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.”

Hotel Insight takes a sneak preview of the brand new InterContinental London Westminster

You may have heard that InterContinental are due to open a brand new property in London, and it’s causing quite a buzz in the London hotel world.  And why?  Because this is the first InterContinental hotel to open for 36 years.  I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of this newly designed and renovated InterContinental London Westminster, due to open in a matter of weeks, that will home some 256 guest rooms, including 44 luxurious suites and penthouse.  It was really interesting to get this behind the scenes insight into the hotel and see all the hard work going on to get ready for opening.  Even with much furniture and fittings missing, you can see that this is going to be a very special property.

Even without considering the building and hotel itself, the location is of greatest importance here, located on the site of a former Government Building, which played host amongst others to the Treasury Solicitor and The Brewers’ Society, slap bang in Westminster. With such a location, you can already guess the cliental that may frequent the hotel and I’m sure this is a reason InterContinental have incorporated a selection of exclusive meeting and event spaces that reflect exatly the heritage and political surroundings of the hotel.

Set across the lower ground level, the hotel’s meetings rooms, which can be transformed into a maximum of seven different spaces, are aptly named after the most celebrated political residences.  Chevening and Dorneywood will cater for up to 75 and 55 respectively in various seating configurations, while Chequers will be a fixed boardroom, seating 10 and offering the latest in state-of-the-art technology.  The Whitehall Suite which can be adapted from 60 – 254 seating to a 300 person standing reception can also be divided to create four individual meeting spaces each hosting up to 86 people.

Blue Boar Smokehouse & Bar is at the heart of the hotel’s food and beverage offering – and even unfinished when I had a preview today, I already want to come back and experience the wonderful smokey offerings.  With a choice of two private dining rooms seating 12, which can be combined to accommodate 24, delegates will be treated to a menu which takes inspiration from the best American pit masters but with a distinctly British influence like the Pulled Rare Breed Pork Collar or the Treacle Marinated, 12 Hour Roasted Beef Brisket which revolves around authentic smoke house techniques.  On-site charcoal and smoking ovens will produce rustic dishes served in a modern way; classic comfort food using great British produce.

Andrew Coney, General Manager, InterContinental London Westminster explained “Our location in the heart of Westminster Village has naturally been a great inspiration to us. Our events offering will enable us to deliver exceptional experiences for our guests, whether they’re here for official political business, perhaps presenting their memoirs or simply looking to celebrate an occasion in an intimate space.”

My visit today came amongst the final throws of preparations to complete the outstanding work and get the hotel opened, but even without the fine artworks, carpets and finishing touches, this hotel already has a special feel.  What struck me, was that if I had no idea which hotel chain owned the hotel, just from walking in the lobby and public areas, I would have been able to guess it was InterContinental.  I can’t put my finger on it, but this hotel has a very InterContinental feel and I’m excited to re-visit and see the finished article very soon.

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.

Landmark Reached: Accor announce new Ibis hotel to take Asia-Pacific rooms to over 100,000

I wouldn’t usually choose to write a post about an Ibis hotel launching in Hong Kong…. but this one deserved a special mention as its opening marked Accor’s recent news that they now have more than 100,000 rooms in Asia-Pacific with the opening of this hotel.  That’s a lot of rooms and clearly shows Accor is placing a huge emphasis on driving it’s brand into a more dominant position outside Europe.  The Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan is the brand’s flagship property in Asia introduces a vibrant, modern new direction for ibis intended to appeal to the growing number of independent leisure travellers in the region.

“We are delighted to witness the opening of this ibis property in Hong Kong, one of our strategic markets in Greater China,” comments Mr. Paul Richardson, Chief Operating Officer of Accor Greater China. “Ideally located in central Hong Kong, Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan represents the brand’s new flagship property for Greater China. The opening of the hotel strengthens Accor’s presence in this market and will help us further promote the ibis brand throughout the region.”

The opening of the hotel is of significant importance to the ibis brand’s parent company, Accor, which now operates more than 100,000 rooms in the Asia-Pacific region.

“I am proud to announce that Accor’s network has grown beyond 100,000 rooms in Asia-Pacific, with the opening of ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan,” said Mr. Michael Issenberg, Chairman and Chief Operating Officer, Accor Asia-Pacific. “It is only fitting that we celebrate this milestone at this stylish hotel, which represents a new flagship for the ibis brand in the region and emphasizes our commitment to offering our customers an exceptional economy hotel product.”

The 550-room property is one of the first in Asia to showcase the brand’s new identity, currently being rolled out across the world and offers quality accommodation and the peace of mind of staying with an international chain.

Bright, fresh design is complemented by a young and energetic team that will deliver all the essential services of a modern hotel, around the clock. The hotel offers a full eight hours of breakfast service beginning at 4.00 a.m., with drinks and snacks served at the 24-hour bar. Complimentary Wi-Fi Internet is available throughout the hotel.  In addition, a 15-minute satisfaction promise is given to all customers for requests they make through the front desk.

Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan features three room types; Studio, City View, and – offering spectacular views of Hong Kong’s famous harbour – the high-level Harbour View rooms. Light wood timber floors, 3-metre high ceilings and large bay view windows give the rooms a spacious, modern and inviting feel. Free Wi-Fi, 32-inch LCD televisions, hot drink stations and on-demand wake-up calls complete in-room facilities.

A bright, open-plan décor invites guests to explore the hotel, including the airy lobby and the bar and dining areas that lie beyond. Vibrant burnt orange, splashes of red, crisp white and caramels create bright, contemporary interiors.  Two dining options cater for guests day and night. Le Bar, which neighbours the lobby and reception on the fifth floor, offers snacks and drinks, and has a full bar that never closes.  Attention is on catering to the often-unpredictable schedules of independent travellers.  The Early Riser menu served at Le Bar from 4.00 a.m offers pastries and other continental options, hot drinks and juices and is conveniently available until 6.30 a.m.

Taste is an open, breezy restaurant on the sixth floor, offering flavours typical of Hong Kong. Up to 20 local authentic dishes are offered, and include staples such as dim sum, baked rice dishes and noodles alongside Western favourites.  An expansive all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast is also offered.

Travellers keen on exploring their destination will discover Hong Kong’s unique heritage right on their doorstep. The hotel is ideally situated in Sheung Wan, where heritage blends with bustling new enterprise. Streets filled with dry seafood stalls sit next to hip coffee shops. Historic sites include Man Mo Temple; Possession Point, where British fleets first landed in Hong Kong; as well as the neighbourhood’s elegant cafes and bars on nearby Hollywood Road. The restaurants and lively nightlife of Central’s Soho district is also a short walk away.

“We are thrilled to satisfy the expectations of today’s independent leisure traveller with our friendly and high-quality offering,” commented Warren Tam, General Manager, Ibis Hong Kong Central and Sheung Wan. “We have the strengths of an international brand coupled with a very affordable price point.”

The unique brand of Tune Hotels can capture a whole new budget segment

Over the past twelve months I’ve been watching with interest how budget hotel chain Tune Hotels have been expanding.  Originally when I learnt about this brand I wondered how it would fit into such a competitive budget hotel environment in the UK.  Launched as a Malaysian brand, I saw the ethos of the brand developed very strongly in its homeland, but did wonder what the reaction would be when properties started popping up here.

Back in March I sampled the brand for the first time, completely out of interest, and was incredible impressed with what I found.  Six months on, Tune Hotels have opened more UK properties and their reputation and brand is really spreading.  So last week I decided to re-visit the chain and went to stay at their newest London offering in the heart of Paddington.

I found this a very welcoming property with extremely knowledgable and efficient staff (something I’ve not experienced at similar grades of hotel or ‘budget’ brands) and I was given a very genuine  and warm welcome.  Booked into a  had a standard double room, I decided to check out the public areas, which to be honest, didn’t take long.  For those who’ve not discovered this brand yet, the idea behind Tune Hotels is to offer a no frills services, so as you can imagine public areas are fairly small and without extensive facilities.  However, this property  had a snack bar located in the lobby, along with a comfortable seating area and public computers for guests to use.  Being a new opening, everything was very clean, tidy and well maintained.

The room itself is where I think Tune Hotels have captured the market perfectly.  For a budget hotel, the rooms are actually very generous in size and finished to a high standard.  They have concentrated on the key elements that make up a good quality hotel bedroom.  A very comfy bed with fresh crisp linen, good shower, contemporary decoration and finish along with high quality television and Wi-Fi (at a supplement).  If you get these basics right, customers will like your offering.  For the average rate, the rooms at this property are fantastic value.

I’m also very impressed with the hotels TripAdvisor ranking.  Given it’s not been open a year yet, they have steadily climbed up the city ranking to number 99 from over 1000 listed hotels.  This is very impressive and the reviews really summarise what I found – great service, great quality at a great price.  If you do take a look, you’ll also see that the hotel are very responsive on Twitter, thanking guests for comments and responding professionally to any negative comments.  I’m sure the high quality of service is a huge factor in why this brand is becoming so popular so quickly.  Just because your hotel chain operates in a budget and no frills environment, it doesn’t mean to say service levels should not be taken seriously.  If anything, this is the one area you have the chance to add extra value to your guests stay.

A lesser known brand message behind Tune Hotels really goes hand in hand with what you see at each property.  The General Manager of the Paddington hotel I visited explained to me that the hotels aim to run as environmentally friendly as possible.  Of course, as with many modern hotels, initiatives such as  solar panels generating power to heat  water, help to achieve this.  But a key reason Tune Hotels offer this no frills service is to reduce waste – they don’t generate rubbish from left over food and half used toiletries left behind in bathrooms.  It’s optional to have towels, shampoo and the like where guests are asked to pay a supplement, meaning less waste and in my view, giving the consumer the choice in exactly how they want to stay.  This doesn’t restrict a guests choices – it adds a level of flexibility in their hotel booking.

So going back to the title of this post, why do I claim that Tune have captured a new budget market?  Well, maybe I’m a bit early in this claim, as the public need to have the time to experience and understand the brand, but here’s my thinking.  When you look at pricing and room options, I would say that Tune Hotels is directly comparable to chains like easyHotel and some small guesthouse accommodation you find in large cities.  Except, this is not what you experience at Tune Hotels.  With Tune Hotels, you get choice, quality and value for money.  When I book one of their hotels, I know what to expect.  I know that I am actually going to want to spend time in my room, not want to get checked out as soon as possible and regret the day I was too budget conscious.  This is where Tune Hotels have found an untapped part of the market.  Their service and room quality coupled with incredibly competitive prices means they are in a great positive to expand and dominate the budget sector.

Accor gives the UK it’s 2nd MGallery branded hotel with the launch of The Francis Hotel Bath

Accor have certainly been busy this year, and have now announced the launch of their second UK hotel in the MGallery collection, the Francis Hotel located in Bath, which is  the first member of the MGallery collection outside London.  It follows an intensive £6 million refurbishment by the hotel partner transforming what was previously the Mercure Bath Francis Hotel to its former glory.

MGallery is the high-end hotel collection brand of the Accor group.  Each hotel of the Collection stages with talent a unique personality and story, experienced by guests through its architecture, interior design and services.  Hotels are inspired by ”Heritage” origins, with places filled with history, by a “Signature”, a personality who contributed to their decoration or stylish aesthetic universe, and by “Serenity”, the promise of a relaxing moment in a natural or urban retreat.  Launched in September 2008, the MGallery collection has rapidly expanded to cover five continents with 50 hotels and will grow to over 100 locations by late 2015.

The Grade 1 listed property, well-located in Queens square, Bath, boasts 98 hotel rooms including individually-styled executive and feature bedrooms, a lounge and bar, front parlour and breakfast room and on-site parking.  The interiors have been designed by architectural and design firm Househam Henderson.  Brasserie Blanc (the latest addition to Raymond Blanc’s successful group of brasseries), will adjoin the hotel and welcome both guests and the general public.

Jonathan Sheard, Managing Director Operations for MGallery and Mercure hotels commented, “The opening of our second MGallery hotel in just six months is further evidence of Accor hotel’s commitment to growing the MGallery collection in the UK.  The MGallery collection stands for quality and distinction, and this hotel has both as well as being located in the centre of historic Bath.  Guests who stay at the Francis Hotel will experience the truly special personality of this totally transformed hotel.”

Accor hotels launched the upscale MGallery Collection in the UK in October 2011 with the opening of the St. Ermin’s Hotel at St. James, London.  The MGallery Collection started in 2008 and today encompasses around 50 hotels in 18 countries.

Has anyone stayed at an MGallery property yet?  If so, please leave comments and share your experiences – did you like the brand? A good concept?

IHG’s newest brand ‘Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts’ kicks off with 8 signings in first few months

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), have today announced their first set of signings for the new Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts brand.  Eight management contracts have been signed since the brand launch earlier this year, including hotels in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as six emerging business and leisure destinations across the country.  IHG are of course one of the world’s largest hotel companies but also the biggest international hotel company in Greater China.

Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts is the first international hotel brand specifically designed for Chinese consumers focusing on the unique aspects of Chinese etiquette, the importance of rejuvenation, status recognition and enabling spaces that reflect local customs and heritage.  It takes the best aspects of renowned Chinese hospitality and applies IHG’s international scale, powerful systems and insights into the Chinese market and will consistently deliver what consumers expect in China today.

The eight newly signed hotels bring a combined total of nearly 2,800 rooms to the Hualuxe brand pipeline, which is a significant achievement in less than five months since the brand launch.

Keith Barr, chief executive officer, IHG Greater China commented “Since we entered this market in 1984, we’ve been evolving our operating standards and services to ensure all our Chinese guests feel welcome and comfortable.  Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts marks an innovation in this industry. Our three decades of experience has given us deep consumer insight that we’ve now used to create a brand where every element has been fashioned to suit the tastes and sensibilities of our Chinese guests. This has never been done before and it’s immensely rewarding to see so many owners and business partners understand, support and sign up to our vision.”

The first eight Hualuxe Hotels and Resort signings are all in cities where IHG already has an open hotel or a hotel in the pipeline and they will greatly complement other IHG hotels in these markets.  Hualuxe Hotels and Resorts is a key part of IHG’s strategy to grow market share in Greater China.

The eight newly signed hotels and resorts are expected to open between 2014 and 2016, and all of these are signed with new owners who are working with IHG for the first time:

  • HUALUXE Beijing Xinan: 380 rooms.
  • HUALUXE Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao: 400 rooms.
  • HUALUXE Chengdu High-Tech West: 350 rooms.
  • HUALUXE Zhangjiajie Resort: 380 rooms.
  • HUALUXE Ordos Dongsheng: 300 rooms.
  • HUALUXE Foshan Nanhai: 350 rooms.
  • HUALUXE Yangjiang City Centre: 282 rooms.
  • HUALUXE Fuzhou Downtown: 330 rooms.