Skift Take

Does anyone else here feel like Airbnb and Accor are neck and neck in their attempts to become the next "super brand of travel?"

AccorHotels CEO Sebastien Bazin has made no effort to hide the fact that he wants to change the way people think about and use hotels, whether it be enabling them to function as community centers at times or being able to book both flights and independent hotels on Accor’s website.

In this spirit, AccorHotels announced its newest partnership with Travelsify, which markets itself as the “world’s first hotel DNA content platform,” to personalize the hotel booking process for travelers online.

And given the company’s recent acquisition tear (last week Accor announced its intent to purchase a French events company), it wasn’t a total surprise that AccorHotels also announced the purchase of VeryChic for an undisclosed amount.

VeryChic is a European, member-based seller of discounted luxury and upscale hotel rooms, apartments, cruises, breaks, and vacation packages through online “flash sales.” The site states it has more than 5 million members, more than 4,000 exclusive sales, and advertises listings from more than 3,000 partner hotels.

Why Buy VeryChic?

In a press statement, AccorHotels said it “intends to strengthen its expertise in the creation of exceptional private sales and also to enable VeryChic to accelerate its international development and become the global leader in its sector.”

Romain Roulleau, senior vice president of e-commerce and digital services for AccorHotels, told Skift that VeryChic’s expertise in the “push model” of flash sales is what attracted AccorHotels most. He said that while AccorHotels has also had its own version of flash sales for its loyalty members for the past five or six years, it wasn’t necessarily optimizing revenue for Accor’s hotels to the degree that other players, including VeryChic, have been able to do.

“A few months ago we realized we needed to optimize this [referring to flash sales] with our own solution, and this is where we came up with the idea for the VeryChic acquisition,” Roulleau said.

He also said that the VeryChic website will continue to operate as is, but that its flash sale model will eventually merge with Accor’s own flash sale system on the site.

Steven Daines, AccorHotels COO of new businesses and CEO of HotelServices Africa & Middle East, said, “Our ambition is to support VeryChic in its international expansion in order to consolidate its leadership and benefit from its expertise to provide a portfolio of incredible locations and attractive offers to our guests, while presenting our hotels with a complementary solution to optimize the distribution of their rooms.”

Hervé Lafont, founder and CEO of VeryChic said, “VeryChic is a distribution solution that enables hotels both to reach and retain new guests. We share with AccorHotels a vision of offering hospitality to our guests without ever compromising on the quality of the experience, as well as a passion for innovative distribution solutions. The combination with AccorHotels will allow VeryChic to roll out globally the services that we have been providing to hotels for the past five years and to offer our members the opportunity to discover the most beautiful locations in the luxury hotel sector.”

How Personalized Booking Will Work

In addition to using VeryChic’s platform to complement its own network of bookable hotel rooms, AccorHotels is working with Travelsify to refine the hotel booking process.

Using Travelsify’s “MoodMatch” software, anyone from the UK or France who visits the desktop site beginning April 4 will be able to search for a hotel based entirely on the type of mood or experience they want to have. From design-forward, retro ambience and gastronomy to romance, chill, party atmosphere and more, users can choose from among dozens of moods and experiences covering properties ranging from budget to luxury, and including alternative accommodations, as well.

To make this type of search functionality possible, Travelsify identified the “DNA” of approximately 960 hotels from the AccorHotels brand portfolio, as well as independent hotels that participate in the company’s Fastbooking program. In fact, about 40 percent of the hotels featured via MoodMatch are independent properties.

Users who select “Inspire Me” on the “Find your Hotel” tab on the site’s homepage are then “guided where the mood takes them, regardless of destination,” according to a press release.

There are four categories from which to choose to help the site direct users to the most appropriate hotel options: “In the mood for,” “preferred style,” “close to,” and “anything else?” After choosing preferences for each of those categories, users get a selection of hotels that correspond to their tastes, and they can click for further for information about prices and availability.

The potential for storing guests’ preferences is no doubt something Accor will want to leverage as well as it rolls out this feature worldwide.

“Internet users can choose between 24 tags that were selected according to their relevance in the context of a weekend in Europe,” Roulleau said. “These tags were broken down into four distinct categories to further increase the seamlessness of the customer journey and to reinforce the story-telling developed around our hotels. Guest-preferences storage is, of course, something we would like to develop in the future. Travelsify technology may then enable our clients to get inspired according to the hotels they’ve already liked.”

“With the launch of MoodMatch, AccorHotels once again proves its capacity to innovate and adapt to the new ways of searching for hotels. We are glad that AccorHotels chose to implement Travelsify’s unique technology to personalize its offer according to travelers’ preferences,” said Bruno Chauvat, Travelsify CEO.

Accor and Travelsify began working together on MoodMatch beginning in June. The feature was developed exclusively for AccorHotels in collaboration with the Publicis agency, Rousseau said. For now, MoodMatch is only available on the desktop version of the Accor site but the hotel plans to roll it out on mobile at a later date.

Roulleau added, “This one-of-a-kind search engine therefore complements the suite of services developed in recent months on our website including the City Guides, the AccorHotels Magazine, Restaurants by AccorHotels to inspire travelers and give them ever more relevant ideas and information about their next destinations.”

Becoming Its Own Breed of Hotel Company

If the above strategy sounds familiar, it’s most likely because it’s a similar one to those  being pursued by AccorHotels’ primary competitors, as well.

“Thanks to all these services, we expect AccorHotels to be the most inspiring travel companion and indeed, a platform where travelers can find what they need at every step of their journey,” Roulleau said. “We know that travelers are looking for personalized services well before their trip, and way after it has passed. In this respect, this new search engine falls within the larger scope of our digital strategy that saw and the mobile application offer more and more services to travelers before, during, and after their stay.”

Roulleau described this as a “curated approach” to travel that AccorHotels is pursuing, and it’s one that a number of other hospitality companies, including  Airbnb, are also going after.

In April, when Airbnb announced its new “Live There” campaign, it also said it debuted a new “matching system” that takes travelers’ preferences into account. Airbnb pairs their preferences with homes, neighborhoods, and experiences that meet their needs. This campaign also included the debut of Guidebooks content for select destinations.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky has also said he wants the company to enable a variety of additional services via its app, something which AccorHotels CEO Bazin has also mentioned as part of AccorHotels’ recent Accor Local pilot.

Both AccorHotels and Airbnb haven’t been shy about their ambitions to become travel and hospitality powerhouses. Given both companies’ recent investments and acquisitions, it’s clear they’re positioning themselves to continue to grow, and to carve out their own respective niches in the hospitality space.

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Tags: accor, airbnb, travelsify

Photo credit: AccorHotels has teamed up with Travelsify to offer a 'MoodMatch' booking function on its website to allow guests to find a hotel based on their mood, design, and experience preferences. AccorHotels

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