Accor’s Bazin talks candidly during dinner with media
 
Accor’s Bazin talks candidly during dinner with media
27 FEBRUARY 2017 8:25 AM

Following the company’s full-year 2016 earnings report this week, AccorHotels CEO Sébastien Bazin sat down with HNN and other members of the media for a cocktail hour and dinner, during which conversation covered luxury hotels, OTAs and analysts’ obsessions, among other topics. 

The hotel industry has seen yet another interesting month of news from our friends at AccorHotels.

On 22 February, AccorHotels released its full-year 2016 results, which showed several record highs for metrics, notably earnings before interest and tax, and the increased margin of that in comparison with 2015 numbers.

Four times a year, I am forced to start my 10-kilometer run to work 75 minutes earlier than usual so that I can be in front of my computer to cover AccorHotels’ quarterly, half-year or full-year results.

That is not a hardship, due to the content that emerges from them.

For CEO Sébastien Bazin and CFO Jean-Jacques Morin, last Wednesday was a longer day.

Up earlier than me to prepare, and then, following slides and analyst questions, to board the Eurostar train to London, essentially for meetings with investors and analysts.

A very pleasurable exercise this year was an invitation I and other hotel industry journalists received to dine with Bazin and Morin at their new London flagship, The Savoy (officially, The Savoy, a Fairmont Managed Hotel).

Also in attendance were Thomas Dubaere, managing director, United Kingdom and Ireland, and Sébastien Valentin, SVP of financial communication and investor relations.

Here are some gems—either from Bazin or from my impressions—that came from that dinner:

  • Bazin said he did not mind admitting he had been nervous of investor concern that AccorHotels did not have knowledge in the luxury sector following its buy of FRHI Holdings. But, he said, he was very proud of his team in that not one of that portfolio’s assets had exited the system and they have by far outpaced FRHI’s signup rate of new assets for that asset stable.
  • The AccorHotels CEO said the hotel industry lost the fight with online travel agencies a long time ago, but now has the responsibility to take the battle in every direction possible. When asked why hotel firms should not just put their entire portfolio onto the shelves of OTAs, who outspend them in marketing multifold, Bazin said that decision would be a “one-way street with no possibility of reversal.”
  • Bazin shared my surprise that no analyst commented during the earnings call on the appointment of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy to the AccorHotels’ board as head of international strategy. But then again, he said, analysts in Europe often only ask questions about the most obscure numbers buried deep in the pages of earnings reports. In the Americas, he said, they mostly ask about the larger numbers before then turning to M&A and macroeconomics;
  • As I waited for the hour in which pre-dinner drinks started, I was reading the 1954 edition of Frank Swinnerton’s edited and selected entries from “The Journals of Arnold Bennett,” the Victorian and Edwardian British novelist. In one of those coincidences that speaks of bliss to me, I read the following from that book’s 1923 diary entries:

“Saturday, September 29th. – Savoy Dinner, given by the Savoy to a few journalists and (poet Siegfried) Sassoon and me, to introduce (privately) the new ‘Savoy Orpheans’ the wonder-band. … The Orpheans are about twelve in number and for the most part play strange instruments all looking like silver and gold. … They played bad music well. … ‘You see that thing under (saxophonist) Count G.’s chair? It’s a bird-cage. There’s a canary in it. He left the bird in New York. It fretted. He cabled for it. It is the only canary that has crossed the Atlantic alone.’”

… and as every hotel and dinner guest are all very small parts in that hotel’s huge history, that made the sea bream even more delicious, eaten as it was in the hotel’s D’Oyly Carte room, which was opened in the 1920s and must have entertained that same band, certainly as it is adjacent to the famous American Bar.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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