IHIF Preview: How Accor’s reorganisation is helping it focus on the hotel owner

Between 15 and 17 May, more than 2,500 senior representatives from across the hospitality industry will head to Berlin for the International Hospitality Investment Forum (IHIF) 2023.

This year’s speakers include: the CEOs of IHG and Accor as well as senior representatives from Blackstone, Brookfield Asset Management, Goldman Sachs, and more.

The following interview is part of a series aimed at bringing you a flavour of the conversations you can expect on stage, highlighting some of the big-picture trends and themes ahead of the event.

At the end of last year, Accor embarked on a substantial reorganisation that effectively split the organisation in two. Deputy CEO and chief financial officer Jean-Jacques Morin leading the group focused on economy, midscale and premium brands and CEO Sébastien Bazin heading up the luxury and lifestyle part of the business. As part of the changes Camil Yazbeck was promoted to global chief development officer of the premium, midscale and economy segment.

Yazbeck will be appearing at IHIF as part of a panel discussion entitled ‘Institutional Appeal: Position your Asset for the Long Term Buyer’ (Tuesday 16 May, 3:15pm, Asset Optimisation track).

We recently caught up with Yazbeck to discuss the recent changes at Accor.

Camil Yazbeck

Hospitality Investor: Accor's new structure was designed to help growth, profitability and servicing the owners. On the last part, how do you see your role in improving relations with owners in the premium, midscale and economy segments?

Camil Yazbeck: Let me begin by emphasizing that owners love our premium, midscale and economy brands, frequently citing their strong global awareness, innovative design concepts and profitable and reliable business models. These brands are both foundational and fundamental to Accor – representing approximately 90 per cent of our Group’s global portfolio and close to 70 per cent of our development signings.

What sets Accor development teams apart though, is that our new structure gives us the bandwidth to always think from the owners’ point of view. The hotels under my scope sit across the premium, midscale and economy segments, so our owning partners have specific investment criteria. The core value I emphasize among our development teams is to always remain focused on the mindset of an owner. We delve into their investment profile and propose a deal that aligns with our mutual objectives. In my experience, matching the right brand to the right project is essential, giving us the clearest route to meeting the owner’s cost of capital and return on equity (ROE) expectations.

Hospitality Investor: Most hospitality companies are focusing on conversions as a development priority; how do your conversion brands differentiate from other groups?

Camil Yazbeck: Conversion opportunities will continue to be a growth driver at Accor, as we have emerged as the partner of choice among independent hotel owners who are attracted to our renowned flexibility, ease of transition, and unmatched spectrum of brands.

Particularly among our premium, midscale and economy brands, conversion opportunities are ideal due to their lower environmental impact and easier financing arrangements amid a tougher economic climate.         

Hospitality Investor:  What is the proportion of new build in your development strategy? How has it evolved and do you expect it to grow in the coming years?

Camil Yazbeck: Accor is seeing a fairly even level of new build and conversion projects. Mixed-use projects are now more popular than ever, as traditional asset classes continue to be challenged by shifting consumer behaviors. Accor was at the forefront of this movement, reimagining how the population could live, work, and play, all within the same building or location.

Our projects tend to feature a mixture of elements that drive revenue 24/7; such as one, two or multiple hotel brands, an extended stay offering, branded residences, lively F&B, coworking, and wellness facilities. We also encourage owners to explore adding retail offerings and other facilities within development projects.

Our development partners seem to really appreciate Accor’s approach to augmented hospitality as an essential way to diversify risk, unlock value and compress their cap rate when these various businesses are amalgamated together.

Hospitality Investor: What initiative or new opening/launch are you most proud of in 2022-2023 and why?

Camil Yazbeck: In 2022, Accor was a global growth leader, signing on average more than one hotel per day and opening nearly one hotel per day.  I'm proud of this achievement and momentum that has continued into 2023, with signings across this period including spectacular new properties, such as Mercure Toyko Hibiya, Pullman Phuket Arcadia Karon Beach Resort,  Pullman Zagreb City Island in Croatia,  ibis Styles Rotterdam Ahoy in The Netherlands, Mövenpick Living Istanbul Saklivadi in Turkey, Pullman Jakarta International Airport and Mövenpick Jakarta International Airport in Indonesia, and Novotel Punta Sal in Peru. 

Stay tuned for more preview interviews and if you still haven’t registered yet, you can do so here. You can also view the latest programme, here.