Skift Take

Accor’s lifestyle hotels are more than a chic place to grab a drink or a bite to eat in your local neighborhood. They can be cash cows relative to some of their more mainstream sibling brands like Novotel.

Accor’s new hotel strategy isn’t just about being a good neighbor. There’s plenty of money to be made from visitors who don’t require a plane or train ride to get to one of these swanky properties.

The Paris-based hotel company is arguably the global leader in the so-called lifestyle hotel sector, a class of properties the company estimates earn more than half their revenue from local traffic instead of out-of-town guests. Accor’s lifestyle hotels only accounted for less than 2 percent of the company’s room count earlier this year and 5 percent of fee volume. But Accor CEO Sebastien Bazin estimated at Skift Global Forum earlier this year that fee figure could quickly rise to 40 percent. 

These hotels will make money from more ways than a guest room. 

“You get [three times the amount] of the fees you’d get from a [non-lifestyle] Accor hotel because you’ve got all those ancillary products that you’re able to sell,” Jean-Jacques Morin, Accor’s deputy CEO, said in an interview with Skift this week at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. “That’s the key element.”

Accor spun off its line-up of lifestyle brands like SLS and Delano earlier this year into a standalone entity with Ennismore, owner of brands like The Hoxton and Gleneagles. Accor owns two-thirds of the company while Ennismore retained its name and founder Sharan Pasricha kept a third of the ownership. 

These types of hotels build upon some of the features common with boutique hotels by adding a local experiential layer, often through the food and beverage programming. When the lifestyle product works like Accor envisions, nearby residents flock to these hotels for their highly popular bars and restaurants. 

This isn’t the continental breakfast bar at your local Holiday Inn Express.

Stephanie Izard, a Top Chef winner, is behind the restaurant — Cabra Cevicheria — at The Hoxton Hotel, Chicago. Cocktails poolside at the Delano, whether in Miami Beach or Las Vegas, are the pinnacle of the see-and-be-seen scene.

Lifestyle hotels can make three times the fees a typical Accor hotel does due to its greater offering of amenities beyond the four walls of a guest room. But there are more ways to land this ancillary revenue than a sleek hotel bar. Ennismore brands even include a coworking platform

The Hoxton’s Working From coworking offering tethers an office product to some of the brand’s hotels around the world. The offering grew from hotel operators noticing public spaces at the hotels became de facto offices for remote workers looking to get away from home. 

Working From launched in Chicago in 2019 and expanded to The Hoxton, Southwark, in London early last year. The Southwark property features 800 coworking station, Morin said. 

Given how the pandemic put more of the global workforce into some degree of a remote work arrangement, there is clearly an opportunity to beef up this brand across the entire Ennismore network.

Any kind of new revenue stream is a good thing for a company like Accor. The company’s more significant exposure to Europe relative to other global hotel conglomerates like Marriott and Hilton left it reeling longer during the pandemic while other companies benefitted from a surge in domestic travel in the U.S. 

Accor leaders haven’t shied away from their frustrations, either.

“I wish I could be much bigger in America,” Bazin said in September.

These Fees Seem Familiar

Moving beyond traditional revenue streams is something airlines have been doing for years. The industry standard now includes charges for everything from checked luggage to roomier seats and on-board dining in economy cabins. 

Hotel owners seem to recognize there is money getting left on the table, but what constitutes as ancillary revenue depends on who is talking. While Accor might view it as money made off local traffic at popular food and beverage outlets, other companies like MCR Hotels see it as a carbon copy of the airline pricing unbundling option. 

MCR used its TWA Hotel in New York as a prototype of what this could eventually look like: charging for early check-in and late check-out and even to access the hotel’s highly popular rooftop pool and bar during peak hours. Industry leaders like Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano pushed back earlier this year on the idea some of these fees would ever become an industry standard.

Accor’s views on ancillary revenue streams is less contentious and more rooted by the enhanced amenity offerings at its lifestyle hotels. But Morin isn’t ruling out additional ways for the company to generate revenue.

A Neighborhood Service

Accor leaders began discussing the concept of “augmented hospitality” in 2018 as a way for hotels to play a greater role in a customer’s daily life. 

This may have looked like a concierge service at its inception, as Accor promoted the idea at its launch with services like using a hotel as a place to deliver packages and dry cleaning. The vision in recent years expanded to entail work elements like Accor’s Wojo coworking platform, an entity not as linked to a hotel as Working From, and more of the offerings of lifestyle hotels.

The rise of some of these ideas came shortly before Accor announced plans last year to make its lifestyle hotels and ultra-luxury hotels, which encompasses the Raffles and Orient Express brands, into distinct divisions within the company’s corporate structure. 

That decision stemmed from the fact that both types of hotels require a different kind of management structure than more mainstream brands, Bazin has said in multiple interviews.

“In the end, when you think about it, it’s not rocket science,” Morin said particularly of the focus on lifestyle hotels. “It’s not something that requires an immense amount of money. It requires an immense amount of brain power.”

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Tags: accor, coronavirus, coronavirus recovery

Photo credit: Accor's focus on lifestyle hotels includes the Ennismore-helmed The Hoxton, Paris (pictured). Ennismore

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