IHIF Q&A: Agnès Roquefort, Accor’s Chief Development Officer

Agnès Roquefort

Agnès Roquefort has been at Accor for more than a decade, taking on various senior roles until in November she became the company’s chief development officer.
Changing roles can be tricky at the best of time but doing so during a global pandemic meant extra challenges, including meeting and leading a global team across multiple different cities and time zones.

We spoke with Roquefort to discuss how Accor is facing the Covid-19 pandemic and about embracing resilience.

The International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) is the hospitality industry's most influential investment event, taking place in Berlin, Germany on 1-3 September 2021. Agnès Roquefort will join the breakout discussion on 'Rebuilding the Pipeline: What Happens to Developments Interrupted by Covid?' on Thursday 2nd September at 13.30.

Hospitality Insights: It’s been a really difficult time for hospitality over the last year. Can you talk a bit about how things are at the start of 2021?

Agnès Roquefort: We stay positive and there are reasons to be positive. The team has shown a huge resilience. The shifts due to the crisis contribute to shape the future of the industry, it also represents opportunities to offer new experiences and services to accompany the rebound with agility.

Despite the ongoing global uncertainty, we are seeing gradual recovery in most regions of the world. Of course we would have liked the year to start with very strong recovery and growth everywhere. It’s a bit wait-and-see at the moment but the pipeline continue to be very good. We have confidence in long term growth trajectory.

Hospitality Insights: Did you spend a lot of 2020 thinking about long-term plans and reorganising the business? Were you looking long-term last year or were you managing things on a day-to-day basis?

Roquefort: It was really both. It has been a sudden and unprecedented shock for the hospitality industry and the world at large. We first had to manage the short term, to care about our employees and owners with hotels closing. The creation of the ALL Heartist fund to support employees and owners facing financial difficulties due to the crisis has already helped approximately 70 000 people.

We then of course worked on the medium-long term. The commercial and digital along all our teams are working super hard to be ready when the complete recovery occurs. The crisis has been likely an accelerator of pre-existing consumer trends & societal evolutions. For example, health and safety have become a top priority. We have thought about the long term and what the post-Covid era will be. Workspitality, lifestyle and a more local approach are for example some main trends we see growing.

Hospitality Insights: Over the past five or so years Accor has been a bit of an outlier in the hospitality industry, pushing into different areas. Which ones in particular are you excited about?

Roquefort: In term of development, all of them ! Firstly we have to be very proud of where we have come from with economy and midscale brands such as ibis, Novotel... It is still a key driver of our development and we are a very strong leader in different markets in Europe, Asia Pacific, South America and Middle East and Africa. 

Secondly, we are pushing this new dynamic with luxury and premium brands as well as the lifestyle ones. Lifestyle is one of the fastest growing segments of the global hospitality industry and Accor is the market leader offering 13 distinctive brands. We are also pushing hard on the luxury and upscale segments, this is part of our transformation. We have a large portfolio of great brands that make our development model really unique at Accor.

Accor delivers an unparalleled network of world-class operators, developers, designers and architects, together with a procurement platform for high quality resources and support far beyond what independent hotel owners can access. 60% of our development every year is done with our current partners.

Hospitality Insights: How do you see the recovery in terms of geographies? 

Roquefort: We saw tangible signs of improvement in Asia, Middle East & Africa and South America those past few months. We know the markets that are strongly domestic will recover faster. North America is more than 90% domestic so there is a strong resilience in that market. In Europe we are facing two challenges. The first one is that the European response to the Covid crisis has not been consistent as every country has its own answer. The second is that Europe is very international with many international flows. 

Hospitality Insights: What was the deal flow like last year?

Roquefort: Development was more resilient so we managed to open more than 200 hotels when our normal pace is about 300 hotels. We signed 300 hotels when our normal pace is around more than 400.That’s very good to see this good results despite everything. We have many partners that continue to really believe and invest massively in the industry.