Hotel brands are re-envisioning the way they’re being thought of and utilized. Beyond providing accommodations for travelers, hotels are striving to become essential to the everyday lives of locals in the communities in which they reside. Need a safe place to deliver a package, drop off dry cleaning, or grab a coffee before work? Your local hotel’s got you covered.
AccorHotels has reshaped its core business around the idea of “Augmented Hospitality” — a refined vision for what a hotel stands for and the services it can provide to a community of customers made up of guests and locals alike.
The Paris-based brand has undertaken a dramatic transformation over the past two years, acquiring new businesses and launching services to increase interactions with its customer base. Most notable is the launch of the AccorLocal mobile app, which, according to CEO Sebastien Bazin, has the aim of “becoming the daily life enhancer for our guests, during holidays, business travel, or even when you’re at home — anything you might need in your daily life.”
SkiftX spoke with Maud Bailly, who joined AccorHotels as chief digital officer in 2017, to better understand the brand’s evolved positioning, and to get a better sense for how Augmented Hospitality will take shape.
SkiftX: What’s the idea behind “Augmented Hospitality” and where does AccorHotel’s digital transformation fit that notion?
Maud Bailly: The notion of “Augmented Hospitality” is closely linked to our three-vertical pillar strategy: travel, accommodation and catering — consistent with our historical business; additional services that improve a guest’s experience while positioning us as a provider of services other than accommodations; local services, such as those we are able to provide with the acquisition of John Paul and the creation of AccorLocal.
These have a clear ambition to make our hotels real “life companions” which deliver a range of daily services to all the people living in their neighborhood.
All initiatives we have undertaken through our digital transformation are central to achieving our ambitions in these verticals. Digital is critical to our core business since it is our key enabler.
As a service provider, our mission is to increase hotels’ visibility, help them strengthen their relationship with customers and provide the hotels with efficient and robust distribution, but also the best tools to run their business. Digital is even more at the core of the second vertical with Fastbooking and Availpro forming two pillars of our digital factory. In combination, they provide independent hotels with a wide range of best-in-class software and digital solutions to help them increase their direct sales.
This represents Augmented Hospitality: a traditional business that retains people and exceptional service at its core but is powered by all the new levers of the digital era.
SkiftX: What is your strategy to improve the lives of citizens (as opposed to guests)?
Bailly: With the advent of purely digital business models and consolidation by global players, customers are increasingly embracing more local, conscious consuming habits. However, the time constraints of busy people in combination with the lack of a personal touch in online purchase and delivery do not easily allow for trust-based, local relationships.
This is where we see an opportunity for our 4,200+ hotels which are open 24/7 and our 250,000+ employees with unrivaled know-how to play a central role as daily service providers.
We firmly believe that the perception of hotels as places for travelers only is outdated, and that time has come for hotels to fully take up their role as central hubs providing everyday services to the many, as open places in the very heart of cities.
This has begun with the launch of AccorLocal, which provides the opportunity for neighboring communities to use their local craftspeople and businesses’ services within their hotels and outside the normal opening hours of these businesses. Hotels can also open up their services such as the spa, gym, or co-working spaces to non-residents. It’s all about proximity, instant gratification, and the feeling of belonging to a community.
SkiftX: How is AccorHotels competing with the sharing economy?
Bailly: We don’t see the sharing economy actors as competitors. They brought about a more client-centric culture that, as an industry, hoteliers had a bit dismissed, focused as we were on our products, brands, and concepts. We’ve put all our efforts into transforming our model to ensure it is now fully customer-centric. Among numerous AccorHotels’ initiatives that seek to match clients’ new expectations, the millennial-minded brand Jo&Joe, our private rental offer through Onefinestay, and the enriched loyalty program Le Club AccorHotels through its Elite experiences support both key notions of personalization and experiential accommodation. We firmly believe that our “caring economy,” by which we mean the guest-centric service we provide through our teams, brands, and offers, is something that differentiates us from many competitors.
SkiftX: How does the Internet of Things and the ubiquity of mobile technology play into the idea of Augmented Hospitality?
Bailly: It does to the extent that it opens up a range of services that go well beyond the hotel stay. Since October, in France, the AccorHotels app is among the first available on the Actions of Google platform. Clients can therefore interact with Phil, our chatbot, on the available facilities such as parking spaces or meeting rooms, as well as finding practical information about the selected hotel such as opening hours or location, using Google Assistant through smartphones, Google Home, or any compatible device.
In the near future, our digital personal assistant Phil will assist clients in all other aspects of their journey including check-in, transportation, and restaurant bookings. Phil will therefore give our clients more time to fully enjoy their experience in our hotels, as they will be freed from the constraints that come with any normal trip. That is how we see digital: a tool for enabling exceptional service to our customers.