Sébastien Bazin spends his nights far away from home more than 200 days a year. Nevertheless, the chief executive of Accor, Europe’s largest hotel chain, is still usually at home, so to speak.
The Hotel Pullman Berlin, where he met Handelsblatt for an interview, belongs to his French employer. Another Accor property is the nearby Swissôtel on Kurfürstendamm, to which he paid a visit shortly before our interview. The company acquired the Swissôtel, as well as the Fairmont and Raffles luxury chains, for €2.5 billion, $2.76 billion, only a few weeks ago.
Handelsblatt: Mr. Bazin, you are currently investing the incredible sum of €250 million in the digitization of your Business, primarily to remain in constant contact with your guests? Is this worthwhile?
Mr. Bazin: Absolutely. Our customer loyalty program, Le Club, grows by four to five million members each year, and our current total is about 30 million.
Is that enough to fight back against powerful websites like HRS, Booking.com and Expedia, which charge you about a fifth of the room price for their services?
I have nothing against hotel portals. They go a good job. AccorHotels has no intention whatsoever to compete with another portal. But I don’t want to be completely dependent on them either. If they bring me a customer, I want to keep that customer afterwards.
This is where Le Club comes in. The minute a guest has booked a room with you, you start bombarding him with emails. Doesn’t anyone complain?
We call this the welcome model. People who are traveling and booking hotels are often worried about things like how to get a taxi or where to find the nearest metro station. This usually translates into a lot of stress. We help to eliminate that stress by sending the customer text messages, such as when there is a strike at an airport. He can also get the information he needs through our comprehensive app.