Accor is looking to boost its profile in the U.S. travel community and spread the word about its expanding portfolio throughout Asia and the Pacific at a trade expo stop in Los Angeles on March 27. It will take place at the Sofitel Los Angeles, the newest Sofitel in the U.S.
In advance of the expo—which is calling on 14 destinations
this year—we conversed with Ray Stone, senior vice president of sales and
marketing for Accor Asia Pacific, about why Accor's so bullish on the region
and what travel agents and their clients can expect.
Accor is poised to launch its 300th hotel in the region, the
Grand Mercure Xidan Beijing, and by year's end will have almost 350 hotels open
throughout the region.
"Some of our standout openings in 2007 are
top-of-the-range Sofitels in Beijing,
Krabi and Chiang Mai," Stone says. Accor is taking a balanced approach to
expansion, growing across the spectrum, from deluxe to mid-market to economy.
It is also looking to expand in a range of location types, including capital
cities, regional centers and resort destinations. The variety that insulates
Accor against major fluctuations in the travel industry also makes for a
greater variety of choice for travelers.
Thus, in 2008, Accor will open hotels in more than eight
countries in the region, including China,
Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia
Accor also has plans to expand strongly in Vietnam to tap into the country's
appeal to travelers. "It offers something very special—distinctive French
character, but in a very Asian tropical setting," Stone says. A
multicultural flair also contributes to the attractiveness to travelers of the
Sofitel properties in French Polynesia.
Among the factors spurring Accor's Asia Pacific expansion
are airlift and rapid economic growth. "There is an unprecedented level of
air access to and from the region, with new low-cost air carriers now
increasing their long-haul routes, as well as opening up new
destinations," Stone says. "This will have great significance for
growth in travel in the region.
"Tourism in Asia Pacific is very open to new ideas, and
when you see what is happening in India
you can understand why the Asia Pacific region is seen as the powerhouse of
Accor's approach in the region is to establish a flagship
hotel in key gateway cities in each destination, Stone says. In China, for example, Accor has 19 Sofitel
properties in place, including two in Shanghai,
and is adding Sofitels in Beijing, Guangzhou and Macau. That
Beijing hotel, the Sofitel Wanda Beijing, will
become Accor's flagship in China
when it opens in mid-July. "It will really help raise our profile in the
city at exactly the right time—just a year out from the Olympics," Stone
Meantime, Accor is covering its other bases in China by
adding mid-market Novotels in such major locations as Beijing, Nanjing and the
new Baiyun airport in Guangzhou, along with more than 50 Ibis hotels in the
country's most rapidly emerging commercial centers.
As for India,
Accor will be opening a flagship Sofitel in Mumbai, as well as Novotel and Ibis
hotels in many of the major commercial centers, and up to 100 budget Formule 1
properties in emerging city areas.
"However, where we already have critical mass, such as Australia, the
projects will be more opportunistic in our expansion with a heavy emphasis on
resorts," Stone explains. "In Indonesia
and Thailand, where we are
the largest international operator, we are concentrating on resort projects in
key tourist destinations such as Bali, Chiang
Mai and Krabi, all of which are well established with the American
Accor's current ratio of U.S.
travelers to the region is weighted 70 percent leisure to 30 percent business,
but Stone says there will be an increase in corporate travel with the growth of
network and the opening of hotels in key commercial centers. As for the leisure
market, he adds, Accor is seeing strong growth from the U.S. to its Sofitels in French
"We are really targeting the American market because
the Sofitels were only relaunched last year and are amongst French Polynesia's
finest—and the U.S.
market is a very discerning one," Stone says. "We are also seeing
encouraging growth in the U.S.
leisure market for our hotels in Australia,
New Zealand, Fiji and Thailand."
When it comes to growing its share of the U.S. market, Stone says Accor decided to bring
its trade show to Los Angeles to heighten
awareness of the company's depth and breadth of product in Asia
and the Pacific.
Accor is initially targeting the West Coast because it is
already established as a source market for travelers bound for Asia and the Pacific. The greater visibility of Sofitel
with its properties in New York, Chicago and Washington
has played a major role in building Accor's corporate travel market from the U.S. to Australia
"It is fair to say that Accor is not as well known in America as some
of its American hotel rivals," Stone acknowledges. "We have to face
strong competition from well-known U.S.-branded hotels, but when we have a
hotel such as the Sofitel Wanda Beijing next to major U.S. corporate houses such
as HP and Microsoft, we need to demonstrate that Sofitel is not only the match
for the U.S. brands, but can offer even more. That's our challenge, but we
wouldn't be holding the World of Accor in the U.S.A. for the first time if we
didn't believe we were up to meeting that challenge."
Visit www.worldofaccor.com to register online.