Flexing its African muscles
Over the past 38 years, Accor has established itself as one of the leading hotel players in Africa, with a current network of 115 hotels covering 17,000 rooms. But, the group is not done with its African expansion just yet, with approximately 30 hotels and 5,000 new rooms in its ever-expanding African hotel development pipeline.
Since the opening of its first hotel in Congo in 1975, Accor has strongly developed its network in Africa, to become the market leader with 115 hotels in 18 countries. Accor has a significant presence in all market segments, from luxury through to budget, with its Sofitel, Pullman, MGallery, Novotel, Mercure, ibis, ibis budget and Formula 1 brands.
Recently, Accor opened an ibis hotel in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, another one in Dakar, Senegal, and two hotels, an ibis and a Novotel, in Constantine in Algeria. Accor also re-entered the Tunisian market, with the opening of an ibis and a Novotel in Tunis. The group also consolidated its market leadership in Morocco, with the opening of the Sofitel Agadir Thalassa Sea & Spa and the Sofitel Casablanca Tour Blanche, along with the launch of its ibis budget brand.
Accor has also made strides in arguably the fastest growing hotel market on the continent – Nigeria. The group recently celebrated the inauguration of its second ibis hotel in Ikeja, in Lagos.
With its dynamic expansion plan, Accor is on target to achieve a network of more than 22,000 rooms by 2016. Key markets for the group’s African expansion include Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Angola and Kenya.
“Our network in Africa is facing a dynamic expansion, with 5,000 rooms to open in the next few years,” says Jean-Jacques Dessors, Chief Operating Officer: Africa & Middle East. “Indeed, our strong historic presence, along with the economic growth experienced on the continent, offers many opportunities of expansion for all our brands, with a special emphasis on ibis to meet growing domestic and regional demand”.
From a social impact point of view, Accor is reinforcing its local recruitment and in-house training processes. Accor Africa already has 12,000 employees, with only 2% of that made up by expats. With the group’s expansion, Accor will create over 3,000 jobs by 2016, 99% of which will be local contracts.
Accor hotels in Africa have been committed to promoting social and environmental responsibility for many years. The group’s hotels are, for instance, working with local suppliers for construction and refurbishment, using low-consumption light bulbs and water-flow regulators, and promoting fair trade. Since 2003, Accor Africa has been engaged in combating HIV/AIDS through programmes to train employees, raise awareness among guests and actively involve the tourism industry.
On a global level, Accor recently launched a new ambitious sustainable development programme that involves customers, partners and employees, in order to improve Accor’s sustainability performance. With PLANET 21, the group is making 21 commitments and setting the same number of quantifiable goals for the year 2015.
Within the Accor group is Mercure, and the group recently unveiled its ambitions for the Mercure brand. Mercure is the world’s midscale hotel leader, with more than 700 hotels worldwide, including four in South Africa and properties in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Togo and La Réunion. Mercure’s new positioning focuses on four lines of action:
– An entirely modernised offering that meets new guest expectations
– Accelerated expansion, mostly through franchises, with a target of 1,000 hotels within five years
– A global quality guarantee
– A brand new visual identity
Mercure is a strong brand, buoyed by expansion through franchises and reinforced distribution. It’s also the world’s second largest hotel chain in its segment, with 732 hotels in 50 countries. The brand is currently enjoying sustained expansion, with an average of one opening per week. The growth of the network (over 75% through franchises and management contracts) is mostly achieved by converting existing hotels. Mercure plans to open a total of 53 new hotels in 2013.
The Mercure brand’s strength also lies in the power of its loyalty and distribution system, and in the development of multi-channel digital devices (mobile application, Facebook page and websites in nine languages and 26 local versions). Online booking makes up 30% of the brand’s turnover.
Further to that, there’s a global commitment to quality across Mercure’s world network. Extensive refurbishment has taken place, and work is approaching completion in all four Mercure hotels in South Africa.
Mercure has also made a strong commitment and now guarantees the same high quality of service across its network. By the end 2014, the Mercure Quality Guarantee will be deployed across the entire network. This one-of-a-kind approach is based on 96 shared quality guidelines, and ensures that the guest experience is consistent in all Mercure hotels.
“Midscale hotels are caught between rapidly modernising economy hotels on the one hand, and the upscale hotel experience on the other,” says Frédéric Fontaine, Senior Vice-President Marketing: Mercure and MGallery. “The growing demand for a more authentic, friendly and diverse offer in this segment is an opportunity for Mercure. It has incited us to develop a demanding roadmap that breaks with the segment’s traditional codes and differentiates us long-term. Mercure is abandoning the practical, logical, best-value-for-money model and adopting a much more ‘emotional’ approach that fosters ‘harmony between places and people’.
Further developments in the Mercure stable include reinventing the welcome experience, offering a business-specific product for business travellers, a re-designed human resources programme, and the modernisation of the brand’s identity.
The first point refers to the re-design of the Mercure lobby, making it a more friendly, social space, which is also more efficient, due to the use of digital tablets and the doing away of the traditional reception desk.
Mercure has also developed EasyWORK, a solution for business people on the move that offers dedicated and modular work spaces complete with a light meal service, equipment and Internet access.
The new human resources programme is made up of three key components:
– Mercure Touch, which focuses on 10 differentiating customer service attitudes
– Mercure School of Service, which is an innovative, flexible e-learning training course
– Mercure Community, which is a corporate social network for the 45,000 employees
With regards the new brand identity, the focus is on reflecting the brand’s new positioning: “in harmony with places and people”. A range of hotel communication tools will be rolled out from January 2014 across the entire network.