Balancing Heritage and Modernity
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.
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.
AccorHotels is a world-leading travel & lifestyle group and digital innovator offering unique experiences in more than 4,000 hotels, resorts and residences, as well as in over 2,500 of the finest private homes around the globe. Benefiting from dual expertise as an investor and operator through its HotelServices and HotelInvest divisions, AccorHotels operates in 95 countries. Its portfolio comprises internationally acclaimed luxury brands including Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel Legend, SO Sofitel, Sofitel, onefinestay, MGallery by Sofitel, Pullman and Swissôtel; as well as the popular midscale and boutique brands of Novotel, Mercure, Mama Shelter and Adagio; the in-demand economy brands including ibis, ibis Styles, ibis budget and the regional brands Grand Mercure, The Sebel and hotelF1. With an unmatched collection of brands and a rich history spanning close to five decades, AccorHotels, along with its global team of more than 240,000 dedicated women and men, has a purposeful and heartfelt mission: to make every guest Feel Welcome. Guests enjoy access to one of the world's most rewarding hotel loyalty programs - Le Club AccorHotels. AccorHotels is active in its local communities and committed to sustainable development and solidarity through PLANET 21, a comprehensive program that brings together employees, guests and partners to drive sustainable growth. Accor SA is publicly listed with shares trading on the Euronext Paris exchange (ISIN code: FR0000120404) and the OTC marketplace (Code: ACRFY) in the United States.