The dark horse of the hotel world: Why it’s time to pay attention to Accor
When we talk about the world's major hotel chains, it's easy to think of the ones with the biggest presence in the United States: Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and IHG. But Accor, the largest hotel chain in Europe, is growing fast and gaining ground on the competition — and it's time for us all to pay attention.
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Accor has upwards of 40 hotel brands (TPG reached out to Accor to get the specific number and it seems no one knows for sure — but it's at least "more than 40," a company spokesperson said) and a presence in more than 100 countries around the world. You may have never heard of or encountered the majority of the France-based company's brands, but you've definitely heard of at least a few of its more iconic names: Fairmont, Raffles, Sofitel, SLS and Banyan Tree.
Also in its portfolio is Ibis, one of the largest economy hotel brands in the world with over 1,200 locations dotting the planet, including more than 700 in Europe alone.
Last year was a year of growth for Accor which opened 288 hotels (roughly 41,000 rooms). At the end of 2021, Accor's portfolio had 777,714 rooms in 5,298 hotels around the world. While Accor isn't exactly neck-in-neck with Marriott, the world's largest hotel company with over 7,000 properties, or Hilton, which has over 6,8000 properties, its reach isn't insignificant by any means.
Hyatt, a name we all know well, ended 2021 with only 1,150 hotels.
One significant milestone for Accor last year was completing a joint venture with lifestyle hospitality company Ennismore which brought with it 87 operating hotels with 150 restaurants and nightlife operations, along with 141 properties in the pipeline. And those properties have strong identities with bold designs and standout amenities (coworking spaces) or a community-driven narrative. Think: The Hoxton, with locations in Brooklyn and London; quirky Mama Shelter; and ultra-hip Mondrian brand.
Related: Sexy in the city: A review of the Mondrian Shoreditch London hotel
Also in 2021, Accor expanded rapidly around the world, especially in China where the company signed more projects than ever before, with 520 hotels in operation and another 350 in development. One of those hotels in development is the Guiyang Art Center Hotel, set to open at the end of 2022 as part of the Emblems Collection, a new global portfolio of luxury boutique hotels announced near the of last year.
Accor also recently acquired a stake in the storied Oriental Express and plans to build a new collection of eponymous hotels, with upcoming locations in Rome and Saudi Arabia, along with an actual train project. Set to launch in 2023, Orient Express La Dolce Vita will have six trains that travel across 14 regions, including Northern and Southern Italy and from Rome to Paris, Istanbul and Split.
Meanwhile, Accor opened new Banyan tree locations in Qatar; Novotel brought in four international design teams to revitalize the brand and usher in a new vision for its rooms, starting with the Novotel Dubai Jumeirah Triangle; and even became an official partner of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“In 2021, we continued to reinforce our leadership position in the regions where we have historically led the competition while building strong momentum in the key markets of North America and China,” Agnès Roquefort, Accor's global chief development officer, said in a statement about its monumental year.
And for 2022, things are only looking better. "We are projecting an even higher pace of growth this year and are pleased to have resumed signing new hotels at a rate of one per day," said Roquefort.
You read that right: The hotel brand you might not have known at all before now is signing one new hotel every single day. And while that represents a lot of hotels, there are a few standouts and upcoming openings that we're more than excited for, starting with the Raffles London at The OWO, set to open in late 2022. With 120 rooms and suites and 11 restaurants and bars, all set in London's historic Old War Office with ties to "Britan's most famous statesmen and spies," it's sure to be a fast favorite.
Stateside, Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel and Residences is one of the most highly anticipated hotels in New England, expected to also open on the tail end of 2022. Once open, guests can expect some of the brand's signature services such as the Raffles Butler alongside a two-story sky lobby above Copley Square, five food venues, a rooftop garden lounge and a spa with a roughly 65-foot indoor pool.
Clearly, Accor has the luxury space on lockdown, but knowing that the lifestyle sector is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the global hospitality industry, the company is planning to triple its number of lifestyle hotels by 2023 through its portfolio with Ennismore.
To do that, it'll open three new Hoxton hotels in London, Barcelona and Brussels; Mama Shelter locations in Paris and Dubai; and a Mondrian in Singapore, all this year alone.
And that makes sense considering that, according to Gaurav Bhushan, the co-CEO of Ennismore, "There’s no doubt lifestyle brands are recovering faster from the impact of the pandemic, helped by strong local and domestic demand, in particular for our restaurants and bars.”
Overall, 2022 will see more than 300 new hotels and resorts open across all of Accor, which is aiming for a growth of 3.5%, according to a statement released in late February. And though that's more hotels than we can tell you about — or that you need to know about, to be honest — it's clear Accor is a force to be reckoned with.
While more people should take notice of the expanding company, it's already started to gain traction within the points and miles community. In February of 2020, Capital One added Accor's loyalty program, Accor Live Limitless (ALL), as a transfer partner with a 2:1 transfer ratio, meaning that 1,000 Capital One Rewards points would transfer to 500 ALL Rewards points.
But the program as a whole is a little complicated to navigate for U.S.-based travelers, as elite status is based on either nights stayed or euros spent (there's no U.S. dollar equivalent) and frankly, there aren't enough Accor hotels in the country for people to take full advantage — at least yet.
Redeeming points is also very different from its competitors. With ALL, each point is worth a flat rate (currently 2 cents) that can be used to help pay for a hotel stay but must be redeemed in 2,000-point increments. So, instead of getting free nights, every 2,000 points gets you roughly 40 euros off your stay.
A different approach, yes, but those points and discounts start to add up.
Related: The award traveler’s guide to Accor Live Limitless
It's true that ALL could probably use some changes to attract more folks who aren't based in Europe, but I'm hopeful those changes might come as Accor continues to branch out in different markets on basically every corner of the planet.
So now is definitely the time to make sure this company that's been floating in your periphery finally moves into the direct line of sight.