ibis India inspires global makeover

Tags: News

Sweet bed concept, F&B policy being rolled out in other properties worldwide

When Dennis Hennequin, chairman and CEO of Accor Hotels had to stay at a budget hotel, a part of Accor’s economy hotel chain ibis, at Golf Course Road Gurgaon, during a visit to India in April 2011, the Accor India staff was in tenterhooks.

“We were a bit embarrassed that such a senior person had to be booked in our ibis as we did not have a Pullman (upscale hotel) operational in the national capital region then. But, Hennequin said that ibis too is our brand. Next day, we were apprehensive when we met him in the morning but he said he had the soundest sleep in years in a hotel room,” said Jean-Michel Casse, senior vice-president operations India of AAPC India Hotel Management.

ibis in India has customised the brand to the expectations of Indian travellers by adding a topper that makes it very soft, special pillows and a very soft duvet instead of a blanket, which allows clients to have a sound sleep.

“Initially, we had to fight hard with headquarters to make changes to the ibis brand here such as having a restaurant in the hotel premises and some changes that we made surreptitiously. Hennequin saw that our Gurgaon ibis customers spent their F&B revenues at the hotel itself. He has now decided that some of these learning’s from the customisation of the brand in India will now be implemented as part of the global rebranding of the Ibis,” Casse told Financial Chronicle. The rebranding that is estimated to cost around ¤150 million is expected to be complete by mid-2013.

The ibis sweet bed concept is now being rolled out in other ibis properties worldwide with the new bedding package being made one of the key USPs in the rebranding. Hennequin is also pushing other ibis hotels around the world to change their no F&B policy to replicate the ibis Gurgaon model where the restaurants do a flourishing business receiving customers who are residing at the hotel and from the local catchments area too. In October this year, ibis worldwide introduced its ibis Pillow Fight Party Facebook application, which invites consumers to discover the unique personality of the ibis brand family and inspired by the brand’s pillow logo.

The expanding Accor network of ibis, Pullman, Novotel, Sofitel and Formule1 brands has led to India becoming a good source market for Accor properties worldwide too. “Three and a half years ago when we started in India with two hotels, we had 10,000 Indians booking through Accorhotels.com. Now we have 1.5 lakh people who are booking through the site,” said Casse. At present, Accor has a network of 20 hotels operating in India and expects to open 10 new hotels every year for the next few years.

Indians who are among the top spending international tourists worldwide are becoming increasingly important to Accor brands such as ibis. In Australia Indians are the second-fastest growing category of tourists at the ibis hotels and very profitable customers for the brand due to their food and beverage spends and have a longer than average duration of stay. “We are now developing a training module in French and English at our Accor Academy in Paris to help our hotels in Europe understand the expectation of Indian customers in terms of the food, service, availability of Indian TV channels/Indian newspapers ensuite, among others. The idea is to try and reduce the mismatch between customer expectations and the way they are received which may cause frustration,” said Casse.



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