India is a resilient market

We are expecting to add six new properties to network, two of which will debut in leading two-tier markets within India, shares Mark Willis, CEO, India, Middle East, Africa, and Turkey for Accor.

Lipla Negi

Every disruption comes with its own set of changes. And a global disruption like the pandemic has not just changed but transformed the hospitality business. Change is driving growth, creativity and innovation at Accor. “As we speak, we have 26 properties (5,146 keys) more properties in the pipeline. Over the next 24 months, we are expecting to add six new properties to the network,” shares Mark Willis, Chief Executive Officer, India, Middle East, Africa, and Turkey for Accor. Accor currently operates 55 properties across India and South Asia with 10,306 keys. According to him, India is a “very resilient market” which is showing strong signs of recovery. Accor received a successful response for Raffles Udaipur last year, while its mid-scale and economy brands—Novotel and Ibis—continue to maintain a high brand recall. As the brand continues to strengthen its portfolio in the country, Willis gives an insight into the new, advanced, and immersive world of Accor, where sustainability and hospitality go hand-in-hand. Mid-scale and economy brands in spotlight We are constantly looking at opportunities to continue our expansion in the Indian market, across all segments and brands. Our midscale and economy brands, Novotel and ibis, have an extremely high brand recall in India and a strong focus on the meetings and conventions market, as well as the wedding and social market. The Novotel network, with 21 operational hotels, forms the largest network of mid-scale hotels in the country, with hotels in key cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Goa, and Hyderabad. We will also continue to look for the right partners as we expand our luxury brands such as Raffles, Fairmont, and Sofitel, after the successful response we received for Raffles Udaipur last year. Expansion and partnership Over the next 24 months, we are expecting to add six new properties to the network in the region, two of which will debut in leading two-tier markets within India—Novotel Bhubaneshwar Janpath Road and Novotel Jodhpur ITI Circle. We will also continue to expand our ibis and ibis Styles brands in partnership with InterGlobe Hotels by adding three more hotels in the next two years to the existing portfolio of 20 hotels.

Accor currently operates 55 properties across India and South Asia with 10,306 keys.

Domestic travel remains key
We believe domestic travel will yet again be a crucial driving force for not just Indian tourism, but markets all across the globe. With evolving guidelines still in place for international travel, domestic travel will be leading the charge in meeting the business and leisure staycation, workcation, and small MICE demands for top leisure destinations. Travellers are now looking for meaningful experiences under one roof to create deeper connections with their loved ones, the environment, and our hotels, especially in the leisure destinations that are currently in demand. The boom of bleisure We have definitely seen a change in travel requirements and patterns since the beginning of COVID-19. As we now come out of travel restrictions and regulations, we are starting to see that companies are starting to resume their in-person meetings and events (while still maintaining our ALLSAFE Standards). These gatherings are smaller in format and not as frequent, which reduces the requirements for corporate travel. Alongside the above, we have also seen an increase in travel being used to combine both business and pleasure (bleisure) by staying in a hotel or serviced apartment with loved ones and continuing to work remotely for their work. As a result of this, we are seeing an increase in demand for long-stay accommodation across the country. Customisation is the focal point Since the beginning of 2022, we have seen a positive increase in MICE and corporate business throughout the region. We are confident this will continue in Q2 and Q3 as most businesses are gathering their teams for small events or meetings, including team building activities and strategic planning meetings, among others. To meet the new types of meeting requirements, Accor offers a variety of customised packages with flexible booking and cancellation policies. Additionally, we collaborated with Microsoft to launch ALL CONNECT, a new hybrid meeting concept that enables guests around the world to adapt to the new ways of working that are supported by Microsoft Teams. Weddings go hybrid The pandemic has brought many changes with it in the hospitality industry, especially for weddings. Novotel, one of Accor’s brands, conceptualised “Vivaah by Novotel” for contemporary virtual weddings, a concept that extends a hybrid approach to the festivities, while offering an array of customised and flexible packages. Also, we have seen an impressive recovery and a substantial uptick in bookings, which was primarily driven by leisure travel, and are very optimistic about the market for the coming months. As a result of the leisure demand, we launched our Summer Offer, which gives the members of ALL-Accor Live Limitless up to 30 per cent off in hotels across India, the Middle East, Africa, and Turkey. all about ‘positive hospitality’ At Accor, sustainability is at the core of what we do, and a lot of conscious effort is being made to ensure that our operations are managed with responsiblility. With this collaborative approach to sustainable innovation as our main focus, we recently launched the Planet 21 – Acting Here programme that endeavours to act for “positive hospitality”. The programme is structured around six pillars: engaging our guests in a sustainable experience, coinnovating with our partners to open up new horizons, working hand-in-hand with local communities for a positive impact, acting as an inclusive company for our people, moving towards carbon neutral buildings, and striving for zero waste and healthy, sustainable food. Aside from the ongoing efforts, Accor’s main goal for this year is to remove all disposable plastic from our hotels globally by the end of 2022. collaboration fuels New ideas During the pandemic, what helped us significantly was being able to bring out the entrepreneurial spirit within our teams and having our confidence in them while they tried new ideas, which also meant taking new risks. Our General Managers and teams took a collaborative approach, ensuring open communication and sharing best practices. Their grit and determination to succeed allowed them to be creative and come up with innovative ways of doing business. This gave birth to new concepts and products, be it dark kitchens for food and beverage delivery, virtual weddings, travelling with pets, workation in our facilities, and virtual concerts. Technology takes lead India is a very resilient market that is showing encouraging signs of recovery. We are confident that our industry will bounce back to full recovery soon. Touchless hospitality and innovation brought in by technological advancements have made operations more costeffective and enhanced the guest experience. There is a lot of potential in this particular area to redefine hospitality and travel.