Q: What does the acquisition of FRHI Hotels & Resorts mean for Australia?
A: It does have a big impact here in Australia. We have one hotel in that group here – Swissôtel. But the bigger impact is it culminates at a time in the market when Australia is getting good development growth, moving from the larger mid-scale sector hotel sector to a lot of luxury and upscale growth. It gives us a ramp up for next year. We have a lot of partners and investors tapping us on the shoulder interested in those brands.
Q: How has the meetings sector performed for the Group?
A: There is no doubt the mining sector has impacted negatively on corporate travel. We are seeing strong growth from the conference sector over the last six months, [with] a fair bit of business travel outside of the mining sector.
We have had a strong focus on the meetings sector and will continue to as it doesn’t come to hotels as easily as it used to. We have had a whole series of major companies breaking their conferencing into much smaller bite sized pieces in many cases, so we have had to adapt and focus more. It has always been a high income stream for us and so remains a high priority.
Q: Which areas of the country are seeing the best growth?
A: Anywhere in Australia with a mining industry has seen a correction. But then Sydney, Melbourne and North Queensland are doing very well. Adelaide and Tasmania have also done very well.
Q: How is AccorHotels helping the government with the tourism sector?
A: The message we are sharing with government is that they can help with hard infrastructure such as stadiums, airports and convention centres. The soft infrastructure has changed from big marketing campaigns with tag lines to events calendars. If you look at Adelaide as an example, [after] the development of Adelaide Oval, the SAHMRI medical centre and convention centre refurb they have put on a series of great special events in the city. The combination of both has triggered a very good result over the last two years. Hobart has been the same.
Q: How important is the F&B offering?
A: Australia and New Zealand are enjoying great food experiences as part of their lifestyle. We need to provide that. We have a food and beverage strategy that we have had in place for 18 months. It’s about reinventing outlets [with] some millennial products and we are seeing good return there. The greater benefit is in animating a hotel. Food and beverage brings a hotel to life. Lobby space are changing with bars coming into lobbies, food is more about sharing and whenever, it’s very exciting.
Q: Tell us about AccorHotels push for gender equality at a management level?
A: We took strong stance on female employment. We have a 40 per cent female representation in general management and will be at 50 per cent next year. We are not doing it to fix the ills of society, it’s very good for our business. If you understand hospitality, it is a strongly influenced feminine skill, and the best way to do that is have a strong representation of females at a leadership level.
Q: The last 10 years have seen a boom in the accommodation sector – what of the next decade?
A: It’s going to be a strong period of time for us and one that will lay good foundations for the next decade. Australia is gaining a level of maturity on a world stage.