As new concepts of urban living evolve and cities become even more attractive destinations for both working and living, hospitality brands will need to rethink the role they play for visitors and locals alike.
One company rethinking how its properties and services are developed and deployed in cities across the globe is Accor. Not only is the brand transforming its core service offering, it’s also redesigning the brand around new services, collectively referred to as “augmented hospitality.”
Augmented hospitality has been explained by Accor executives as a refined vision of hospitality that focuses on tailor-made services offered to a wide breadth of consumers. The goal is to deeply understand consumers and offer travel and lifestyle experiences that are clustered into three categories: Live, Work, and Play. According to the brand, “Augmented hospitality means anticipating a customer’s every need. Whether organizing upscale events, delivering personalized services, creating unique experiences, or offering digital solutions, Accor’s vision of augmented hospitality is not just about planning for tomorrow, it is about designing tomorrow.”
To understand more about this evolving vision, SkiftX spoke with Ian Di Tullio, senior vice president of guest services at Accor. As the head of customer strategy, Di Tullio is responsible for the broad functions of customer acquisition, engagement and experience, loyalty, and global partnerships. Di Tullio is heavily involved in the transformation of Accor into a customer-centric organization that is using loyalty and partnerships as a catalyst for augmented hospitality.
SkiftX: In 2018, Accor’s chief digital officer Maud Bailly introduced the vision for augmented hospitality as the ambition to make your hotels “life companions” to customers through daily services for both guests and locals. This is aligned with Accor’s growth strategy. How has augmented hospitality evolved since then, and how will augmented hospitality continue to change the way we experience cities?
Ian Di Tullio: As Maud Bailly, chief digital officer in charge of digital, distribution, sales, and information systems at Accor, alluded to in her 2018 exchange with Skift, Accor has been busy transforming its core service offering to truly provide an augmented hospitality experience to its local and global customers alike. Whether through the expansion of its co-working footprint, the continued evolution of daily life services, its entertainment, food and beverage, and experiential assets, to name just a few, Accor has increasingly aligned its value proposition to reflect the needs of the ever-evolving customer.
However, augmented hospitality itself continues to evolve with customer journeys, often crossing over between industries. This blurring means that augmented hospitality
is increasingly about understanding and emulating life and connecting touchpoints to accommodate more holistic customer journeys.
As the value propositions of the brand and its partners continue to expand and converge, so does the opportunity to further impact how cities are experienced digitally and physically by making the ability to navigate these opportunities simpler and more fluid cross an increasingly large playground. What this means is that proposed customer experiences will be better curated based on their particular needs — but through our enhanced presence in these verticals, these experiences may also be higher touch than simply digitally delivered content.
SkiftX: Can you give an example of how this plays out in a city like New York or Paris?
Di Tullio: In a city such as Paris, where we increasingly see ourselves as a leading lifestyle brand, our customers can benefit from our ever-expanding portfolio of experiences whether they find themselves in live, work, or play modes.
Our co-working space, WOJO, continues to expand its properties for the “work” part of the day. While in live or play modes, our customers can find an expanding subset of dining, lounge, or nightclub options inside and outside our hotels.
Our partnerships with the Paris Saint- Germain Football team, the Accorhotels Arena — one of the biggest entertainment venues in Europe — and events such as Taste Festivals or the tennis tournament Roland Garros allow our guests to amplify their experiences based on money-can’t-buy experiences in our VIP lounges. And with the recent introduction of partnerships in the airline vertical, we are able to connect with customers more upstream in the travel journey.
SkiftX: Is the idea of augmented hospitality mainly around leisure and lifestyle, or does it extend into business travel as well?
Di Tullio: Augmented hospitality extends to all types of travels. The notion that customers constrain their behaviors according to these traditional trip segmentation types is obsolete. Customers in all types of travel modes exhibit a combination of business, leisure, and lifestyle behaviors, or what we call Live/Work/Play.
Business customers cross over into leisure, while leisure customers conduct business seamlessly. In many cases, the line between both worlds is blurred at best. It is why we need to have a wide array of experience options to answer each set of needs, based on customer moments.
SkiftX: Outside of travel, business itself is changing, especially within cities. The rise of 5G internet, flexible hours, remote work, and co-working spaces are setting the stage for a more mobile workforce. What does the future of work look like in the next five years?
Di Tullio: The future of work is more flexible than ever. It is thus not surprising that we see a further blurring of the lines between business and leisure and the worlds of live, work, and play with this increasing flexibility. The future in the next five years largely consists of further consolidation — either formally or informally — in activities and/or organizations that contribute to delivering on the expectations that customers have of augmented hospitality.
At Accor, we truly believe that places will become hybrid. It has already started — we already have properties that serve as a hotel for travelers, a co-working place for locals via our branded workspace, WOJO Corner, and a restaurant at night. It’s difficult to say what we’ll see in five years’ time, but the city densification will undoubtedly push the hospitality universe to adapt their offerings.
SkiftX: So the reality is that the way we work, live, and play are converging. What are Accor’s plans to address this in 2020?
Di Tullio: This convergence is the main reason why we are rolling out our new ALL, or Accor Live Limitless, loyalty program in January 2020. This new program not only addresses some of the historical pain points of frequent travelers, but also provides additional opportunities to be recognized outside of their stays throughout their daily lives.
More specifically, the program will expand to include 12 additional hotel brands worldwide, will introduce two new status levels and new benefits such as upgrades and best price guarantees, and will provide our customers with the ability to earn and use their points during visits to our bars and restaurants. The new program comes with a completely new online experience via a new website and mobile app that will allow us to introduce additional improvements much faster. Of course, this is only the beginning. Check it out on all.accor.com.