Accor is pushing on with a programme of transforming the design and comfort of every hotel under its new economy hotel ‘megabrand,’ which will convert Etap to Ibis Budget and All Seasons to Ibis Styles (see online news September 13, 2011).

Accor’s CEO Denis Hennequin plans to renovate 30-40 Ibis family hotels a week, in what he says is “probably the most ambitious project ever in the economy sector”.

A major shakeup of the company was decided only four months ago, with what Accor says was the simple decision to bring these three brands under the Ibis name and to bring a sense of “modernity, simplicity and well-being” to all the hotels under the Ibis umbrella.

Usually the renovation of public spaces takes six weeks but Accor believes that it has been able to slash this in half by pre-printing and manufacturing panels and furniture. Accor hopes to have 50 hotels completely renovated by the year-end and over 50 per cent of the entire network by the end of 2013, with the Budget brand alone being targeted at nearer 80 per cent. This includes the visual identity, bedding comfort and the most challenging aspect, the refurbishing of communal areas.

The new Kitchen at Ibis pilot property Port d’Italie, Paris

The first step will be to revamp the visual identity of all three brands. “It had aged, the signage, the typography,” says Gregoire Champetier, global chief marketing officer for Accor. The logo remains the Ibis pillow, with Ibis coloured red, Styles green and Budget blue.

Champetier continued that functionality and price were no longer sufficient for customers and that the idea of well-being, pleasure and design previously associated with upscale brands has been challenged as of late. He quoted the example of Ikea as ushering in this change in consumer expectations with its mix of low-cost functionality with pleasing aesthetics. He also spoke of reliable free wifi as a “default” requirement for all guests, even in the economy sector.

Accor says that franchisees have been positive about the changes and will “roll up their sleeves” to help implement and also challenge the widespread changes being planned.

Key brand Ibis will benefit from new look communal areas with large interactive screens behind reception, a proliferation of wood fittings – which give a more natural feel – and a mixture of seating allowing guests to treat the area more like a lounge and socialise. The bar will take up a central role in the space and free wifi will be available in these areas. One of the first hotels to get the new look will be the Ibis London Excel.

Entry-point economy brand Ibis Budget, of which Accor has 500 properties and charges fares around 25 per cent lower than Ibis, has also received a facelift. Bedding comfort is to be improved and communal areas are to be completely overhauled to better reflect the new Ibis style.

With the Ibis Styles brand, Accor wants to give local designers and franchisees more freedom in terms of design. Each hotel should fit the Ibis blueprint but there is also scope for innovative design and fittings, allowing the brand to be unique in every property. This is while maintaining a level of consistency of service across the brand, with free wifi and breakfast, and keeping prices in the economy bracket. This can be seen in the Berlin property (above) and the upcoming Ibis Styles London Croydon, due to open in August.

Accor currently has 172 Styles hotels and hopes to extend the brand now that it has broken free from the unsuccessful All Seasons name, specifically in Poland, Mexico and China where future developments are planned.

Accor has earmarked €150 million in addition to its annual budget of roughly €100 million for the renovation of Ibis hotels, with Hennequin expecting a direct Return on Investment (ROI) benefit of around 20 per cent.

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Report by Scott Carey