Accor UK hotels get free Wi-Fi [victory for the traveller!]

accor-sa-logoJust the kind of news I like to see hitting my inbox, after all, you know how much I hate paying for Wi-Fi in hotels.  Accor, the name behind brands such as Ibis, Mercure and Novotel, have announced that they are to offer free Wi-Fi across 194 properties in the UK.

Accor will be officially rolling out free Wi-Fi in all Ibis budget, Ibis, Ibis Styles, Novotel, Mercure, Pullman and MGallery hotels in the UK, most importantly incorporating all bedrooms and public areas.  When I saw the announcement I did wonder if it would include bedrooms (as so many chains have led with similar PR exercises, but only provided coverage in reception) so this is good to see.

The service will provide visitors at Accor hotels, including 59 Ibis hotels, 76 Mercure hotels and 31 Novotel branded hotels, with access to free, high quality Wi-Fi throughout their stay, with many hotels offering the fibre optic Wi-Fi to guarantee the best possible service.  Guests will be able to access free Wi-Fi in bedrooms, meeting rooms and all public areas of the hotel.

Accor go on to say that this initiative is in-line with their wider commitment to emphasising guest satisfaction for both business and leisure customers and follows industry research from the BDRC highlighting the significance of free Wi-Fi for hotel guests (they could have just asked me).  Recent figures revealed that free Wi-Fi throughout hotels is the most important factor for business travellers when choosing where to stay. Demand for high quality, free Wi-Fi has been boosted in recent years by the increased use of connected devices such as tablets.

Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director of Accor UK & Ireland explains, “Free Wi-Fi has become the norm at many coffee houses or bars but in the past with hotel groups it can vary from property to property, and differ between the public areas to bedrooms. We recognise that guests expect to have free Wi-Fi wherever they are in the hotel and for it to be a quick, high quality connection.

This is why we invested across all our brands in the UK in super, fibre-optic Wi-Fi so that guests can use smartphones, tablets, laptops – whatever technology device – at ease, anywhere in the hotel and for no charge.”

Now the small print (but in line with what you’d expect) – the hotels will offer free Wi-Fi to 512k, which allows guest to browse the Internet and check emails at an efficient speed.  Premium high speed Wi-Fi is available to buy in many properties using fibre optic Internet, ideal for data streaming.

Will the other global chains now follow suit?

Accor continue to grow UK presence with fresh investment [news]

AccorLot’s of news coming out of Accor Hospitality recently, and today we hear that they have entered into agreements to acquire new properties which will become the sites for four new Accor hotels in the UK.  One of the new hotels will be located in London and the others in Edinburgh.

The London hotel, which will be located at Canary Wharf will be owned and managed by Accor as a Novotel, comprising 310 rooms and is due to open by mid 2015.

In Edinburgh an Accor owned and managed hotel will open on St Andrews Square in the second half of 2013.  It will operate as an Ibis Styles and will have 103 rooms with the other two hotels in Edinburgh, which are leased properties, being located at Edinburgh Park and SoCo Edinburgh, a new development in the heart of the old town.  They will also operate under the Ibis brand and will open in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director, Accor UK & Ireland said: “Our investment in these four new hotels, two of which we will own and manage, is another step in our strategy to build on our leadership position and further grow Accor’s presence in the UK. It is also part of our flexible active asset management plan. While we are focused on reducing our portfolio’s capital intensity, we have the financial strength to invest in owned assets, for key locations and flagship hotels for our brands.”
Accor currently operates 188 hotels in the UK and is on target to operate 300 by 2015

Accor announce new brand organisation structure and reorganises operational teams

logoAccor have today announced a new brand-based organisation of its operations in Europe with the aim of anticipating trends in the hotel sector and strengthening its brands.

Accor pinpoint the reason for these changes as a hotel market that is facing major challenges today with greater segmentation and increasingly specific customer expectations which call for strongly positioned brands – with Accor defining these organisational changes as an opportunity to “reinvent the business model of its brands”.

This new organisation structure concerns Accor’s activities in 15 countries in Western and Central Europe across eight brands: Pullman, MGallery, Mercure, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget, representing some 210,000 rooms and nearly 2,000 hotels.  At the head of each brand or group of brands is a Chief Operating Officer Europe, assisted by a support team reporting to him, dedicated to the brand and comprising expertise in key areas such as marketing, human resources, management control and technical standards. The geographical scope of this organisation structure is divided into four main regions: Northern Europe, Southern Europe, Central Europe and France, with a Brand SVP for each region.

“This organisation structure will enable us to develop first-rate specialists in each market segment and rely on teams that are entirely focused on their brands and have perfect knowledge of both their customers and their competitors”, explains Yann Caillère, President and Chief Operating Officer. “It is also essential to strengthen our relations with our partners and at the same time it will offer new development opportunities to our employees.”

Accor hope that the new organisation structure will deepen relationships exchanges between the nearly 400 franchised owners operating hotels in this region allowing them to be able to have dialogue with the dedicated teams, giving them easier access to the brand manager, and there will be greater opportunities for exchange of best practices between European franchisees.

In the framework of this new brand-based organisation of operations in Europe, the following appointments have been made:

  • Christophe Alaux, Chief Operating Officer, Mercure & MGallery Europe

Christophe Alaux is a graduate of the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris and holds an advanced degree in Management. He began his career in 1990 at PSA Peugeot Citroën as labour relations manager in a production center. From 1994 to 1999, he carried out various missions for Accenture in the field of organization and performance improvement. He then joined Promodès, where he served as Vice President Organization and Human Resources for Continent before joining Carrefour France’s Executive Committee as Vice President Organization, Systems and Supply Chain. After a period as an operating executive at a Carrefour hypermarket, Christophe Alaux was appointed Regional Operating Officer of Carrefour in Shanghai and Zhejiang province in 2005. In 2007, he became Chief Operating Officer and member of the Executive Committee of Carrefour Taiwan. In 2008, Christophe Alaux joined Accor as Chief Operating Officer, Hotels France. He will keep this responsibility within the new organization.

  • Jean-Paul Philippon, Chief Operating Officer, Novotel & Suite Novotel Europe

Jean-Paul Philippon is a graduate of the Clermont Ferrand Hotel School and has a technical diploma in hotel management from the Tarbes Chamber of Commerce. He joined Accor in 1979 as General Manager Novotel Marseille Est before becoming Deputy Director Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, Marseille region in 1983. He subsequently served as Regional Director Sofitel and later as Chief Operating Officer Sofitel Europe between 1987 and 1997. In 1998 he was appointed Regional Director, Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure and Northern Latin America and in 2002 became Managing Director of Ibis France. He has served as Chief Operating Officer, Hotels Southern Europe since 2007.

  • Christophe Vanswieten, Chief Operating Officer, Pullman Europe

Christophe Vanswieten is a graduate of the COOVI Hotel Management School in Brussels. He began his career in the Novotel Brussels Airport as F&B manager. He then managed various Novotel hotels in Belgium before being appointed Chief Operating Officer Accor Belgium. He became Chief Operating Officer BeNeLux in 2006. In July 2009, he became Chief Operating Officer, Accor Hotels Benelux, Switzerland and Scandinavia and Director of the All Seasons brand. In 2012, he was Chief Operating Officer BeNelux, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Ireland.

  • Peter Verhoeven, Chief Operating Officer, Ibis brands Europe

Peter Verhoeven holds an MBA from INSEAD and a Bachelor’s Degree from the Hotelschool The Hague. He began his career in operations with Golden Tulip International in Ghana and Gran Dorado in the Netherlands. After 10 years with Disneyland Paris in senior leadership roles in Operations, Marketing and Sales, he joined Avis in the United Kingdom as Director of Sales for Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia. In 2007, Peter Verhoeven joined Accor as Managing Director, The Netherlands. He has served as Chief Operating Officer for Accor in Germany since 2009.

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Another week, another Accor opening: Mercure opens renovated Landmark hotel in Greenwich

That’s right, my inbox seems to be awash with news from Accor opening new properties, particularly in London.  This one’s certainly worth a mention and consists of a converted RIBA Bronze awarded former police building having been been modelled and opened as the Mercure London Greenwich Hotel, described by the brand as ‘contemporary design’ and ’boutique’.

The hotel joins the rapidly expanding portfolio of Mercure hotels in the UK which now stands at 75 hotels and is an example of Mercure’s ambition to further develop in key cities and London.  Recently renovated, the 145 room hotel has transformed the 1930’s ‘Police House’ with an additional two storey extension at roof level with ‘floor to ceiling’ glass rooms that provide far-reaching views over the city.  The stunning penthouse suite occupies the 9th floor of the extension, offering elegant and spacious accommodation in addition to the vista of the London skyline.  The hotel is situated within a conservation area in Greenwich, providing the perfect location for enjoying its bustling market and shops.  A stone’s throw from world famous tourist attractions, including the Cutty Sark, O2 Arena and Skyline, the hotel is ideally positioned for those looking to escape on weekend breaks.  The bar and restaurant, hosted in the former shooting range of the police building, provide a stylish retreat to recline in after a busy day’s sightseeing.  Equally, the hotel’s proximity to the business hub of Canary Wharf and close transport links to London City Airport make it a convenient choice for business guests, with private meeting room, a fully equipped gym and free WiFi available to all guests plus a world of team building activities within walking distance.

Michael Rebeiro, General Manager at Mercure London Greenwich Hotel commented “Having the opportunity to renovate a previously redundant building – especially one with such history and character – has made this opening really exciting.  Our  hotel is perfect for leisure and business guests with its ideal location and design led renovation.”

Jonathan Sheard, Managing Director for MGallery and Mercure UK & Ireland, added “ This is a fantastic hotel. The way that the building has been designed with so much light and glass really opens up the hotel for guests to experience the local area – a very important aspect of a Mercure hotel. We are very proud of our growth for the Mercure portfolio this year and we will continue to increase it in 2013.”

Accor’s Management Development Programme wins 2012 Springboard Award for Excellence

Great news for us British hospitality lovers.  Accor UK & Ireland has been awarded the prestigious 2012 Springboard Award for Excellence in the Best Management Strategy category for the Accor UK Management Development Programme (MDP).

Judged by individuals from within the hospitality industry, the award demonstrates Accor’s commitment to its employees and its strong positioning within the competitive hospitality business. The judging panel particularly liked how the programme empowered individuals to self-manage the learning process and the diverse techniques used to engage and communicate with their employees by using social media to connect with their young managers.

Accor is following an ambitious strategy to increase its hotel network in the UK to 300 hotels by 2015.  To achieve this expansion, Accor recognises the importance of training and development to provide real career progression and to ensure a ready supply of well-trained managers and team members to support the future growth of the network.

The Management Development Programme (MDP) addresses the key challenge of developing General Managers from within. Approximately 18 aspiring General Managers are selected each year following a rigorous assessment process.  The programme sees General Managers undertake seven modules over a 12-month period, including a strategic business project and an outdoor ‘leadership development’ week.

Thomas Dubaere, Managing Director of Accor UK & Ireland, said:The Springboard Awards are the premier hotel industry awards so we are delighted to achieve this accolade. Now in its fifteenth year, the MDP is testament to our on-going commitment to career progression. One hundred and seventy-five managers have graduated from the programme and more than 70% remain with the business in key positions. Sixty-five existing hotels are managed by graduates of the MDP. We are very proud that the industry has recognised the programme.”

This is great news to hear, and I especially like that the programme takes social media into the education programme.  For me, and such course that does not teach a future GM how important social media is to a hotel is not a learning programme that will succeed.  Congratulations Accor!

75 hotels and counting for Accor’s Mercure portfolio

More new’s from Accor today, as they announce four British hotels are set to open their doors as part of the Mercure portfolio within the next four months, further expanding the growing Mercure hotel collection and increasing the brand’s footprint to 75 hotels in the UK.

Mercure, Accor’s mid-scale hotel brand. will introduce these new hotels in London, Scotland, Milton Keynes and Darlington, with these latest franchise agreements adding some 394 rooms to the Mercure network and creating over 120 jobs across the regions.

Jonathan Sheard, Managing Director of Operations, MGallery and Mercure Hotels UK and Ireland said: “We are delighted to welcome our new partner hotels to the Mercure network in the UK. Each hotel has its own unique story and represents an exciting new destination for business and leisure travellers alike.  We’re committed to significantly growing our Mercure hotel portfolio by 2015 and this will largely be driven through our growing franchise development in the UK.  We are delighted to welcome these four new hotel partners, all of which are a natural fit for the Mercure brand.  By joining with our business, our franchise partners will be able to boost their hotels’ existing exposure through the use of our brand name and benefit from our existing expertise, powerful global distribution networks and committed sales force.”

First to open is the Mercure Darlington Kings Hotel, which launched last week, followed closely by the Mercure London Greenwich Hotel and the Mercure Eddleston Barony Castle Hotel and Spa in Scotland later this month (October).  The Mercure Milton Keynes Abbey Hill will launch in January 2013.

Originally built as a coaching inn in the early 1600s and rebuilt in 1893, the King’s Head Hotel underwent a major £8 million refurbishment programme after a blaze caused severe damage to the hotel in 2008.  Now complete, the refurbished hotel located in the heart of the historic market town features 83 bedrooms, conference and banqueting suites, à la carte restaurant – Carriages No.  One – and cocktail bar, Carriages.  The re-opening of the renowned hotel will create approximately 50 jobs in the region.

Following a major conversion of the 1930’s Maurice Drummond House in Greenwich, the Mercure London Greenwich hotel will offer 145 bedrooms over 10 storeys. The hotel conversion project has witnessed an additional two storeys added at roof level and complete internal refurbishment, along with minor landscaping. The original building won RIBA’s London Architectural Medal in 1946 and the independently owned hotel offers exceptional views of London. The opening of the hotel will create up to 70 jobs in the local area.

With a rich history, the 4* Barony Castle Hotel and Spa in Eddleston, 17 miles south of Edinburgh, is set to become the first castle within the Mercure portfolio.  Featuring 78 bedrooms, the hotel has undergone a £400,000 refurbishment programme, transforming it from a three start to a four star Mercure hotel, since signing the Accor franchise agreement.  The hotel was recently awarded The Great Polish Map of Scotland listed status by Historic Scotland.  The Map represents an important part of Barony Castle’s history, which saw Barony Castle and grounds used by Polish military forces based in Scotland during the Second World War.

In addition, the Abbey Hill Hotel in Milton Keynes, which is one of the first purpose-built hotels in Milton Keynes, is undergoing a full transformation prior to its re-launch in January 2013.  Once complete, the city-centre hotel will boast 88 bedrooms, state-of-the-art meeting rooms and newly designed and furnished public spaces.

What can we say, congratulations Accor!  In such hard times and tough trading conditions for all hoteliers, it’s encouraging to see so many brands expanding.  As you may know from my very first Twitter Q&A a few weeks ago, I named Accor as one of my favourite hotel chains so I was particularly pleased to hear this news.

Accor opens first Pullman branded hotel in the UK

More Accor news (haven’t they been busy this month).  This time its the announcement that they have introduced the first Pullman branded hotel in the UK with the opening of the Pullman London St Pancras.  Accor are establishing this international upscale brand in the UK in a move to widen their hotel brand portfolio in the UK, which currently includes Sofitel, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, Ibis, Ibis Styles and Ibis Budget.

Officially opening in September, this property was once how to the Novotel St Pancras and has undertaken a comprehensive refurbishment which has seen the complete transformation of the hotel into one of London’s most contemporary hotels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

COO of Pullman Europe Christophe Vanswieten commented “I’m delighted to annoucnce that we are opening our first Pullman Hotel in the UK, a market that will play a key role in our expansion plans in the coming years.  Pullman has blogal brand araewness in progressm which we will build on in the UK, helping Accor’s presence in the UK’s upscale market, ensuring that we have a hotel brand to suit any individual’s requirements – from budget to luxury”.

The new property is described by Accor as a cosmopolitan home of style and modernity and is situated around three minutes from King’s Cross St Pancras.  The hotel has 312 bedrooms  with panoramic views of the London skyline and a restaurant and bar named Golden Arrow.  It also includes plenty of business and event space, even featuring a 446 seat theatre for arts and corporate use.

The Pullman brand offers several “signature services” which include Welcomer, Pullman bed, docking station, free Wi-Fi (I’m liking the brand already, of course!), Connectivity Lounge in partnership with Microsoft, Nespresso services, Vinoteca by Pullman wine selection and Open Kitchen in the new restaurant.

Xavier Louyot, SVP Global Marketing Pullman concludes “This new Pullman destination, which joins the network’s 67 other hotels and resorts around the world, offers a vibrant, in-style cosmopolitan guest experience and is designed to cater for both business travellers and leisure guests.  Set in the heart of one of the top travel hubs of the globe, it is ideal for those travelling to the continent or visiting London”.

Accor have certainly been busy this year with new hotel openings and expanding their brand portfolio and coverage which is extremely positive news, especially for the UK.  What strikes me is that there are so many new hotels springing up in London or all shapes, sizes and prices.  This is only going to increase competition in what is already a very competitive market.  Maybe we will see the average city rate drop in the next couple of years – time will tell.