Skift Take

With the lifestyle hotel sector set to boom in the post-pandemic market, an industry-pioneering new joint venture between Accor and Ennismore is guiding the way forward.

This sponsored content was created in collaboration with a Skift partner.

As the dust continues to settle following the events of the past 18 months, travel is finally on the rebound. In the context of shifting consumer behavior and desires, the growth of the lifestyle hospitality segment is predicted to accelerate over the next five years. Cross-brand collaborations are likely to become par for the course, and a pioneering new endeavor between Accor and Ennismore is setting the tone for things to come.

Ennismore, a new lifestyle entity that will be run autonomously, leverages Accor’s strengths in terms of scale, network growth, and distribution, while benefiting from Ennismore’s expertise in building brands with purpose through creative storytelling, design, and authentic experiences. The joint venture comprises 14 brands with 87 operating properties and 141 hotels in the pipeline. The portfolio also includes more than 150 restaurants and bars — a major development strategy that is gleaning the attention of the broader industry.

SkiftX chatted to the co-CEOs of Ennismore — Gaurav Bhushan and Sharan Pasricha — on the promising future of the lifestyle hotel sector and what modern consumers and the broader industry can expect to experience from the new, unique lifestyle company.

SkiftX: What will consumers be looking for in a hotel experience in the post-pandemic world?

Gaurav Bhushan: Travel has become even more valuable to people than it was before, so they want to make the most of their trips. All of the brands that are being integrated in the new Ennismore portfolio provide our customers with innovative, authentic, and curated experiences through standout design, great bars and restaurants, and strong entertainment and cultural concepts. The goal is to make people feel like they’re a part of a community.

Sharan Pasricha: After 18 months of staying at home, people are seeking out hotels and experiences to remember, vs. bargain beds for the night. They’re making up for lost time. We’ve seen very positive signs so far across rooms, restaurants, and our private event spaces. We’re seeing a renewed interest in domestic travel, and though international travel still feels a little ‘stop-start,’ the eagerness is there.

SkiftX: The new collaboration is an exciting and industry-leading moment. Tell us about its origins and how it came about.

Bhushan: Sharan and I have been friends for many years. We began chatting over the lockdown in London about what the pandemic meant for our respective businesses and the wider hospitality industry as a whole, and quickly came to two conclusions: One, that in a post-pandemic world, the customer was going to be even more discerning than they were before. Two, we needed to scale to flourish and maintain a leadership position, especially as an asset-light business in the lifestyle segment.

We discussed the potential of bringing our lifestyle businesses together to get the best of both worlds — have highly creative brands, but bring our portfolio together in order to invest in our brands and our people. We quickly brought in Accor’s chairman, Sébastien Bazin, who was very supportive, and it went pretty quickly from there.

Pasricha: I’ve watched from afar what Gaurav and Sébastien have achieved at Accor and within the lifestyle space. When we chatted early last year, it became very clear we had a shared vision for what lifestyle brands mean, and similar ambitions for how to make them succeed. When I founded Ennismore in 2011, high growth was always the focus, and having grown The Hoxton from one hotel to 10 (and counting!), and having done some very exciting things with Gleneagles, it suddenly felt like the right time to explore what a partnership and joint venture might look like.

SkiftX: Everyone seems to have an idea about what ‘lifestyle’ means in the hospitality space. What’s your definition?

Bhushan: To me it defines curated, authentic experiences — hotels that really cater to the local community, instead of acting as transient hubs. For example, more than 50 percent of our hotel revenue comes from our bars and restaurants, and the majority of that spending is coming from the local residents who live around the hotel. Whether it’s a luxury hotel or not, immersing ourselves in the location comes first, and the hotel part comes second.

Pasricha: Lifestyle has certainly become a bit of a buzzword, much like ‘boutique hotel’ once was. To me, it means honing in on brand experiences and fostering like-minded and engaged audiences. Lifestyle hotels play an active role in driving culture and community and have audiences who share and identify with similar values to the brands themselves.

SkiftX: How will Accor and Ennismore balance authenticity with scale in this new endeavor?

Bhushan: We’ve set ourselves up differently from a traditional hospitality company, which allows us to scale without diluting the brand experience — we think ‘by brand,’ instead of ‘by region.’ Each brand has its own operating team, including design, programming, digital marketing, operations, F&B, and distribution, instead of having a ‘head of North America’ that’s overseeing 15 or 20 brands, for example. Our employees who work within that brand are totally focused on only that single brand. It’s a very distinct operating model that allows us to be true to our brands.

Pasricha: Authenticity is key, and this new partnership has not changed neither my strategy nor vision for the potential I see for Ennismore. This exciting new entity undoubtedly offers enormous growth opportunities. Accor is bringing scale through its global development teams and distribution, and Ennismore is bringing a culture strongly rooted in creativity and the proven ability to curate authentic lifestyle brands.

SkiftX: How will the collaboration work in terms of shared leadership and logistics?

Pasricha: Gaurav and I will work together very closely in the role of co-CEOs, jointly developing the strategic vision of Ennismore. On a day-to-day level, we will lead different areas based on our own strengths and areas of expertise. I will oversee digital product innovation, our in-house creative studio, brand marketing, and restaurant and bar concept development, while Gaurav will take the lead on our network growth and business development, operations, finance, and people.

SkiftX: What offerings in particular will the new brand offer to today’s flexible, remote working, mobile traveler?

Bhushan: People increasingly want to work out of hotels, whether in their neighborhoods or while traveling. They want that human interaction. We’re seeing this across Accor’s hotels in general — it’s not just limited to our lifestyle brands, though they do offer bars and restaurants, which attract those who want to hang out, drink coffee, meet friends, and host clients. That specific trend is showing in our food and beverage revenue, which has come back very, very strongly in the markets that are open now. It’s now back at pre-pandemic — or even ahead of pre-pandemic — levels.

Pasricha: The last 18 months have proven the scope of remote working. This is something we’ve always supported with our worker-friendly lobbies at The Hoxton, which have since evolved into Working From_, our coworking brand which has a waiting list in London. We look forward to building on it with another location in Brussels next year, in addition to one in Chicago. Flexibility and agility has proved to be vital throughout the pandemic in the hospitality space.

SkiftX: Where do you see the collaboration in five years? How do you think it will influence the rest of the industry?

Bhushan: We have a positive growth outlook. By the end of this year, we’ll have about 100 operating hotels. Within Ennismore, we have a pipeline of 150 already signed-up, and we’re signing on more at a rapid pace. In addition to bars, restaurants, and entertainment, we have enormous potential to expand our offering in a broader ecosystem of hospitality, as opposed to just our hotel management capabilities.

The industry is recognizing that the customer is evolving, and if you don’t evolve your brand and product offers to follow the customer, you’re going to get left behind. This is even more relevant in a post-pandemic world.

The other part is the hotel industry traditionally has looked at bars and restaurants as a service to rooms. However, we look at it as the biggest benefit to the rooms — it’s a revenue stream on its own. Instead of being looked at as a ‘must have’ obligation, which is how hotel operators have traditionally looked at food and beverage, we look at it as a valuable and very profitable opportunity.

Pasricha: Ennismore is on a mission to be the most exciting hospitality company out there, and this new partnership means our five-year strategy is already very exciting. Growth is of course a key focus for this new entity, and we look forward to building on the strong footprint we have in both Europe and the U.S., along with a rapidly expanding presence in Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and South America.

I have no doubt more brands will enter the lifestyle space — it’s the fastest growing segment in the hotel business. I’m sure there will be more exciting joint ventures announced in the coming months and years as other hospitality brands pair their strengths. However, Ennismore has always done things a little differently, and there will be plenty of innovations and exciting moments to ensure we always stand out.

This content was created collaboratively by Accor Group and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

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Tags: accor, arts and culture, ennismore, food and beverage, lifestyle brands, lifestyle hotels, mergers and acquisitions

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