Chief marketing officer for Accor Hotels Gregoire Champetier tells Business Traveller that the newly rebranded loyalty programme Le Club Accorhotels will aggressively improve its generosity, “fluidity” and redemption options, as it seeks to double its current membership of 10 million.

Champetier says that the proliferation of strong third party distributors has made internet distribution the “key battle” for the future of the hotel business. Accor is looking to react to this challenge through its direct distribution channels and sweeping improvements to its loyalty programme, recently rebranded from A Club to Le Club Accorhotels.

The first move will be to increase the generosity of the programme by 35 per cent, from a current base of 2000 points per €40 spend.

Secondly the “fluidity” of the programme will be changed so that customers with a small number of points can acquire a voucher for rebates on hotel stays, instead of having to accumulate enough points for a free stay.

Thirdly Accor wants to make this a programme without constraints, so that all hotels are available to all loyalty members, all of the time. “That’s a very, very important asset” says Champetier.

Lastly there will be improvements to the redemption system. Now members will be able to redeem points not just through traditional means such as free hotel stays but also rebates on rooms and hotel amenities. This will be facilitated online by creating a catalogue of things that can be redeemed apart from rooms, such as wine or meals in hotels, as well as retail partnerships.

Champetier admits that competition in this area is tough, singling out Hilton and Starwood, but said that “we are now going very fast with our programme” and a large scale advertising campaign will soon promote the changes.

Web distribution currently stands at 25 per cent in Europe and 50 per cent in the US for Accor, with Champetier predicting that Europe will catch up with the US by 2015. This has led Accor to reinforce its primary distribution site in the face of continuing investment from competing distribution sites.

Secondary to this Accor believes that it must reinforce the power of secondary brand sites, for example, and Additionally it will look to improve digital hospitality products such as city guides and in-depth local information for its hotels. Finally the hotel group is looking to improve its presence and effectiveness on social networks, with Facebook being identified as a key channel.

Champetier also had some strong words regarding free wifi. This is a “pre-requirement” according to the chief marketing officer and “if you don’t offer free wifi in a hotel, even economy, it’s a problem, it’s a default.”

However this is not without its obstacles. “Sometimes I admit that it depends on the franchisee,” says Champetier, “we cannot control everything, and there is a roaming system where you have to pass to a provider, you have to pay by a credit card in the hotel and this is absolutely unacceptable, this is too complicated and we are working a lot to stabilise this issue.”

These moves follow the creation of an Ibis ‘megabrand’ in order to consolidate the group’s position in the economy hotel market (see online news June 22). Champetier says that this is just the first step in a shake up at Accor that will next see work put in to the mid-scale segment with a widespread renovation plan for the Novotel brand, as well as improvements to the room facilities in Mercure hotels.

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