Hotel chain Accor launched its new brand for business travellers this week with the opening of 12 Pullman properties worldwide and the promise of 300 by 2015.
Unveiling the brand at the Pullman Rive Gauche in Paris, Gilles Pellisson, CEO of Accor, defined the “upscale” nature of the new hotels as “offering a choice of both full service and autonomy”, with open spaces designed to facilitate social exchanges, along with unrivalled communication and connectivity facilities.
Accor is best known in this country for its mid-range brands Ibis, Mercure and Novotel. The new Pullman properties are predominantly rebranded Sofitel hotels, but Pellisson told Business Traveller that none of the UK Sofitels (including the Sofitel St James, Sofitel Gatwick and the soon to be opened Sofitel Heathrow T5) would see a rebrand.
The new Pullman brand is a result of increasing segmentation in the hotel market. Accor intends Sofitel to move into the luxury segment, making room for a brand whose principal guests will be business travellers. Eric Lepleux of Accor said the typical guest was between 30 and 60 years old, earned more than €50,000 per year, and liked status rather than luxury.
He promised that the new hotels would demonstrate a new attitude for both domestic and international business travellers, with the three Pullman core values – commitment, adaptability and creativity – emphasised by a new “check-in, chill-out” advertising campaign.
So much for the promises, but will Pullman hotels offer anything different? Check-in and check-out terminals in the reception areas are a welcome innovation, although trials with other hotel brands have shown they are only useful if robust enough to withstand day-to-day use. However, the presence of a new member of staff – the “welcomer” – in reception does sound promising.
The technology offering is impressive. All rooms come with wifi access, cordless phone, a webcam and an office corner with a docking system allowing everything from laptops and digital cameras to USB keys and smart phones to be charged.
Back in reception, a partnership with Microsoft has created Pullman “connectivity lounges”, designed to allow guests who don’t travel with laptops to stay in touch with the office, friends and family without having to sit in the business lounge tucked away out of sight. Throw in fitness centres open 24 hours a day, and with the possibility of buying fitness clothes for those who have forgotten to bring them (intentionally or otherwise), and there is a rounded offering, although of course it all depends on the execution.
Finally, the new Pullman restaurants offer a table d’hôte including sharing tables for those who want company while dining, a vinotheque wine-tasting area and a chef’s table where guests can watch the chef at work, with a buffet allowing guests the option of socialising.
The Pullman brand looks set to experience an extremely quick roll-out, and there are plans for many properties to target the meetings and events market, including new locations in Marrakech, Venice, Bali, Marbella and Sardinia.
For more information visit pullmanhotels.com.
Report by Tom Otley