In the unprecedented period that we are going through, Ameublement Français has taken the initiative to organize a series of webinars that give the floor to a great witness in the contract sector, who shed light on the players who operate in these markets. Guest of the first webinar on April 24, Pascal Guémené, director of the Design and Technical Services department within the Southern Europe Hub of the Accor Group, presented the situation of this world leader in the hotel industry, and outlined very short and middle term.
Furniture manufacturers, fitters and component suppliers who are present in contract markets, or plan to position themselves there, have their eyes riveted on the hotel and restaurant sector. In the context of confinement, with very limited possibilities to travel, and national and international tourism at a standstill, the hotel and catering industry is one of the sectors that is paying the heaviest price for Covid-19. In such a context, the voice of Pascal Guémené provides valuable lessons on the priority measures taken during containment, and the strategy for the gradual resumption of activities which are adopted by this world leader, which to a large extent give the “le” de what is going to happen for the whole sector.
A sharp decline in activity
To begin with, Pascal Guémené reported extremely reduced activity in France, since 1,300 hotels are currently closed out of the 1,500 that the group has in our country, those which are open operating at slow speed. The situation began to deteriorate in mid-February, with the first cancellations from Asian customers, particularly Chinese, followed by those from other regions of the world. The areas most affected today are mainly located in Europe, with establishments being closed by decree in some countries such as Spain, which is not the case in France, where they are closed for lack of business. As a measure of solidarity, three Group hotels have been made available to accommodate nursing staff or to accommodate infected people in quarantine in Paris.
As the speaker explained, the Accor Group was in good spirits at the end of 2019: “The objectives we set for ourselves have been achieved, and could have been exceeded for France without the transport strikes of November and December. But the Covid-19 crisis put a stop to this progression, the results for the first quarter of 2020 show a drop in the group’s turnover of – 15.8% on a like-for-like basis – 768 million d euros, against 925 million in 2019 over the same period – and the decline will continue. This does not prevent us, given our strong presence and our business model, from reflecting on the post-crisis rebound. “
A gradual recovery in segments and in stages
For the speaker, the recovery scenarios are presented in stages: hotel activity should gradually restart as soon as the confinement is gradually lifted, in June, with the resumption of business travel, and the return of domestic tourism, which will primarily concern the group’s economy brands, then mid-range, then premium and finally luxury. The resumption of the seminars activity will not take place before the fourth quarter. The hotels in the group will have a good card to play in July and August, as the French plan to stay in France for the summer holidays. From September, and especially October and November, business tourism should in turn pick up, with in particular the resumption of trade shows. “ Whatever the scenarios considered, studies show that we will not find a volume of business comparable to 2019 before 2022, adds Pascal Guémené. Until then, the ramp-up will depend on the pace of resumption of activity. “ It should be noted that, at the end of April, professionals were still in the dark as to the date decided by the public authorities for the reopening of bars and restaurants.
A priority: reassure customers with transparent sanitary and hygiene procedures
The priority of the Accor Group is clearly to reassure its customers, and to create the conditions so that they return to its hotels with confidence. “In the immediate future, we must above all reassure our client in terms of health, listen to him, make him feel welcome, says Pascal Guémené. For that, we have an imperative: communicate, by saying what we do, and by doing what we say. To achieve this objective, the group is currently working on developing safety procedures and hygiene measures to ensure the safety of its customers upon reopening. This approach is the subject of a labeling process with Bureau Veritas, an independent certification body which will support it. The Chairman and CEO of the Accor Group, Sébastien Bazin, having been appointed by the government as prevention and hygiene coordinator for the entire hotel and restaurant sector.
Work reprogrammed over time
An essential issue for Accor Group suppliers, the work planned for new hotel projects and renovations will be affected by the crisis in various ways. As Pascal Guémené explains, the short-term work that was in progress, and which has been stopped, will start again and be completed as soon as the confinement is over. On the other hand, the more important works, which were scheduled over several months, will be re-examined. Finally, most of the work that was in the pipeline is currently on hold. “The priority of our hotel operator partners today is to make their establishment sustainable,” adds the speaker. They must also manage the issue of partial unemployment, and the preparation of preventive and security measures with a view to the gradual reopening. “ In general, hoteliers will therefore relaunch their renovation and new establishment projects, with related works contracts, depending on the pace of activity recovery, which will give them room for maneuver to invest, which will not take place before the start of the 2020 school year.
New concepts maintained
While a large volume of work will be staggered over time, Accor’s senior executive insisted that the new hotel concepts would nevertheless be maintained.“The year 2020 should be very rich in new concepts, notably with four new collections for Novotel, and two new ones for Ibis. For all these novelties, we are continuing the studies to be ready when the time comes to resume. “ One of the challenges is now to integrate the entire Covid-19 prevention component, which will be significant when reopening, while smoothing out the Group’s expenses, which will be budgeted according to the resumption of activity. On the other hand, there is no question of making concessions in terms of environmental policy: “It is essential to maintain our commitments and even to accelerate them, as we are doing with our new GREET brand, which relies on improvements resulting from recycling and upcycling, to reduce the carbon footprint of our activity. “ Thus, the second and third hotels which were to open under this brand in March and April will open in May and June, the fourth opening being scheduled in Lyon at the end of the year.
New developments in the making
Finally, the Covid-19 crisis will also impact the interior fittings of hotels and restaurants. “We will need much more flexible and adaptable arrangements, in particular depending on the number of customers present. , adds Pascal Guémené. If we take the example of tables d’hôtes, a structuring element for our living spaces, it will be necessary to imagine configurations that make it possible to keep distances between the guests. At the end of confinement, there will be a desire to go out in public places, to see the world, accompanied by an apprehension of contracting Covid-19. Designers must now integrate this new parameter. “ It will also be necessary to think about flexible formulas to partition the spaces, and to give versatility, to be able easily to pass from one use to another according to the reservations and the frequentation. The senior executive invites furniture manufacturers and fitters to be ready to respond to this work, which will be done in the very short term. Despite this difficult context, the speaker concluded this webinar by showing his optimism: “Our brands enjoy a good image with the public, which is an essential basis for gaining their trust, while our partner members are now happy to belong to a large group that does not leave them alone in the face of their difficulties, and who accompanies them in the measures to be taken in the short term, and by setting a course in the long term. “