Accor has been anything but quiet lately, undergoing a
corporate rebranding, unveiling a revamped loyalty program and launching two
lifestyle hotel concepts, all in the past two months.
And while the Paris-based hospitality group has never been
the type to shy away from change, industry insiders say that the sudden
innovation spree could signal an identity shift for the fast-expanding company.
Andrew Cohan, managing director at the Miami office of
global hospitality firm Horwath HTL, said he sees Accor's moves as part of a
broader shift in the hospitality sector.
"The truth is, a lot of these hotel companies are
trying to figure out what to do, as they've transitioned from being real estate
companies to really becoming much broader in terms of lodging and hospitality,"
Cohan said. "Many consumer product companies use branding and brand
extension to reach beyond the product category and appeal instead to the
lifestyle within which the product best fits."
Accor had rebranded as AccorHotels in 2015. Its
late-February decision to revert to the name Accor certainly appears to be an
artifact of this trend, with CEO Sebastien Bazin telling investors on the
company's 2018 year-end earnings call that the change was made because Accor is
now an "augmented hospitality" company.
"We're dropping 'hotels' because we've been doing so
much more," Bazin said. "Of course, hotels will still be the core
activities for Accor, but we've added so much in terms of ecosystem."
In addition to offering homesharing accommodations via its
takeover of Onefinestay, Accor has also added brands like the concierge service
John Paul, the table reservation system ResDiary and the collaborative-workspace
company Nextdoor to its portfolio in recent years.
Chekitan Dev, professor of marketing at Cornell University's
School of Hotel Administration and the author of "Hospitality Branding,"
said, "With brands transitioning from being pure hotel brands to lodging
brands to hospitality brands with a broader footprint, including restaurants
and activities -- and some even transitioning to offering lifestyle products
for sale -- I think it is smart of Accor to rebrand from AccorHotels back to
Accor. Accor is simpler, shorter, more memorable and reclaims its roots as a
word that stands for agreement among people."
Accor has applied a similarly holistic approach to its newly
relaunched loyalty program, Accor Live Limitless, which replaces the company's
Le Club AccorHotels platform.
According to Accor, the overhauled program grants members
access to perks across the hospitality, entertainment, dining and sports
sectors. Moreover, Accor claims that Live Limitless is the industry's largest
loyalty platform by brand count, with members able to earn and redeem points at
more than 30 hotel brands.
According to Milton Pedraza, CEO of consulting firm Luxury
Institute, however, it could prove challenging for a program like Accor Live
Limitless to live up to its promises on such a large scale. Accor's loyalty
program currently has some 50 million members, up from about 25 million four
"The problem with programs like this is the
disconnects," Pedraza said. "I may go to the hotel and get one
experience, and if I go to the restaurant or to a partner restaurant or visit a
workspace, I could get a totally different level of experience. That
inconsistency is very often where the execution falls apart. The more of the
consumer's time you try to carve up as an experience, the more chances you have
to fail, unfortunately, and so you need to be really, really impeccable."
Just how successful Accor will be in executing its
lifestyle-oriented loyalty program remains to be seen, but the company appears
to be going all-in on lifestyle with its latest hotel launches.
In early March, Accor debuted Tribe, a midscale lifestyle
brand aiming to offer guests "a high-quality hotel experience at an
affordable price." In addition to upscale design touches, the concept
showcases millennial-friendly amenities such as a bicycle rental service and
The company has collaborated with boutique hospitality
player SBE to launch House of Originals, a collection of independent luxury
lifestyle hotels. Inaugural properties in the portfolio include the Sanderson
and St. Martins Lane in London, 10 Karakoy in Istanbul and the Shore Club in
Miami Beach, all of which were previously part of SBE's Morgans Hotel Group.
Accor acquired a 50% stake in SBE last year.
The two new brands join flags Mama Shelter, SO/, 25Hours,
21c Museum and Jo&Joe as well as SBE's Delano, SLS, Mondrian and Hyde
brands in Accor's lifestyle stable. They also mark the latest entrants in a
category that continues to grow ever more crowded and, in some ways, homogenized,
according to Pedraza.
"With so many brands claiming to be 'lifestyle,' it's
definitely at risk of becoming generic," he warned. "What happens
when every brand tries to reach that pinnacle of delivering a lifestyle or
delivering an 'experience?' It becomes commoditized. And so these new brands
will still need to find a way to differentiate themselves with something else."