ACCOR EXPANDS, CARLSON CONSOLIDATES

Fresh looks for Motel 6 and Red Roof Inns, a strong push for Sofitel emphasizing French cuisine and ambitious growth through franchising are key to Accor North America's agenda in 2005. Meanwhile, Carlson Hotels Worldwide aims to expand on its 2004 initiatives, solidify its relationship with SAS Rezidor (it just bought a 25-percent stake in that European partner) and leverage customer-centric technology to maximize its quality.

Georges LeMener, CEO and president of Accor North America, said the ANA profile will rise dramatically this year because of a $200-million upgrade of Red Roof, a Sofitel in Los Angeles revitalized via a $40-million renovation and a similar investment in ANA's sole North American Novotel, in New York.

During an interview at the recent ANA convention in Orlando, LeMener said Accor's goal is 55 percent gross operating profit for its economy brands (Motel 6 and Red Roof in North America) and 40 percent for its upscale brands, like Sofitel. By 2010, Accor plans to grow to 5,000 hotels representing some 600,000 rooms. At present, its portfolio numbers about 4,000 hotels worldwide.

Accor executives from all over the world addressed growth programs for their respective regions. Asia is a key focus, particularly China; there are 110 Accor-brand hotels in Asia-Pacific now, but Accor plans 250 by 2010. In Europe, there are 2,198 hotels, with 2,700 planned by 2010. As for North America, there are 1,257 such hotels. Plans call for 1,500 within five years.

Like Accor, Carlson held a multi-day conference. It took place April 10-16, also in Orlando.

The overall message was that in 2004, Carlson clearly delineated its brands and debuted several standards: proprietary Express Yourself online check-in/-out technology, emphasis on property cleanliness, and the customizable Sleep Number bed.

Now that pricing has stabilized and Carlson has freed its brands from the commodity stigma, “we need to get everybody engaged in the transformation stage,” said Bjorn Gullaksen, executive vice president and brand leader, full-service hotels. To that end, starting in July, Carlson will offer technology from software firm Medallia enabling instant guest feedback. This addition to Carlson's customary semi-annual quality inspections will give the privately held company unprecedented insight into the customer's perception of its properties — and opportunity to improve it, Gullaksen suggested.

Carlson also aims to heighten the profile of its luxury brand, Regent International Hotels. During the conference, officials showcased the Regent Orlando at Winter Park Hotel, Spa and Residences, a 197-room boutique condominium hotel set to open in 2007. The property, where condos sell for $1.7 million to $3.5 million, is one of three imminent Florida Regents.

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