At IMEX America in Las Vegas this month, we sat down with Carlo Olejniczak, senior VP of global sales for Accor Hotels. Olejniczak said that one of the company’s strengths is its global portfolio of 4,000 hotels around the globe, including the upscale business and luxury brands—Pullman Hotels and Sofitel Hotels.
Accor is reworking its brand positioning for meeting planners that promotes today’s meetings as more holistic experiences. It is also rolling out a new internal communications tool that helps sales representatives communicate customized meeting requirments to their colleagues around the world.
Here is an edited version of our conversation with Mr. Olejniczak.
Prevue: How important is the MICE industry to Accor Hotels?
Carlo Olejniczak: MICE is a very important market segment for us globally. One of our strengths is to be a total global player, so we have about 4,000 hotels worldwide. Half of them provide meeting facilities, so the idea really is we can talk to planners who have a global approach because we meet their requirements almost everywhere.
So when we talk to someone in New York, we also have someone in Hong Kong who knows the specific group’s strategy and terms of the agreement, so the understanding is exactly the same on the other part of the world. Our clients are looking for consistency in the sales approach.
Prevue: With such a larger network, is that sometimes a challenge to get everyone on the same page?
Carlo Olejniczak: Sometimes in the past there was a challenge in getting that information to the right people. So what we have done about 18 months ago, we started to implement a new B2B CRM tool connecting all of our sales people for all of our hotels. So now they are all working on the same sales management platform. Now they can chat all day long to exchange information, because all of the customer intelligence is in the tool. And also, when you finish a meeting in Hong Kong, for example, and the salesperson there knows your next meeting is in Budapest, he or she can send a message to Budapest in advance.
Prevue: These are regional sales reps?
Carlo Olejniczak: Yes. So what is the next step? Now we’re beginning to connect the regional salespeople with the salespeople at the hotel level. That is launching in November, and the idea is to have 2,000 properties connected by the end of June next year on the same platform. Which means we’ll have the global sales community at Accor all connecting on the same platform. It takes time to train all of the hotels so that’s why the schedule is through June 2015.
Prevue: What are the takeaways for the planner?
Carlo Olejniczak: As a B2B client, you want to be recognized. So if, say, you’re planning a small meeting in Brazil, and you have large meetings somewhere else. In Brazil, you should still have the very best service possible as when you have a large meeting.
Prevue: For the U.S. planner who is familiar with U.S.-based hotel flags, why should they consider working with Accor Hotels?
Carlo Olejniczak: In Europe and Latin America, we have the largest number of hotels, so if you don’t look at Accor, you will miss a big chunk of the offer. Also, when you look at the brands, we cover a wide range of categories including upscale and luxury. MICE is all about location. You need to have the right property in the right place in as many destinations as possible.
Prevue: We were big fans of the Pullman magazine app but now that’s gone. Why is that?
Carlo Olejniczak: The risk of creating too many apps is that at some point people will stop using them, so the idea now is to have a big major app for Accor encompassing all of the relevant information. This is what will be our challenge, to create one big app, because we’ve learned people will not use hotel apps for each different brand.
Prevue: How are you engaging with meeting professionals, in terms of branding and communications?
Carlo Olejniczak: Basically we are creating a new tagline for MICE at Accor, which is Accor Meeting & Events, and the tagline is “Creating Unforgettable Experiences.” The idea is to have all of the brands supporting this message with their own identity and their own positioning. Because we are not only offering the Accor product, we need to have the service to turn a meeting into an experience, and we need to develop that with a consistent approach.
MICE is not just about convention centers and hotels, it’s also very much about the destination. This industry is changing a lot for our B2B clients. The participants today do not have the same expectations that they were 10 years ago. They want to interact more, they don’t want to sit in a ballroom all day, and so the meeting planners are adapting, just like we are to meet their needs.