Accor’s venture capital-style goals should be praised
Accor’s venture capital-style goals should be praised
13 NOVEMBER 2017 8:23 AM

An AccorHotels project to distribute select independent hotels on its own sales channels has been judged an error by the French hotel company, but it is this venture capitalist-style of initiative that the hotel industry needs more of and should champion. 

Twenty-nine months to the day since AccorHotels’ opened its distribution platform to independent hotels, the French hotel company has had second thoughts and pulled the scheme.

Speaking to Hotel News Now back in June 2015, then-deputy CEO Vivek Badrinath, who has since left the company, said the plan was to have 10,000 independent hotels in 320 markets as part of the initiative. But, according to Reuters, only 2,000 hotels had signed up as of its latest numbers.

While this is evidently a setback, such venture capitalist-style thinking about the industry should be praised and must be the way forward for hotel firms in this ever-faster world of online travel agencies, distribution channels and brand-agnostic booking decisions.

As both the British Special Air Service branch of the military and Derek Trotter from the BBC comedy program “Only Fools and Horses” would say, although using ever so slightly different words, “Who dares, wins.”

That likely was part of CEO Sébastien Bazin’s thinking in November 2014 when he gave a presentation in London to analysts on AccorHotels’ game plan for wresting back booking share from online travel agencies.

He gave it a solid go in regards to his independent-hotels idea, and if it did not work as well as he wished, more power to his elbow, and the industry’s collective one, that at least he tried.

From buys of concierge services to distribution platforms, from joint ventures with the trendiest European hotel companies to its huge buy of the Fairmont Hotels, Raffles and Swissôtel portfolio, the French company has brought back a necessary sensibility to strategic growth.

Otherwise, we can all revert back to that favorite conference quip that the only initiative we’ve really ever seen in the hotel industry in the last 30 years is when someone decided it would be a great idea to fold the first sheet of toilet paper into a triangle.

So what if it did not work?

I accidentally once dropped some basil leaves into a large pot of blackberry jam I was making, and I, too, have not looked back!

Yes, there are accompanying costs, but that is part of the venture spirit.

According to Reuters, the independent scheme cost AccorHotels some €22 million ($25.6 million), which is about one-tenth of €225 million Bazin pledged to combat OTAs back in 2014.

Another factor in all this—maybe, maybe not?—is the state of play around rate parity in France.

In July 2015, under the Macron Law—instigated by the Emmanuel Macron, then the French minister of economy, industry and digital affairs, but now its president—France banned the practice of rate parity, which should have effectively given more power to hoteliers.

That law came into being two months after AccorHotels announced its independent scheme, and I certainly will not say the coincidence is interesting. But sources have told me that since becoming president, Macron most likely is more lukewarm to his law, now preferring France to regain its title as the world’s most visited destination regardless of how it achieves that—hotels, independents, OTA bookings, Airbnb, however.

Some ideas come before their time; others are perfected twists to great ideas that for some reason did not pick up traction; yet others are dead ducks in water before anyone else has heard of them. But they are ideas, and ideas should be welcomed.

Otherwise, we can all revert back to that favorite conference quip that the only initiative we’ve really ever seen in the guest room in the last 30 years is twisting bathroom towels into swans, placing them on beds and liberally scattering rose petals over them so that it takes you 30 minutes to clear them off, and you half-destroy your haven in the process—an initiative, by the way, that is more sure than anything to actually elicit a fathomless groan from deep within my solar plexus.

Email Terence Baker or find him on Twitter.

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