In the hospitality world, hotel brands like AccorHotels, Marriott, Hilton, and IHG aren’t just competing with one another. The real competition is with technology giants like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and even Netflix.
And that’s why a company like AccorHotels is transforming itself, said Steven Taylor, AccorHotels global chief brand officer, speaking at the inaugural Skift Tech Forum Tuesday in Santa Clara, California.
“We’re watching large technology platforms very carefully,” Taylor said. “They have ever- increasing influence in the travel space, and that’s why we’re focused on building these ecosystems of brands and loyalty to compete.”
Large organizations like AccorHotels, he said, are at risk of having their direct access to customers disconnected because of the widespread presence of Amazon or Google.
At one point, Taylor noted, “Google drives half of our direct business online.”
“That’s increasing,” he added.
He also said he believes that voice assistants have the ability to change the way people search for and book hotels entirely.
“If Amazon and Google get to the point where customers are comfortable with just two or three choices when they search for hotels using their voice assistants, that completely disrupts the distribution landscape,” he said.
Taylor’s comments about the looming threat of the growing dominance that these technology giants have over owning customers were recently echoed by Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, as well as AccorHotels CEO Sebastien Bazin, when he spoke at Skift Forum Europe in Berlin in April.
AccorHotels’ Digital Transformation
In order to compete with the likes of Google and Amazon, AccorHotels has transformed itself from a primarily midscale- and economy-hotel owner/operator into what Taylor described as an asset-light “lifestyle travel platform” over the past two years.
That transformation has been powered by a slew of acquisitions. Taylor said that the company has purchased a new brand or business every month for the last two years and that’s primarily driven by the acknowledgment that it’s the best way for a multinational company like AccorHotels to compete today.
“A large hospitality group can’t compete with large technology platforms without comprehensive brand portfolios that cater to every single human need,” Taylor said.
And that’s why Accor has embarked on this concept of delivering “augmented hospitality” that was inspired, in large part, to the work being done by Netflix and Amazon in terms of consumer engagement and the services they can provide.
It’s why, increasingly, brands like Accor, Marriott, Airbnb, and others have added new businesses and services and transformed themselves into complete experience platforms, as Skift noted in this year’s 2018 Megatrends.
For Accor, Taylor noted, augmented hospitality is about “challenging the premise that hospitality has operated on in catering to travelers only.” It’s why Accor has delved into pilots such as the AccorLocal mobile app, which “breaks out services traditionally reserved for hotel guests … and serves it to the local neighborhood.”
It’s also why the company has been so acquisitive when it comes to other adjacent businesses, such as homesharing, catering, concierge services, restaurant reservations, and more.
As AccorHotels continues to grow and to, as Taylor described, “put customers at the center of the organization and communicate value across the customer journey,” the company is also being mindful about how it personalizes that journey while respecting customer privacy and ensuring that Accor delivers true value to them.
“We don’t collect or use anything unless it delivers value to consumers in some shape or form” Taylor noted. He said the company also doesn’t collect information without customer permission.
The company has also developed a number of initiatives, including a program it calls the Accor Customer Digital Card (ACDC, not to be confused with the band of the same name), to make it easier for hotel employees to better personalize guests’ experiences.