AccorHotels completed its acquisition of FRHI Holdings and its Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands in 2016, and the company’s COO for North and Central America knows the region is ripe for growth from this expanded portfolio of brands.
PHOENIX—It’s been just over a year since AccorHotels completed its acquisition of FRHI Holdings and Kevin Frid was named COO for North and Central America, and the former FRHI president of the Americas region said it’s been “a whole new world.”
“Bolting on this huge platform of a global company while keeping (the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel) brands pure” was key, Frid said. “They acquired us because of our three successful brands and are making sure nothing gets blurred.”
Speaking with HNN during a break at the recent Lodging Conference, Frid said the last year-and-a-half has been an opportunity to grow the FRHI brands and expose new audiences in North and Central America to AccorHotels’ diverse portfolio.
As of the end of the third quarter, AccorHotels had 84 hotels and 27,602 rooms in North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and the number of rooms represents just 4.6% of the company’s global portfolio.
Still, the majority—51 properties—of those are in the luxury and upscale segments, with vast majority of those hotels sitting in the luxury Fairmont brand.
While Fairmont’s growth is on a steady trajectory, Frid said it’s an exciting time to be part of a company with a broad footprint of brands, along with lots of untapped potential in the North and Central America and Caribbean regions.
“Sébastien Bazin (AccorHotels president and CEO) has brought a new perspective as the leader,” Frid said. “Rather than just anticipating trends, I think Accor is setting some of the trends. The depth of brands Accor offers is great and the breadth of those offerings and travel solutions continues to grow.”
- Watch Bazin explain more of his plans for AccorHotels in “Accor CEO: ‘Either you change or you will be changed"
Fairmont’s growth plans
Frid said taking advantage of larger AccorHotels platforms, like its distribution system and sales network, has been positive for the FRHI brands.
“We want to keep these brands pure, but how do we take advantage of the Accor world?” he said. “For example, we have a much larger development team selling and distributing these brands throughout the world, and we’ve seen our pipeline grow.”
In North America, the most notable Fairmont projects lately have been the reopening of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal—following a multimillion-dollar renovation that saw the hotel closed for a full year—and the forthcoming Fairmont Austin in Texas, which has 1,048 guestrooms and is projected to open by the end of 2017.
“Fairmont has always been in a nice, sweet spot,” Frid said. “The brand continues to resonate with people. It’s geared toward the luxury traveler without being crazy expensive, but still delivering the luxury experience, so it’s a product that can open in many, many markets.”
He said that while Fairmont has a significant footprint in the region, there’s still “significant opportunity to grow in North America,” in both resort and urban locations. Currently the brand is divided equally between urban and resort locations, and Frid said “a number of major markets” in the region could definitely be good locations for Fairmont properties.
One of the biggest upcoming projects Frid identified is integrating Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel into AccorHotels’ loyalty program, which will officially launch next year.
Fairmont did have its own loyalty program, President’s Club, which relied on gathering guest data and delivering thoughtfully against it, Frid said. He added it’s important not only to get the back-of-house technology correct during integration, but also to make sure guests and owners maintain their sense of connection.
“Our objective and plan and reassurance to guests is that they’ll have (the connections they had with Fairmont’s loyalty program) and get rewards on top of that, which makes people feel good,” he said. “From an owner perspective, they don’t want to suddenly see (the loyalty program) become generic in nature,” so we’re making sure transitions are seamless, he said.
While Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel will integrate into AccorHotels’ rewards program, Frid said there’s plenty from the Fairmont DNA in AccorHotels’ luxury division, which launched in 2016.
The brands in the division—Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel Legend, So Sofitel, Sofitel, MGallery by Sofitel, Pullman and Swissôtel—“are all being integrated into the personalization and customization of FRHI,” Frid said.
Other AccorHotels brands
Frid recognized that while Fairmont continues to grow across the region, building luxury can be tough, and it’s good to have more options.
“Quite frankly, it’s not easy to build a luxury hotel today in the United States,” he said. “They’re few and far between, so the fact that we have this new menu is good.”
While Fairmont has dominated the company’s offerings in the region, other key inroads have been made in terms of distributing AccorHotels’ brands more widely.
Most recently, the company’s midscale Ibis Styles brand made its U.S. debut, with Ibis Styles New York LaGuardia Airport, which opened in the summer.
“We have a menu of 23 brands now,” Frid said. “We’ve got one for whatever (developers) want to do. We’re excited about the opportunities and we see growth coming.”
Frid said the company will continue to focus on luxury brands like Fairmont, but “would like to grow Sofitel, Novotel and some of the offshoot brands,” like So by Sofitel.
Those “unique” brands, as Frid calls them—like AccorHotels’ Jo&Joe hostel/hotel brand, MGallery and So by Sofitel “have a lot of flexibility,” he said.
“They have clear positioning, but are lifestyle brands that allow owners investing dollars these days to have more say in what the outcome looks like,” he said. “They’re exciting.”
Overall, Frid said his region represents plenty of opportunity for AccorHotels’ brands.
“North America is a big place, so I tend not to generalize,” he said. “Canada’s done an outstanding job of being safe and putting out a welcome mat to the world. Mexico continues to be strong, though it has its bumps. In the Caribbean, we’re still recovering from hurricanes, earthquakes and fires. The U.S. is bumping along. … We’ve had a few supply issues and some tentativeness in the economy. There are no cliffs out there, but I would like to see a stronger foundation of being welcoming.”