Industry Update
Press Release 3 December 2018

Balancing Heritage and Modernity

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Sofitel So

Luxury travel is expanding rapidly and our customers' requirements are becoming more and more precise. From design to restaurants, they define all the conditions for a perfect stay by pushing brands to reinvent themselves. Skift focuses on SO/s case in its European Hospitalitys Creative Renaissance report.


After analyzing JO&JOE and Mama Shelter, Skift focuses on the luxury sector, and more specifically on SO/ - a playful and audacious brand - which has recently welcomed the SO/ Vienna to its ranks.

New luxury travelers

As luxury hotel accommodations go up in price, customers have greater expectations. But according to Justenlund, as hotel companies reinvent luxury, they shouldnt assume todays customers are playing by the old-school rules. Luxury is providing people what they need right now, like high-speed Wi-Fi and a comfortable bed. Its not as much about whats in the room anymore, at least not in Europe. What do you really need in a room? asks Anders Justenlund, associate professor of International Hospitality Management at University College of Northern Denmark in Aalborg. In America, traditionally, the higher up the price scale you go, the bigger the room. But in Europe, luxury is more about adding amenities.

Duncan ORourke, Chief Operating Officer AccorHotels Europe Luxury brands, has the challenge of overseeing classic luxury brands like Raffles, Fairmont, and Sofitel, while also attending to new lifestyle luxury products like SO/, SLS, and Delano. He notes that for the classics, Brand directors are charged with protecting the DNA, the culture, and the spirit of each brand. Still, he says, these older brands have to continue to reinvent themselves. Of course, they should never forget their history, but as the world is becoming so small, these legacy brands have to continue to grow. They need to present luxury differently to meet the expectations of todays high-end traveler.

As a prime example of how this is done, ORourke cites how Sofitel is reinventing itself to portray modern French luxury throughout the guest experience with innovative food and beverage concepts, partnerships with luxury houses like Herms, Lanvin, and Dumas, and developing events like La Nuit by Sofitel, which combines music, design, and mixology.

Style and audacity

AccorHotels saw a gaping hole in its luxury portfolio. So, it went on a purchasing spree, buying FRHI Hotels & Resorts, spanning the Fairmont, Raffles, and Swisstel brands in 2016, and partnering with luxury brands like Banyan Tree, Orient Express, and recently communicated the SBE lifestyle luxury brands. It also decided to build a new lifestyle luxury brand, SO/, from scratch. The first SO/ opened its doors in 2011. This is a luxury lifestyle brand we developed because we needed to fill a specific niche, says Duncan ORourke. The brand is vivid, expressive, full of personality, and fashionable. Its a rebellious interpretation of luxury.

To guarantee a lively hotel experience, SO/ takes the essence of a destination and blends that with a generous dash of playfulness. It also oozes style. As a highly creative and fashion-forward brand, each SO/ property develops a unique look by collaborating with designers who are internationally known including Christian LaCroix, Viktor & Rolf, and Karl Lagerfeld to define the contemporary, avant-garde nature of the brand through the design of everything from the rooms and the public spaces to the staff uniforms. SO/s music programming is very much part of the brands DNA. Most SO/ hotels have rooftop bars, where world-famous DJs and electronic artists are brought in to add more notes to the SO/ zeitgeist.

Related Brands


Sofitel is the elegant answer to a luxury traveler’s quest for the good things in life. Each hotel illustrates an artful blend of local culture and French soul. With an innate sense of new French art de vivre, Sofitel hold themselves to a heightened level of excellence and refinement.
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A vivid cocktail of luxury, sophistication and style. An audacious burst of local energy with an unmistakable playful twist. An edge that sets the experience apart. Fashionable and social, it’s the place to be and be seen, connecting the like-minded.
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Other Brands by Accor
21c Museum Hotels
Adagio / Adagio Access
Art Series Hotels
Banyan Tree
Grand Mercure
ibis budget
ibis Styles
MAMA Shelter
Mantis Collection
Orient Express Hotels
Suite Novotel
Thalassa sea & spa
The Sebel


Accor is a world-leading augmented hospitality group offering unique and meaningful experiences in 4,800 hotels, resorts, and residences across 100 countries. With an unrivalled portfolio of brands from luxury to economy, Accor has been providing hospitality savoir-faire for more than 50 years. Beyond accommodations, Accor enables new ways to live, work, and play with food & beverage, nightlife, wellbeing, and coworking brands. To drive business performance, Accor's portfolio of business accelerators amplify hospitality distribution, operations, and experience. Guests have access to one of the world's most attractive hotel loyalty programs. Accor is deeply committed to sustainable value creation, and plays an active role in giving back to planet and community. Planet 21 - Acting Here endeavours to act for positive hospitality, while Accor Solidarity, the endowment fund, empowers disadvantaged groups through professional training and access to employment. Accor SA is publicly listed on the Euronext Paris Stock Exchange (ISIN code: FR0000120404) and on the OTC Market (Ticker: ACRFY) in the United States. For more information visit Or become a fan and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.