September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Ibis is undergoing a major rebranding and marketing campaign. Dubaere told ABTN about the latest plans for its economy brand and the group’s expansion targets in the UK
Ibis has been undergoing a major rebranding over the last year – what's the latest on this?
We launched the rebranding of the new Ibis family one year ago – usually when a brand changes concepts it takes about three or four years but we have speeded up this process to do it in the life cycle of one or two years because we feel that’s necessary in these times. We have rebranded Etap as Ibis Budget and All Seasons as Ibis Styles. By the end of October, 80-90 per cent of properties in the UK will have the new visual branding such as signage and it will be 100 per cent by the end of the year. We have more than 75 hotels in the Ibis family in the UK while there are 1,600 globally in 55 countries. The corporate travel market makes up roughly 55-60 per cent of Ibis’ business in the UK with the rest being leisure guests.
You recently introduced a new bed – the Sweet Bed by Ibis – what’s the thinking behind this decision?
We want to deliver the best and most comfortable bedding in the economy sector. We didn’t want to just to take a bed off the shelf so we brought together a team of experts and did a lot of research with guests to create our own bed which will be unique to Ibis. We will have replaced 100 per cent of our beds in our properties by the end of the year. It’s about bringing an element of upscale and luxury to Ibis. We have tested the bed in different countries and adapted them to what guests want in different markets.
We are also changing our public areas to an open-plan concept. We are introducing this type of public area at our two new Ibis hotels in London at Shepherds Bush and Blackfriars, which open this month. We will then be rolling it out until 2014. Our aim is to offer the ultimate in comfort and modernisation within the economy sector.
What are the main differences between the three Ibis brands?
It’s been a major part of our communications over the last year to show the differences between the Ibis brands which are significant in terms of service and pricing. Ibis is the full-service brand, while Ibis Budget offers fewer facilities such as not having restaurants, and Ibis Styles is our non-standardised product where public areas can be different. Ibis Styles also offers one price for all services including breakfast and wifi.
What are Accor’s expansion plans within the UK over the next few years?
Currently we have 186 properties across all our brands in the UK and Ireland including 75 in the Ibis family. We have a development plan to increase that network to 300 by 2015. We will continue to grow in London and also continue to grow in the provinces – it will be spread over the country. We are planning for 115 new properties in the next two years with 70 per cent of these coming from our franchised network, so they will mostly be existing hotels, although there will be some new builds and conversions.
The two brands where we are going to speed up our franchise development will be Mercure, which is a midscale brand, and Ibis Styles in the economy sector. We think there is a lot of potential because about 60 per cent of hotels in the UK and Ireland are independent or non-branded. Mercure and Ibis Styles are non-standardised brands which makes it easier for owners to adapt their properties. Accor’s strength is having different brands across all the market segments from Ibis to Sofitel. We will continue with that strategy.
How has your UK business fared this year – particularly with major events such as the Olympics?
The Olympics had an impact for Accor in London but not in the provinces. We performed very well during the Olympics and also the Paralympics was a big success. There was a slowdown in the business segment for a couple of months before the Games – for example Excel was closed for conferences because it was an Olympic venue. Business is now picking up but it’s very much one day at a time and we need to be cautious. It’s difficult to forecast what’s going to come with the current economic environment. We will continue to invest in our brands and new openings in the UK both in London and the provinces.
Do you think the hotel sector will benefit from the legacy of the Olympics?
I think the challenge we face as an industry - and not just for Accor - is to work together to ensure we build on this legacy. I’m a board member of the BHA (British Hospitality Association) and this is something we are working on. We don’t want it to be a case of just putting on the Games for 17 days. We want to ensure that we attract business not just to London but the rest of the country as well.