In conversation with Chris Cahill CEO Luxury Brands at AccorHotels (Exclusive Interview)

CPP-LUXURY.COM has recently interviewed exclusively Mr Chris Cahill CEO Luxury Brands at AccorHotels.

How has luxury hospitality evolved in the past years? What are the most important disruptors?

There are several factors driving demand in the luxury market, but a prominent one is the rising middle class in emerging economies. It has been estimated that the 15 fastest growing emerging markets, led by China, will provide 90% of the growth in consumption of luxury goods over the next 10 years. As people come into greater wealth, they are inclined to spend more on high-end goods and services as well as seek out aspirational experiences, which of course includes travel and hospitality spending.

Is there a common DNA for the luxury brands of AccorHotels?

Making every stay meaningful is at the core of what we do, and through the delivery of thoughtful, personalized service and memorable guest experiences, our luxury brands create lasting impressions that will be remembered long after any visit. Our brands consistently aim to inspire, innovate and celebrate guests at each of their distinguished addresses with a truly unique and individualized approach to luxury hospitality.

Whether it’s bespoke and intuitive butler service at Raffles Istanbul, a warm and thoughtful welcome with hot Arabic coffee and dates at Fairmont The Palm, or a spirited greeting from the doorman at Sofitel London St James, AccorHotels’ luxury brands seek to make every guest feel special from the moment they arrive.

At our properties, guests enjoy access to unique and exclusive experiences that they will treasure long after they’ve left, such as stepping into the shoes of a fictional heroine with a stay in The Plaza’s resplendent Eloise Suite in New York City. Our brands continuously evolve with innovative programs and services tailored to the distinct needs of the luxury traveler. Examples include the art concierge at Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris; Swissôtel’s Vitality Room, a holistic wellness concept to help guests revitalize their bodies, minds and souls; and a tailored woman’s stay experience, “Inspired by Her” at MGallery hotels worldwide.

How has the relationship with owners changed in the past years? (if at all)

The acquisition of Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel brands provided AccorHotels with a stronger footprint in North America and three remarkable and trusted brands that are internationally recognized. In 2017, almost 65 properties in our Luxury & Upper upscale brands have been signed. This growth plan is being embraced by hotel owners, investment groups, and developers and there is also great acceptance and reception from potential owners mostly.

Many luxury chains are still refraining from introducing loyalty programs. Tell us more about your perspective especially with the addition of the luxury brands of FRHI to your portfolio?

As you may be aware of, loyal members of the Fairmont President Club, Swissôtel Circle & Raffles Ambassador programs will be welcomed into Le Club AccorHotels on July, 2.

As members will continue to enjoy the recognition and personalized experiences they come to know and love at Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel, they will now have access to the unrivalled portfolio of a worldwide leader in the luxury market, with the likes of Sofitel, MGallery, SO Sofitel and Pullman.

What’s more, loyal customers will now benefit from the many advantages, tailor-made services and unique experiences that have contributed to Le Club AccorHotels’ worldwide reputation as one of the most powerful loyalty program in the industry.

How would you describe the key differences between Sofitel and Fairmont? Is Raffles a brand positioned at a similar level or higher?

AccorHotels is the steward of an extensive network of remarkable hotels, iconic properties and grand landmarks. We honor the distinct personalities and histories redolent in each of our hotel brands and nurture the unique positioning that each brand has carved out within the luxury hospitality marketplace.

Dating back to 1887, Raffles is an iconic brand known for its distinguished addresses and service that is both gracious and intuitive; debuting in 1907, the Fairmont brand offers grand hotels that are forever linked to the special places where they reside; Sofitel offers modern luxury with a French flair, where passionate travelers can indulge in chic experiences that capture the brand’s art-de-vivre spirit.

Luxury is also about innovation and creativity. Tell us more about your approach and what should we expect from the luxury brands of AccorHotels?

Luxury is no longer a homogenous concept. Luxury is perceived differently by each generation, by wealth classes, by regional perspectives – and so many other personal factors.

In recognition of this, we have chosen to go to market with not one definitive ‘luxury brand’ but rather a wide spectrum of offerings. Luxury now has a wide range and where one sits on this spectrum depends on their personal tastes, preferences, perspectives and experiences. For example, a traveler with a taste for eco-conscious luxury can find an experience as rewarding and memorable as those who prefer old-world elegance or a perfectly smooth and customized business trip.

The key elements that underscore all of our luxury brands are personalization – every guest feels uniquely recognized; well-being -comfortable, healthy surroundings and the feeling of being cared for; and consistency and quality – like a Michelin-starred restaurant, guests need their expectations of the product and the service to be delivered flawlessly on every visit

Are there any particular regions you are focusing when it comes to expansion?

With a focus on geographic areas of strength and key gateway cities, AccorHotels pursues new and exciting opportunities to further globalize its luxury brands and achieve the strongest positions in leading markets around the world. This is achieved through the diversity of its brands and dedicated development teams who are focused on high quality growth and ongoing strategic expansion.

The luxury portfolio of AccorHotels is amply resourced for expansion, with a solid footprint North America, a wide base and rapidly expanding presence across Asia, the Middle East and Europe, and a diverse set of luxury brands to deliver the right product for each market.

In 2018, Raffles will open the doors at the beloved Raffles Europejski Warsaw and will follow that up with the eagerly anticipated reveal of the magnificent restoration of Raffles Singapore before launching a new oasis – the Raffles Maldives Meradhou.

For Fairmont, our sights are set on the exploration of exciting new markets, with Fairmont Austin in Texas, Fairmont in the Maldives, the recently opened Fairmont Marrakech in Morocco and Fairmont Amman in Jordan.

Sofitel has recently introduced three stunning new properties in Asia with the opening of signature hotels including Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Damansara, Sofitel Singapore City Centre and Sofitel Sydney Darling Harbour.

What is your view on the evolution of online especially when it comes to sales / distribution?

The contribution of the online business overall continues to strengthen. Two themes have dominated the online space in recent years: first, the shift toward mobile, clearly visible in our own direct traffic, is accelerating our investment and developments in dedicated mobile solutions.  Second, the consolidation of online players creating travel giants. More recently, online companies are diversifying the services offered, notable some B2B services – business travel traditionally in the domain of travel agencies, and MICE traditionally in the domain of conference and event organizers.  This creates new opportunities for hotels in terms of reach, as well as some healthy competition amongst the intermediaries.  At the same time, it requires us to evolve our sales teams to have a stronger understanding of these changes, and how it impacts on ways of doing business, contracting process, pricing, etc.

How do you see the evolution of dining and wellbeing? (Michelin starred Chef franchises / organic beauty brands)

The term wellness is being integrated in almost every aspect of society – the type of food we eat, the design of our work environments, the need to live sustainable and healthy lifestyles. This is not a trend, but a societal shift that society and governments need to take into account. AccorHotels has a team of experts ensuring that wellbeing strategies as well as food & beverage offerings are continuously developed to meet market specificities and the ever-evolving culinary interests and tastes of local and international guests.

Chris J. Cahill is Canadian. He holds two Bachelor’s Degrees in Education and Political Science from the University of Ottawa, and an MBA from the University of Toronto.

Prior to his appointment, Chris worked as Executive Vice-President Global Operations for Las Vegas Sands Corp, a publicly traded gaming company with operations in the US, China and Singapore. Before joining Las Vegas Sands Corp, Chris served for 19 years (1993-2012) in various capacities at Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI) and its predecessor companies, including President and Chief Operating Officer responsible for the operating performance of all brands worldwide. Earlier in his career, Chris developed a strong track record in all facets of the hotel business (operations, sales and marketing) in cities across Canada during an 18-year period.

He joined AccorHotels’ Executive Committee in July 2016, when the Group finalized the acquisition of FRHI. Chris also serves on the Board of Directors of two Canadian real estate companies, as Chairman at Temple Hotels Inc. and Board Director at Morguard Corporation.

Oliver Petcu

Chris Cahill CEO Luxury Brands at AccorHotels – interview