4 ways that Accor is getting IBIS into an experiential groove
Accor’s legacy IBIS brand is transforming with a revamp of product and design, a rethink of brand passion, technological innovation and open communication
Legacy hotel brands have little choice but to move with the changing times. If anybody understands this it is the French chain Accor. “We work in an industry that is blessed by the Gods because it continues to grow year on year, but it is also undergoing transformational changes,” Martine Gorce-Momboisse, SVP Global Marketing Economy and Midscale Brands, Accor told EyeforTravel’s Digital Summit last month. Not only do customers have countless ways to book travel, they also have more to choose from and, “they are looking more and more for experiences and for experiential stays”.
We work in an industry that is blessed by the Gods because it continues to grow year on year, but it is also undergoing transformational changes
For this reason, Accor has embarked on a transformation journey at IBIS, a “tremendously strong” legacy brand with over 1,200 hotels in 67 countries. The move, Gorce-Momboisse explained, was guided by three trends namely that customers are looking for:
- Branded, consistent experiences but they don’t want them to be uniform
- Technologies that makes life easier but also a more human emotional
- Diversity and openness, and a warm welcome
Taking these three trends into account, Accor has worked on four major transformational changes to the IBIS brand. These are:
1. Product and design
In the economy segment, typically the model was to have one design concept that could be replicated. However, given the trend that people are looking for branded but not uniform experiences, IBIS is moving away from standardisation and is developing a collection of three to four different designs.
“We are putting these on-the-shelf and they are available for the owners and developers to use based on locality and/or personal taste,” Gorce-Momboisse said. Importantly, however, the idea is that “they still deliver the emotional benefit for the guest, and that an IBIS is always comfortable, a home away from home”.
Our hotels are not just places to stay. We want them to be real social hubs. This is a paradigm shift where not only travellers come to feel welcome but also locals - the community around the hotel
Designs have emerged from Asia, Europe and South America. One of the designs, Agora, developed by Innocad in Austria, has already been deployed in Barcelona. Others include Plaza, developed FGMF in Brazil, and Square by Soda in Thailand.
“Our hotels are not just places to stay. We want them to be real social hubs. This is a paradigm shift where not only travellers come to feel welcome but also locals - the community around the hotel.”
2. A new way of welcoming with technology and a human touch
In the UK, 100% of IBIS hotels have already removed the reception desk, and staff now carry a mobile or tablet to welcome and register guests anywhere in the lobby. By 2021, the same will be true for all hotels across Europe. The idea was first piloted in a few hotels, and then evangelists were selected to help others make the shift. Gorce-Momboisse acknowledged that there were a number of changes and challenges for teams, and training was needed, but ultimately guest satisfaction has gone up and employees are enjoying this new way of working.
“We want to use technology to bring a more human touch to our hotels and create real relationships with guests,” she said.
3. Showing brand passion through music
“Nothing is more universal than music, and everybody loves to experience music,” Gorce-Momboisse said, although she is "sometimes flabbergasted" by IBIS's ambitious programme to bring music into its properties. IBIS has formed partnerships with Sony, Spotify, and is attracting emerging artists to play at its hotels. As an example, on May 24 Tom Grennan played at the IBIS in the Manchester Centre property. Contests are part of the plan and a final selection of artists will also play at the upcoming Sziget 2019 festival in Budapest. IBIS is “open for music” and you can expect to hear all about this on social media, she said.
4. Open communication, focus on value
Accor also thought long and hard about how it communicated the spirit of the IBIS brand. The data showed that customers are looking for diversity and tolerance, and so with a strong brand like IBIS they took a decision to move away from a focus on product to a focus on value. “The value we have chosen to communicate on is the idea of openness. At IBIS, we are open, and that is quite a transformational change,” Gorce-Momboisse said.
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