September 29 2022, Kimpton Fitzroy London
Friday 30 September 2022, JW Marriott Grosvenor
21 November 2022, Hilton London Metropole
Jonathan Sheard is senior vice president for M Gallery and Mercure in the UK and Ireland. He tells ABTN about the brands’ latest UK plans and the impact of the Olympics
You recently took on your second M Gallery property in the UK with the refurbished Francis Hotel in Bath – what plans do you have for the brand?
M Gallery is positioned as an upscale brand within Accor which sits below Sofitel and is above the midscale brands Novotel and Mercure. In UK terms, M Gallery is generally a four-star brand with a collection of boutique hotels which are known by their individual names and located in destinations that you recognise.
We have two properties in the UK – St Ermin’s in London and the Francis Hotel in Bath. They are part of a collection but there is no heavy branding, with each property having its own personality and story but at the same time they offer the quality and reassurance of being part of the Accor family.
Currently we have 50 M Gallery properties in the world but we plan to treble this to 150 by the end of 2015. In the UK, we have targeted 10 locations which would be existing hotels unless we get a hotel owner with a vision of developing a new boutique property. They will be in “must-see” city or leisure destinations - so we are talking about places such as York, Dublin or Edinburgh.
What about the other brand you look after – Mercure – are there similar expansion plans both in the UK and around the world?
We have 725 hotels across the world, including 70 Mercures in the UK, and we are Europe’s largest operator in the midscale market, which is in the same segment as our Novotel brand.
Accor has developed the term “glocal” in that we are a global brand which is inspired by the local market of our locations. Whereas Novotel is based around key international and national locations, Mercure is more of a domestic brand with a strong domestic market.
Currently we are third in the midscale market for the number of properties, behind Holiday Inn and Best Western, but we have ambitions to be number one which we think is achieveable. We plan to double the network by 2015.
Our UK network is concentrated in key second and third-tier cities for both domestic business and leisure markets. We plan to double the number of Mercure hotels in the UK with growth in both franchise and managed hotels.
It’s a key time for us – there’s a tremendous opportunity for mid-market hotels as they look to establish themselves as stronger players. Small networks of domestic hotels need to have the exposure of a brand and it brings advantages such as the link to distribution systems.
In the UK, we have gone from having five hotels four years ago to having 70 now. Our model is to take on existing properties rather than new buildings – London Greenwich, which is in an old police academy, will open later this year.
How important is the corporate market for both brands and what are you doing to attract more business travellers?
The corporate market is very important for both brands. Accor has many national and international RFPs which these hotels automatically connect into.
M Gallery is for a specific type of business traveller who is looking for more individual hotels with their own personality – at St Ermin’s, for example, we have a lot of corporate guests from the US.
Wifi is an essential service for both M Gallery and Mercure. By the end of this year, we have a commitment of offering free wifi which will enable you to do your basic business such as email. But if you need to use heavy bandwidth for streaming then you would pay a fee. This is not about generating money but to ensure that we can give basic wifi services to everybody.
What impact is the Olympics having on your hotels and is there a danger of a post-games slowdown?
It is a tremendous success story for us. Ever since the announcement of the games coming to London, we have done really well in both London and the UK – we have effectively had the benefit of a London marketing campaign free of charge because every day it has been talked about. It’s a busy time for us and our hotels are full for the games.
After the games, it’s difficult to predict what will happen. What’s different for London than other host cities is that there has not been a tremendous amount of new stock added - there’s not been a mass of new bedstock.
It’s still a key city for people to visit and we’re not predicting the kind of downward trends seen in previous Olympic host cities. It’s a great opportunity and a great plus for the UK and London.