After Swissotel and Novotel, Accorhotels will bring in ibis and Formule1. Here’s all you need to know... for now! 

A catch-up with Arif Patel, vice- president sales, marketing, distribution & loyalty, AccorHotels India, as the brand expands its presence. 

  • Published 13.05.17

A catch-up with Arif Patel, vice- president sales, marketing, distribution & loyalty, AccorHotels India, as the brand expands its presence. 

What is your take on the hospitality industry in Calcutta? 
I think Calcutta finally has much-needed branded supply. For many years, the growth of hotels here was limited. It was the only city with less than 1,000 rooms in branded supply. The good thing is that supply came in phases, so the city has never seen more supply, less demand. And that helps the developer to develop more viable projects.

A destination becomes more attractive when there is flight connectivity. I remember five years ago, you couldn’t go to Hyderabad directly from Calcutta. Today you have seven flights. Calcutta is also the gateway to the east and has seen one of the highest growths of passengers in India in terms of percentage. Look at international medical tourism — there are so many people coming in from Bangladesh. Calcutta has also done extremely well in the MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, Exhibitions/ Events) segment. It is a big wedding hub. The Convention Centre coming up here will further stimulate demand. Sporting events —the city is known for its passion for IPL, football, kabaddi — add to the demand.

AccorHotels is opening two more properties in Calcutta — ibis and Formule1. Tell us more… 
We are eagerly waiting for ibis and Formule1 to come up near Novotel Kolkata Hotel & Residences [ibis will open to the left while Formule1 will open to the right]. That’s what Calcutta needs now — branded supply in the economy and mid-scale segment. 

We hope to open ibis in Calcutta by 2018-end. The 187-room hotel will be the first new-generation ibis in India. It’s going to be much cooler, attracting the younger traveller. The whole layout of the room, artefact, everything will change. The colour palette will be very different. ibis is for a young, smart traveller. I personally love ibis. It’s cool and clutter-free. It doesn’t come with any baggage. It allows me to be myself. It’s efficient, easy on your wallet, offers high-speed Internet, 24X7 channels, attached bath, breakfast and a great location. Because we are budget hotels we don’t compromise on location. 

Formule1 will be a 129-key hotel [that will open to the right of Novotel]. 


Did you know that Accorhotels... 

♦ Would have been the largest hotel brand after Taj if the Marriott-Starwood merger had not happened
♦ Currently operates 8,000 rooms in 47 hotels and plans to close the year with 10,000 rooms and 55 hotels 
♦ Has these existing brands in India... 
Luxury brands: Fairmont (1), Sofitel (1), Pullman (1) and Swissotel (1)
Mid-scale and boutique brands: Novotel (14) and Mercure (2)
In-demand economy brand: ibis (14) and ibis Styles (1)
Regional brands: Grand Mercure (2) and Formule1 (9)
Other brands: Bheemli Resort managed by AccorHotels (1)
♦ Employs almost 23,000 people in India
♦ Is the first hotel to have a theme park resort in India — Novotel Imagica in Mumbai (off the Mumbai-Pune expressway)
♦ In 2016, opened among others... ibis Chennai City Centre and Hyderabad City Centre, Mercure Hyderabad KCP, Grand Mercure Mysore, The Bheemli Resort managed by AccorHotels, ibis Styles Goa Calangute and Hotel Formule1 Nashik and Chennai. The acquisition of FRHI 
(Fairmont Raffles Hotels International) resulted in the addition of two brands — Fairmont Jaipur and Swissotel Calcutta — to the AccorHotels growing portfolio. 
♦ 2017 saw AccorHotels mark its debut in Kochi and Lucknow

What is the difference between ibis and Formule1?
ibis has room service, bar, restaurant, 24X7 concierge. Formule1 has none of these frills. Today, hypothetically, you go to a luxury hotel, you’re paying Rs 15,000. Sometimes, you’re on a limited stay so why should you pay for amenities you didn’t use? You may not be using the health club, spa, bar or a toothbrush… so why should you pay for it? It’s not like we compromise anywhere. One will get the same sleeping experience in Formule1 that you get in any hotel. 

The proximity of Accor’s three brands next to each other won’t eat into each other’s business? 
No, we are unique in brand space. Each brand works in its space and will create its own niche. And I think that multiple brands in the city is a strength and not a weakness.

How important is the market in the east for you?
We will be the first international operator to have a global sales office in Calcutta. We recognise the existing and future potential of this city. We want to put our sales people where our customers are. We see a huge number of MICE originating from Calcutta to the rest of the world and India. 

By mid-2017, we will open a 122-room Novotel in Guwahati. It will be strategically located in the heart of Guwahati’s government and business district near the Guwahati-Shillong highway, and will cater to business and leisure travellers alike. Then we open Novotel Shillong in 2019, becoming the first international operator to enter Shillong. We are looking for opportunities in nearby states like Jharkhand and Bihar. 

Can we expect any of your other brands like Pullman, Sofitel or Fairmont to enter the east?
Not currently but we are talking to various interested parties. We are looking for all possible opportunities. 

How are you doing social media differently?
Our reach was huge after we partnered with Delhi Daredevils as hospitality partner for IPL 2016 so my digital team got excited. I said, ‘Good but what’s the tangible benefit?’ So we looked at website traffic, three months before, before and during the partnership. We put everything on a line graph — the engagement, traffic, conversion and RevPar. It’s clear-cut correlation because your recall of the brand is high. Say you’re travelling to Delhi and you’re searching on Google and my brand comes up along with others. Where will you stay? At the place that you just read about on social media. So that’s what we’re trying to do in this space. 

Text: Karo Christine Kumar