Accor focuses on luxury and expanding lifestyle in Central America and the Caribbean


HOLLYWOOD, Fla. – Already a player in the region with brands lower down the chain ladder, Accor has been setting the stage to add more of its luxury and lifestyle brands to Central America and the Caribbean.

Accor has strengthened its team in the region in recent years, creating strong results, said Mark Purcell, senior vice president of development, North and Central America, in an interview at the Hotel Opportunities Latin America conference. The company’s focus on the region, and specifically on Mexico, played out across its entire brand structure, from economy to luxury. The company has a solid portfolio of existing and developing Ibis and Novotel properties.

There has been an opportunity, again specifically in Mexico, for more lifestyle and traditional luxury properties in major resort destinations, he said. There is strong pipeline potential in its luxury and lifestyle brands through conversions and new developments.

In the Caribbean, Accor has focused its current platform on luxury island properties, such as the Fairmont brand in Bermuda, Barbados and Puerto Rico, he said. He also recently opened an SLS at Baha Mar, a mega resort in the Bahamas. Historically, the company has not had a strong focus on the Caribbean, but it has renewed its efforts to be a key player in the market.

Outside of Mexico, Accor’s presence in Central America is somewhat limited currently, said Nicolas Martinez, vice president of development for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. The company is preparing to open the Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo Panama City and is looking for other opportunities in the country.

Accor is looking to expand its presence in countries where it already has properties, using its lifestyle and luxury brands, he said. It makes more sense to grow with these brands than to enter a new market with just one budget-branded hotel, he added.

There has been tremendous growth and interest over the past few years in Mexico’s luxury and lifestyle that resonates with American travelers, Martinez said. Accor opened a Sofitel in Mexico City and an SLS in Cancun. He also signed an MGallery in Cancun and announced a Fairmont in La Paz in Baja California Sur in Mexico.

Accor is also working on a number of hotel projects that include residences, Martinez said.

“There’s a lot of interest, especially from the US market, so we’re getting a lot of traction there,” he said.

Accor recently announced its entry into the all-inclusive resort space, using several of its existing brands, Purcell said. It has a great platform building on the experience gained from its deal with the Rixos brand in 2016, he added.

“We will try to take that knowledge and experience from the team and export it to other parts of the world where we think this model can be very successful,” he said.

The company currently has 26 all-inclusive properties with more than 10,000 rooms, Martinez said.

This footprint makes Accor a competitor in the all-inclusive space globally, Purcell said. In the Caribbean and Latin America, the company will specifically focus on the Riviera Maya region of Mexico, the Dominican Republic and possibly Costa Rica.

All-inclusive resorts will use the higher end of the spectrum from Accor brands, such as Fairmont and Sofitel, Martinez said.

“We want to build on what we have created here over the many years that we have operated in the region with the expertise of Rixos,” he said.

When moving forward on new projects in the region, Accor executives want to make sure they have good investment partners, that there is enough air travel to market, that there is enough manpower and that there are decent demand drivers to justify the investment related to the level of brand positioning, says Martínez. Particularly for luxury or ultra-luxury properties, the company wants to ensure that the rates it will generate will be sufficient.

“We want to make sure we can provide all the services,” he said.

Many factors go into play with partners and developers to sustain a successful relationship that will last for decades, Martinez said.

Supply chain disruptions have been a challenge for new projects, Purcell said. In recent interviews with developers, he said Accor executives need to think much further than years ago. They must be able to order material 12 months later, when they would have done so six to eight months earlier. What took 12 months in the past now takes 18.

“It really became a logistical planning challenge,” he said.

Although Accor is not the prime contractor for new construction, it requires a concerted effort from the entire team involved, Purcell said. Everyone should be on the same page.

The benefit of this is that the recovery has been so strong that as long as the demand trend continues, it can offset some of the financial stress caused during development, Martinez said.

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