April 6, 2017
Luc Gesvret, vice president for sales, distribution and marketing at AccorHotels Group, of which Polish hotelier Orbis is part, talks to the Voice.
The Orbis hotel group, the number one hotel operator in the CEE region, is developing very well with record-high financial results in 2016. Those 116 hotels operating in seven countries, including Poland, sold more rooms for better prices, and the increases aren’t symbolic. Not everyone in the hospitality business in Europe can be so happy, I am afraid. How do you explain the reasons behind this performance?
That’s right, we are a leader on the CEE hotel market. The year 2016 has been a very good year and we reported a RevPar growth of 11.2 percent compared to 2015. This record-high level of financial results—our sales totaled PLN 1.38 billion—was also driven by an increase of the average room rates (this trend will continue) as well as favorable macroeconomic conditions. All in all, the Polish market experiences a growth of room rates, not just occupancy. What’s important, it is taking place in virtually all the segments, and from our perspective, since Orbis is a group with so many brands, it is a reason for optimism. There is generally high demand in the market and the market accepts higher rates and higher prices.
If I were to point out the reasons for it, I would certainly mention the improvement of the infrastructure—the roads and airports, which triggered the development of the MICE sector. For instance, the hospitality market in Warsaw certainly benefits from the boom in the meetings segment, but also in the leisure tourism segment. In 2016, the Polish capital was visited by a record 8 million tourists, of which 3 million were foreign visitors.
That helps, definitely. However, on a competitive market and in a hotel network as huge as Accor (and Orbis as a part of it), nothing happens just by chance. Orbis alone operates 20,000 rooms. There has to be a marketing strategy and a very clear one behind all of this.
It’s obvious. If you want your company to remain on the market, you need to expand it. This implies the need to clearly define your vision and mission. In the Orbis hotel group, one of the pillars of our development is the consistent expansion of our brands portfolio. Two examples from the last six months include two investments in Poland’s strategic cities, namely ibis Gdańsk Old Town and Mercure Krakow Old Town. Besides, we strive to combine the group’s development with respect for the environment and local communities. Hence, these are the first two hotels in the country to boast the so-called “green certificates,” i.e. BREEAM certification.
Guests and guest satisfaction are a priority in our daily operations. The year 2016 has been labeled the “Year of the Guest” at AccorHotels. To meet guest expectations, hoteliers never stop improving the quality of their service through personalization and staff training. As we all know, employee satisfaction translates into guest satisfaction. Hence, AccorHotels builds relationships and makes guests return to our hotels around the world.
“A happy guest returns,” says the song from the video by Orbis where we can enjoy you and some of your staff collaborators singing and dancing. Isn’t it all about people you work for and with?
We build our success based on talent and employee commitment. We focus on attracting talented people with passion. As an example let me mention our last recruitment of the staff for the Mercure Krakow Old Town hotel. The candidates had to “move back in time” to the last days of the Middle Ages and the dawn of the Renaissance in Krakow. Among other assignments to be completed, they had to play the role of the City Castellan whose task was to control the law and order in the city, listen to requests and complaints, and prevent revolts among the general public. At another station, participants had to cross the river. Applicants found it a very interesting adventure as well as an important professional experience. During this recruitment, we verified their creativity, capacity for strategic thinking and working in a group of persons applying for various positions.
On the other hand, we want to work with our teams for many years. Thus, we also heavily invest in all training programs and clear career paths. An example here could be the Move Up project introduced in the Novotel hotel brand. The first phase of this project is the Induction Program; here the candidates become familiar with the rules of the given hotel. Then there is the Itineraries level, where employees pass trainings for the selected positions. The next step on a career path is the Globe Trotter level, where employees are trained to become heads of departments. The last rung of the ladder in this structure is the hotel’s General Manager Pass; here the candidates for hotel GMs expand their expertise. This three-tier structure of staff development has been nicknamed Novotel Service Attitudes.
We also stimulate the creativity of our employees through many other projects. The “My Room by AccorHotels” project, where employees design hotel rooms is a good example. The room idea and design is an expression of their passion, and thus we have the “Surfer’s Room,” the “Digital Room” at the Novotel Warszawa Airport, the “Tea Room” at the Mercure Warszawa Grand, and many others. This project is being implemented in other European countries as well.
We never stop adjusting to the changing market trends. For example, we develop the digital platform in keeping with the current level of society’s mobility and create new brands of hotels, for instance those targeted at millennials, such as the Jo&Joe in Paris, where the common space is open, which facilitates integration—a solution expected by young people. And it is them who are the trendsetters in every aspect of life.
How does the Orbis hotel group perform in terms of those changes?
Currently, the digital area remains the biggest challenge in terms of communication with customers and building relationships. It is the basis in the process of forming a personalized approach to the customer and his or her relationship with the hotel staff. Knowledge about customers, their behavior and preferences and collecting feedback are essential as this permits us to provide top quality service. Thanks to the Voice of the Guest platform we can collect opinions from our hotel Facebook profiles or TripAdvisor ratings. This is the basic tool for our employees in the daily visitor service. In the 21st century, a brand stands no chance of becoming a “lovebrand” without an expanded digital offer, a proper distribution network and customer service. How do we do it in the hospitality industry? A guest wants to feel at home, so apart from high-standard service, we have for example a bottle of his or her favorite wine or Nordic walking poles waiting for him or her in the hotel room. What really counts, in my opinion, in the hospitality industry is being genuine and providing a unique experience. And this is what our brands deliver.