen in the Padaung women’s clothing; and the Lake Villas (Junior and Opera Suites) draw on the blue chequered patterns of local men’s longyi trousers.
Dining and facilities The all-day dining restaurant offers international and local flavours with buffet and a la carte options. The fine dining Pavilion Restaurant serves fusion and Burmese-inspired dishes, with indoor and outdoor lakeside spaces.
“The environment is so serene that we want people to see this resort not as a one-stop destination – ‘see the caves, see the lake and then go’ – or a party resort; it’s more of a wellness retreat, which doesn’t really exist in the country currently,” explains the hotel GM.
He continues: “We believe that our property will extend the length of stay in Inle, to three or four days. The property is meant to become a destination in its own right, especially with a culinary aspect including our tailor-made menus and specific spa treatments with local products.”
That’s easily visible in the resort’s activity programme, which roots guests into the local Shan way of life, with sustainability initiatives such as shopping at the floating market and visiting local pagodas and temples, plus bicycle excursions to the nearby winery.
Resort facilities include two swimming pools; one of which is an infinity adult pool set directly on the water, and the fitness centre and Sofitel spa offer yoga and meditation programs. Also available are a clubhouse, kids’ club, Mac corner, and games room; and the resort’s meeting room, measuring 150 sqm, can host up to 100 guests.
The community and environment “90% of our staff are locals,” says Daguise proudly. “We wanted to be integrated into the community and it’s amazing to be able to say ‘I need you to help with the floating garden’ to someone that has already been growing food this way.”
Of course, this type of integration has two benefits as it includes the locals and protects the environment. “The vegetables and herbs we use in our restaurants are grown in our floating gardens. Our onsite water treatment plant reuses greywater so nothing is sent to the lake, and all villas have bio tanks,” confirms the hotel GM.
When talking about the hotel, I observe that Inle Lake is very different to some of his previous hotels’ destinations, such as Hua Hin – the vibrant Thai beach resort, where he launched the hotel rebrand in 2013. He replies by saying that in each career, there’s a time and place for each specific hotel and destination.
“Inle is very remote – like Seychelles or the Maldives – and that means there is a very different way of life here,” he explains. “You have a different mindset: in a resort like the one in Hua Hin, you may become an entertainer for the visitors and you have to be vibrant at all times, but here you grow the community for the locals. At destinations like Inle, you’re not just a GM to the hotel but you also have a big responsibility to the environment and local population.”
More information Sofitel Inle Lake Myat Min is located 47 km from Heho Airport, and 600 km from Yangon, a one-hour flight away. The hotel offers special opening rates starting at USD 130 per night. The offer includes accommodation in a Luxury Room inclusive of breakfast for two and 10% discount on spa treatments.
Normal rates for a Luxury Room start at USD 198. This offer is available for bookings until 30 June 2018. For reservations and general information, visit www.accorhotels.com.