The travel sector has been grappling with the subscription model for a few years. But Accor is the first major hotel group to roll out global paid subscription cards, giving guests access to discounts and perks at hotels worldwide.
Accor plans to broaden its subscription cards to be more global, granting members discounts and perks worldwide instead of regionally, the Paris-based hotel giant said Tuesday.
Until now, Accor only offered subscription cards in a few regional markets: Asia Pacific, India, China, and Brazil. The new program, called All Plus, will give travelers worldwide access to discounts at hotels in selected brands at 4,000 properties across 100 countries, plus ways to accelerate their status in Accor’s loyalty program.
“Our ambition is to capture more of the frequent traveler market that is asking for both rational value and peace of mind when traveling with their company or for pleasure,” said Mehdi Hemici, chief loyalty and e-commerce officer. “We believe that the subscription model is one way to address peace of mind by reducing friction, which will build greater loyalty.”
Cardholders accelerated their Accor bookings between 35 percent and 45 percent, Accor estimated.
“We’ll be taking market share away from our competitors,” Hemici said.
Accor’s move is the latest attempt by travel companies to create subscription-based products as the new frontier in inspiring customer loyalty. Example includes eDreams Odigeo’s club to access discounts, Selina’s subscription stays for digital nomads, CitizenM’s discount program, and Inspirato’s pass for access to luxury lodgings. (Get context from Skift Research’s recent report, Subscriptions and Memberships in Travel 2022.) IHG has long had an “ambassador program” where travelers can pay a fee, typically $200 a year in the U.S., to essentially get many perks ordinarily reserved for higher-level status members in its loyalty program. But IHG hasn’t run it as a subscription model as envisioned by Accor.
“Subscriptions are a very big trend in most other industries, and we want to consolidate our leading position into this space among hotels,” said Maxime Gareau, vice president, membership subscription development. “Subscriptions let us provide our best customers with unparalleled booking conditions.”
Frequent users of Accor’s upscale hotels are the target of the new All Plus Voyageur program, where paying members get a 20 percent discount at ten of Accor’s luxury and premium hotel brands and a 15 percent discount in nine of its midscale and economy brands. Another perk is silver status in Accor’s loyalty program, which offers the complimentary option of a check out as late as 3 pm. Prices will vary by market. In France, for example, the cost will be about $213 (€199) a year. In Portugal and some other countries, it will be cheaper.
Road warriors who frequent economy lodgings may prefer the cheaper All Plus Ibis card that will offer a 15 percent discount at Ibis, Ibis Styles, and Ibis budget hotels. In France, the card will cost about $106 (€99).
“One is a global product that is brand specific, while the other is a regional product that is globally accessible, Hemici said. “Separately, we have in Brazil and in China — where the domestic markets are large and have distinctive dynamics — we have tailor-made products, having introduced the Brazil one last month.”
Unlocking Last Room Availability
One standout perk of the All Plus cards is that cardholders will get priority in making reservations at hotels that otherwise appear fully booked.
Accor said that customers are now booking one in three business stays two to seven days in advance, a shorter booking window than in the past, on average. The travel boom has led to a lot of full hotels.
Accor sets aside allotments of rooms at participating hotels that are secretly available to All Plus cardholders until 48 hours ahead. If no cardholders book, the rooms are released for sale to others.
If a cardholder wants a room, and it appears that the hotel is booked up when viewed on third-party online travel agency sites, they can log in to Accor’s direct websites and app to book. They’ll see availability that other travelers won’t.
Accor Wooed Franchisees
Companies and corporate travel programs can buy cards for their employees.
Accor only owns roughly 2 percent of the hotels it operates, so asking franchisees and owners to accept a discount-based product could be challenging.
For owners, Accor promises incrementally greater frequency of guest bookings as a trade-off for offering essentially discounted stays. It pointed to data from its Asia Pacific Accor Plus program and its testing to make the case.
“We bring between 35 percent and 45 percent room nights, comparing before and after the availability of a hotel in the subscription program over a five-year analysis,” Hemici said.
Accor also believes it will help its partner hoteliers to reach new customers. The subscription bookings aim to win more spending by business travelers in direct bookings, which are less expensive to Accor and its partner hotels than ones that come through online travel agencies.
“It’s complicated for [hoteliers] to contract hundreds of SMEs [small- and medium-sized enterprises],” Hemici said. “Subscription cards are the best solution for SMEs, who can buy as many as they need.”
AccorPlus Cards in Asia Pacific
Accor will leave unchanged Accor Plus, its long-standing subscription card business in Asia Pacific, and its newer cards in China, India, and Brazil.
“More than 80 percent of our business is either domestic or regional,” Hemici said. So the company will continue to run its regional subscription programs.
The Accor Plus subscription card business in Asia Pacific alone has about 600 employees across eight offices.
“The size of booking volume of rooms that comes through AccorPlus is the equivalent of the volume of rooms booked via its third- or fourth-largest online travel agency partners,” said Paul Stevens, the Singapore-based CEO of Accor Plus. “It acts like a digital marketing business in that respect, though the bookings come direct and are more cost-effective than third-party distribution.”
To help customers evaluate the cards, Accor will offer “a payback calculator” at the site of its loyalty program, All.com, for comparing the plans.
“Our whole philosophy behind our subscription product is to engage more with our guests and give them more reasons to choose us on the right channels and in ways that build loyalty,” Gareau said.
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Photo credit: A member of Accor's Handwritten Collection soft brand, Hotel Paris Montmartre Sacré-Coeur has a guest room that looks like this. Source: Accor Group.