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A “midscale” hotel brand may have once brought to mind conventional design, amenities, and food and beverage. But Mercure Hotels is making moves to show that midscale hotels can provide the unparalleled uniqueness of a local experience and become a portal to the destination.

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Mercure Hotels — which is operated under the Accor Group — is working to change the idea of what a midscale brand can be. The brand is undergoing a refresh to provide a differentiated experience among the midscale hospitality segment by focusing on local and sustainable experiences and discoveries. SkiftX spoke to Martine Gorce Momboisse, senior vice president, global marketing, economy, and midscale brands at Accor Group, to learn more.

SkiftX: What are some specific challenges that midscale brands such as Mercure Hotels face today? What opportunities do these challenges bring?

Martine Gorce Momboisse: The main challenge that midscale hotel brands face is that they run the risk of being “stuck in the middle.” This doesn’t just pertain to the hospitality industry either — it’s also true for retail, beauty, automobiles, etc. To overcome this challenge, you must differentiate your brand and think about how it can bring value to the customers beyond money-saving qualities. Above all, there needs to be a unique and compelling experience provided to the customer.

At Mercure, we have a very large network consisting of more than 800 hotels that are non-standardized. However, we want to transform that obstacle of non-standardization into an opportunity by having each property showcase local inspiration that truly immerses travelers in the area around them.

SkiftX: What’s the reasoning behind putting a major focus on local food, beverage, and craftsmanship?

Gorce Momboisse: We decided to focus on local experiences and offerings because it transforms a challenge of ours — our non-standardization — into a strength. It’s also totally relevant for customers today, who are looking for some form of authenticity and enrichment in travel. They want to experience, purchase, or eat something unique that they can remember and take home with them.

SkiftX: How will these three elements will be incorporated in the guest experience?

Gorce Momboisse: We’re developing a very ambitious program called “Discover Local.” The first element will include the highlight of local products across the customer journey. Think about local delicacies at breakfast, local dishes, and beverages on the menus, or a local welcome gift. The second part aims to showcase cultural events integrating partnerships with local vendors, such as food and wine tastings, fashion shows, and parties taking place inside Mercure Hotels. Many Mercure properties have been doing this for years, and we’re developing a visual identity and formal toolkit for the program to provide the properties with consistency and help them engage partners on a local level.

SkiftX: Design is a big focus as well. What are some updated design elements that will be incorporated into the brand?

Gorce Momboisse: The design element is key. We’re working on a sharpened design philosophy for our hotels that shows how they can work with architects and designers to put subtle touches in place that integrate the local characteristics of a destination. We have some properties that are already doing this very well. For example, Mercure Hotel in Krakow, Poland — which is a medieval royal city — smartly includes decorative elements referring to its royal history.

SkiftX: What are some examples of immersive local experiences a guest would be able to partake in while staying at a Mercure Hotel?

Gorce Momboisse: In Italy for instance, over one third of the network already highlights local products at breakfast. Rome has nothing to do with Naples, which has nothing to do with Sicily. Breakfast is a key moment of the guest experience and a great opportunity to highlight our passion for local food & beverage.

Guests will also be able to discover local products as hotels are starting to set up collaborations with local artisans and producers. So for example, in Berlin, an event is planned in a Mercure property that aims to gather over 150 guests, neighbors, and influencers. They will be able to experience our passion for local food, beverage, and craft and meet more than 10 local makers. There are many other Mercure properties across the world that have engaged with local craftsman in similar ways and created an entire narrative around them.

SkiftX: What are some initiatives Mercure Hotels is taking to become more sustainable?

Gorce Momboisse: We have big ambitions when it comes to sustainability, and Mercure’s focus on local offerings aligns with those goals. Two thirds of Mercure hotels already use local produce within their food and beverage operations, and we would like to grow this percentage even higher. Accor Group also has its Planet 21 corporate responsibility program, which is currently being reworked to narrow down what the brand will focus on in terms of environmental and sustainability priorities.

SkiftX: How do you plan on communicating Mercure’s repositioning to guests?

Gorce Momboisse: We’ve developed a new marketing campaign, including social media content and TV commercials, that communicates the “Feel Local Everywhere” message and showcases how different properties are intertwined with their locations.

We will also rethink our Instagram strategy to better curate the flagship brand, and the local properties will continue to run their own Facebook pages to spread the word about local happenings at their hotels.

Last but not least, we are reworking the Mercure’s visual identity to showcase the brand repositioning in a modern and appealing way for our guests and visitors. We realize you can’t transform brand positioning in one year, so we’re striving for long-term consistent actions.

This content was created collaboratively by AccorGroup and Skift’s branded content studio SkiftX.

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Tags: accor, Accor 2019 Year In Review, design, experiential travel, food and beverage, hospitality, local, localization, millennials, SkiftX Showcase: Hospitality

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