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Sights on a dinner cruise on the Seine during Accor's Global Meetings Exchange in Paris

Accor Showcases Company Growth and Its Stunning Hometown

Accor SVP Meenaz Diamond welcomed attendees to the 2023 Global Meeting Exchange with a phrase hard to disagree with: “Paris is always a good idea.”

Meeting professionals, especially those from North America, can be forgiven if they’re still catching up with the evolution of Accor hotels in the events space and getting a handle on the company’s focus and direction.

After all, it’s owned the meetings-ready Fairmont brand with a strong North American footprint only since 2016, part of an acquisition that also included the luxury Raffles and Swissôtel brands. And it’s only had full control of the Orient Express brand since 2018. In fact, in the last 10 years, Accor has gone from 16 brands to more than 40 brands, and over the past 12 months reorganized its overall sales efforts.

One of the ways the company is telling its fast-moving story is through its annual Global Meeting Exchange, a client event launched by Fairmont Hotels that has continued and broadenUnknown-5.jpeged with Accor’s ownership of the brand. At the recent 2023 GME, the Paris-based hotel company held the GME on its home turf for the first time, and also for the first time hosted it at a Pullman property rather than a Fairmont.

The mid-July event showcased the Pullman Paris Monparnasse (right), one of the largest hotels in Paris and the Pullman flagship with 957 guest rooms and 7,986 square feet of meeting space. Accor gathered approximately 250 meeting professionals, company executives, representatives from Accor’s meetings-focused hotel brands, and media for four days of education, one-on-one appointments, and a taste of Paris.

Pullman Progress
The choice to hold the event at a Pullman was significant. Accor is working on “a rebirth of the Pullman brand” said Alex Schellenberger, CMO, Premier, Midscale, and Economy (below), and it’s a product line that’s growing fast with 56 properties in the pipeline, joining 154 already operating around the world. Moving away from its former “work hard, play hard” positioning, Accor is developing a Pullman product more focused on a balanced lifestyle and the blending of the personal and professional. Of note will be more flexible and modular lobbies and meeting spaces in upcoming destinations such as Lyon, France; Sydney, Australia; Gorni Okol, Bulgaria; and Nairobi, Kenya. schellenberger.jpeg

The Pullman Monparnasse reopened last year after a four-year renovation, but Pullman’s new flexible-design philosophy is most evident at the hotel’s adjacent event space that debuted this summer. In conjunction with C2 International, the Montreal-based experiential events agency, the hotel opened its 16,146-square-foot C2 venue configurable as open space or multiple rooms, which was used for the one-on-one sessions each day of the GME event.

In addition to getting to know Pullman Monparnasse, the Pullman brand, and some of the sights of Paris (such as nearby Luxembourg Gardens, pictured below) there were numerous takeaways for GME attendees: luxemburg_gardens.jpeg

• Fairmont: As much as the Pullman brand is growing, it isn’t on the radar for most groups meeting in the U.S. and Canada, where the only Pullman flag is the 281-room Pullman Miami Airport, and there are no immediate plans to expand in this market. However, other Accor brands make their mark for meetings in the U.S. and Canada, including Sofitel (New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Montreal, and Washington, D.C.); Novotel, 21c Museum Hotels, and most notably Fairmont.

Yigit Sezgin, global chief brand & commercial officer for Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, told GME attendees that he’s working to get Fairmont the same recognition globally that it enjoys in North America. The brand has 90 properties worldwide, half of which are in North America. Sezgin noted that a third of the existing portfolio is currently under renovation, and 32 more are in the pipeline. “Center stage” will be a new concept for the brand, he said, with monthly “activations and entertainment” around arts, fashion, music, and food and beverage. Among Fairmont’s new and upcoming properties are the dual-branded Fairmont and Raffles property in Doja, Qatar, opened earlier this year; Fairmont Dubai Skyline, a high-rise 181-room hotel opening in late 2024; and the Fairmont Bangkok Sukhumvit, a 419-room hotel opening in 2025 focused on the meetings market.

• Olympics: The decision to bring GME to Paris also allowed Accor to underscore its involvement in the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics. Accor is a sponsor of next year’s Paris Games and will be managing all the venues for athletes and the media over the 20 days of the two events.

• Sustainability:  The 2024 Olympics’ goal to cut the carbon footprint of the Games in half compared with previous editions fits well with Accor’s sustainability goals: halving the company’s carbon emissions by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. For the GME, Accor demonstrated a number of meeting-related sustainability tactics, such as lanyards and badges made from PET, a material made from recycling plastic; sugarcane-based water bottles made in Europe to minimize transport; locally sourced gifts, including an anti-waste jam made from unsold fruit; and furniture for the one-on-one sessions made exclusively from recyclable materials. Bazin.jpeg

• Reorganization: Accor is now six months into a major reorganization that reflects its growth both globally and in the luxury market. “When I started 10 years ago, the company was 85 percent European-centric,” Accor CEO Sébastien Bazin (shown left with Accor SVP Meenaz Diamond) told the GME audience. At that time, he explained, the company transitioned into a service business rather than owning its hotels, grew globally, and acquired new brands in the premium, luxury, and lifestyle markets. The company had been organized regionally, but with the disruption of the Covid pandemic, Bazin says it became clear that the organization was “too fat.”

Today, the company has two divisions for its 5,400 properties around the world. The “Luxury & Lifestyle” division, encompassing about 500 properties, is structured around four brand collections: Raffles and Orient Express; Fairmont; Sofitel, MGallery, and Emblems; and Ennismore. For the “Premium, Midscale & Economy” division, however, the company remains regionally focused: Americas; Europe and North Africa; Middle East, Africa, Turkey & Asia Pacific; and Greater China.

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