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Accor leans into luxury and North American expansion

Dec. 13, 2022
5 min read
Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel
Accor leans into luxury and North American expansion
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A Paris-based hotel giant is setting itself up for a luxury takeover in North America.

Accor, the owner of 40 hotel brands that range from the affordable Ibis all the way up to the ultraluxurious Raffles, isn’t as well-known a commodity as the likes of Hilton and Marriott International in the U.S. However, that might quickly change on the high-end front in the coming years.

Accor’s best-known brands in the U.S. currently center on Fairmont and Sofitel, as well as many under the company’s Ennismore collection of lifestyle hotels, including brands like The Hoxton and Mondrian.

Company leaders have made overtures for years about how they’d like the company to have a bigger footprint in the U.S., but now it appears there are several tangible signs Accor means business.

For starters, Accor’s headquarters for Raffles, as well as the Orient Express brand, is moving from Paris to New York City, several company leaders told TPG during the International Luxury Travel Market, or ILTM, conference in Cannes, France, last week.

“That just goes to show how serious we are about growing the brands in the U.S.,” Jeannette Ho, vice president of Raffles brand and strategic relationships, said in an interview with TPG.

Raffles positioned for a US takeover

The company’s first North American Raffles hotel and condo project is on track to open next year in Boston. While Ho didn’t specify what cities might be next on the list, a developer with the Boston project indicated earlier this year the company was scouting sites in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

It may seem like a tall task to grow an ultraluxury hotel portfolio in the U.S. when Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt already have such strong brand identities here. Don’t rule it out, though.

The Boston Raffles developers indicate they were inclined to go with Raffles over a bigger brand because there’s more autonomy to build the hotels as unique, stand-alone properties compared to something with a bit more standardization and brand standard rigidity like a Waldorf Astoria or St. Regis.

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If those actually building and investing in hotels are sold on a lesser-known brand like Raffles, it’s only rational to think the guests will assimilate similarly. One way the brand can court guests is with its significant attention to food and beverage offerings.

While the original Raffles in Singapore has 116 suites, the hotel has 10 bars and restaurants. The 147-room Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel & Residences will feature six food and beverage outlets.

“Most of our owners are not really institution[al investors]. A lot of them are actually incredibly influential families in each of these destinations,” Ho said. “As you can imagine, the Raffles is a reflection of who they are and their values.”

Also, while Orient Express is included in the office move to New York City, travelers shouldn’t take that as a sign Accor is bringing ultraluxurious trains to the U.S. While Accor has plans for luxe trains in Europe, the company also uses the Orient Express label on hotels. None have been officially announced for the U.S. so far.

Sofitel and soft brands

Accor’s growth isn’t just fixated on Raffles and Orient Express.

Maud Bailly, Accor’s CEO of southern Europe, will also become the CEO of Sofitel and Accor’s MGallery and Emblems Collection soft brands early next year. Sofitel and MGallery have a presence in the U.S., but it’s much larger for both abroad. The Emblems Collection is expected to launch in China. Bailly doesn’t plan on ignoring the U.S., however.

“If I did that, I would be fired,” she said with a laugh during an interview with TPG. “The awareness of Sofitel is super powerful in the U.S., but we can do much better.”

Renovations are planned for the Sofitel in New York City (along with the brand's properties in other locations like Amsterdam and Athens). Elsewhere in North America, Accor is expanding with plans for an early 2023 opening of the Hotel Ändra Seattle - MGallery in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. and Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Panama, in the historic district of Panama City, Panama.

The moves come as Accor significantly ramps up its focus on so-called lifestyle hotels, properties that usually make about half their revenue from food and beverage outlets in the hotel. The Ennismore division continues to see notable growth in the U.S. with brands like The Hoxton and Morgans Originals.

Similar to the Raffles strategy, Accor’s future success with Sofitel may hinge on appealing to hotel owners and investors first and then wooing guests. If they play their cards right, you'll eventually be able to check into a Sofitel beyond just the brand's current footprint of five U.S. cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.

“We are currently speaking with many investors [and] many owners to see in the post-COVID era what we can do to open flagships in key destinations,” Bailly added. “It’s a pity to have so few Sofitels in the U.S. But what I’m sure of is that we love America, and America loves France.”

Featured image by ACCOR
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees