The relatively recent popularization of local and authentic experiences is nothing new to Accor’s midscale Mercure brand, which is celebrating five decades of championing local communities and cultures with a bucket list of some of the world’s best food and beverage experiences.
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Local experiences are increasingly driving trip-planning decisions, with more and more travelers seeking authentic experiences over traditional sightseeing. A recent survey by Skyscanner underscored the importance of experiential activities — including food, art, concerts, and hiking — for today’s travelers.
Many hospitality brands are now taking this trend to heart by incorporating local design elements and developing on-property experiences rooted in local culture. Meanwhile, Accor’s midscale Mercure brand has been positioning itself around this “locally inspired” ethos for five decades.
With more than 950 properties in more than 60 countries — plus 210 new hotels in the development pipeline through 2028 — Mercure is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year by leaning into local even further.
“The significance of global brands with local resonance, exemplified by Mercure, holds crucial importance for both business success and guest satisfaction,” said Karelle Lamouche, chief commercial officer of premium, midscale, and economy brands at Accor. “A dedicated focus and understanding of the local market have become increasingly vital in the global hospitality industry, forming an integral aspect of Accor’s overarching strategy.”
SkiftX spoke with Lamouche and James Wheatcroft, senior vice president of midscale brands at Accor, about the rise of local experiences, lessons from 50 years of pioneering locally inspired hospitality, and why Mercure is highlighting local food and beverage experiences for its anniversary celebration.
The Rise of Authentic and Sustainable Local Experiences
While the pandemic inspired a boom in revenge trips driven by pent-up demand, the trend has given way to a desire for more intentional journeys. According to research by MasterCard, willingness to spend on travel experiences increased 65 percent from 2019 to 2023. Travelers are actively seeking immersive experiences that allow them to feel, taste, and smell local culture alongside the communities that call the destination home.
“One key trend we’re seeing is slow travel,” Wheatcroft said. “Customers want to linger longer and have a deeper experience, versus hopping from place to place.”
Traveling during the shoulder season between peak and off-peak periods is also growing in popularity because it allows travelers to take advantage of lower prices while avoiding contributing to overtourism. These shifts demonstrate how travelers are centering sustainability in their trip planning and gravitating toward brands like Mercure, which factors sustainability into every element of its business.
“Acting responsibly encompasses everything from minimizing impact on local communities to making more sustainable choices,” Wheatcroft said. “It’s sourcing products locally, supporting local retailers, and having a decentralized way of working that supports local communities.”
Tapping Into the “Locally Inspired” Ethos
Since its founding in 1973, Mercure has been taking inspiration from the local communities in which it operates. By actively integrating into the fabric of those communities, Mercure aims to not only enhance the authenticity of the traveler experience but also foster stronger connections locally.
“Our guests extend beyond transient travelers to include those living and working in the locales we serve,” Lamouche said. “We are committed to fortifying the bond between our brand and our neighbors as they are an integral part of our operating community. This symbiotic relationship creates a more enriching experience for the global traveler while ensuring a more favorable return on investment for property owners.”
Design is particularly important to how Mercure builds an authentic sense of place. Making design decisions is a balancing act between staying true to Mercure’s values — warm, genuine, contemporary, approachable — and emphasizing that unique local flair.
“Each hotel was individually designed to enlighten guests and introduce them to the local treasures in that destination,” Wheatcroft said. “That was the founding principle of the brand, and it’s still true today. Localism is at the heart of our brand DNA.”
This founding principle guides each new Mercure hotel opening, driven by combining the hotel’s unique selling points in the market with local inspirations, creating enticing experiences for modern guests.
Working With Local Communities
“We build out each hotel’s local positioning with a variety of stakeholders, from ownership, hotel management, and local brand teams to customers and influencers,” Wheatcroft said. “Together, we dig into the provenance of a place, its cultural inheritance, and the stories that the local communities hold dear. We want to ensure each hotel honors the local culture and people.”
For example, the Mercure Ambassador Seoul was inspired by a traditional urban theater in the artistic Hongdae neighborhood, while the Mercure Rio Boutique Copacabana plays on Brazilian beach fashion and local textiles.
“It’s not one size fits all,” Wheatcroft said. “From the overall design to the welcome experience and how our teams convey the story of the place, we’re always looking for ways to bring in local products, collaborate with local artists, and support a holistic community approach.”
Raising a Hyper-Local Glass to Mercure’s 50th Anniversary
This year, Mercure is celebrating its 50th anniversary by highlighting the top 50 food and beverage experiences local to its global network, including a cheese tasting in the UK, a microbrewery visit in Sydney, a winery tour in Porto, and other unique experiences driven by the brand’s Discover Local program, which invites guests to experience local delicacies, culinary traditions, and ingredients.
Dining is an important aspect of the modern traveler’s experience-driven decision-making. According to research by American Express, nearly 50 percent of Gen Z and millennial travelers have planned an entire trip around visiting a specific restaurant. Luxury travelers also prioritize the culinary world when splurging on private experiences.
As Mercure invites travelers of all stripes to raise a glass to five decades of locally inspired hospitality, the team is also looking ahead to the next 50 years.
“We don’t expect Mercure’s core DNA to change,” Wheatcroft said. “We’ll continue finding new ways to use local discovery to give artisans and suppliers a platform to connect with travelers.”
Learn more about Mercure.
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