As part of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit’s Patron sponsorship program, ALIS organizers asked Accor’s Heather McCrory eight timely questions as we prepare for the 21st annual event on January 24-26, 2022, at the JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Following are her responses.
What is the most common question hoteliers are asking you during your travels to various Accor properties throughout North & Central America—and what is your response to the question?
The most common question remains the same as prior to the pandemic; people are interested to hear about our upcoming development.
What are our plans to grow Accor in North & Central America? Where is the next major hotel opening?
We celebrated the official opening of Fairmont Century Plaza in LA in September 2021, an iconic address and significant addition to our regional portfolio, further solidifying our position as the second largest luxury operator in the US. Next year we will debut a couple of globally renowned Accor luxury brands which are new to the region – a new luxury development opening in Panama in early 2022 and the opening of Raffles Boston Back Bay Hotel & Residences a bit later in the year. We will also continue to see tremendous growth and opportunities in Mexico, including two ibis openings and a new Novotel in Mexico City.
How have your previous career experiences, most notably in sales, marketing, and operations, helped you make decisions in your current role as the industry fights its way back to normalcy?
The experiences during my career path have definitely made me into the person I am today and as so many of the skills are transferable to any situation – it has been helpful. The three areas that stand out for me:
What can the global hotel industry do to achieve a diversified leadership platform that is inclusive regardless of gender, racial and culture differences?
Diversity is achievable; but it takes more time and effort than people generally understand or want it to. Equity is also achievable with leadership who make it a priority. However, I believe Inclusion is more difficult; it requires a culture of curiosity and a genuine desire to understand all of the perspectives around the table. An inclusive culture creates a stronger organization – financially, competitively and driving engagement and retention.
It is an essential part of our DNA to ensure that Accor is a safe, welcoming, and inclusive place where ALL employees are empowered, supported, and thrive. We focus on five key areas of emphasis: recruitment, retention & development, education, celebration & recognition, and community. A couple of things that have worked particularly well for us include an extensive Inclusive Leadership training program, and an internal video series which explores the unique life experiences of our employees.
What top challenges and opportunities will emerge in the region during the next 12 months from a development standpoint?
There will be continued challenges in debt financing for new construction projects. Lenders will limit the amount of capital they are willing to put out and will have a much narrower focus on the types of projects and partners that they are willing to provide loans to.
There should be opportunity in conversion of independent product to brands (especially collection brands, such as Accor’s MGallery Hotel Collection) in order to get the benefit of distribution and loyalty. On the new construction front, because there will be less new supply, those projects that do get financed and constructed will have a great opportunity to be the best new product in the market while much of the existing product will not have been renovated.
What do you see in terms of the transactions-and-investments landscape during the next 12 months?
We still expect to see a lot of transaction activity in the next 12 months in a variety of hotel asset types – both well performing assets and non-performing assets. There remains a lot of investors looking to deploy capital in the hospitality space.
How do you see the general hotel industry’s expansion in the region taking shape through 2022, and specifically what is Accor’s plan to grow its footprint during that time?
The region continues to see growth and development in the hotel industry and at Accor we will focus on expansion with our collection brands, in the luxury space and in the lifestyle space through the Ennismore portfolio. We feel that this will be three areas of continued industry growth where we have a differentiated offering from our competitors.
Accor has a number of hotels in the region that depend on corporate travelers and group business. What’s your assessment of each of those types of business, and what’s your prediction as to when they again will have a major impact on hotel occupancy and revenue?
We are actually beginning to see very positive signs with respect to both segments. As the vaccination rate continues to improve and people continue to learn how to live safely with the virus, we anticipate seeing heightened improvement in both Corporate Travel and Group. Both segments will begin to make an impact in 2022. Groups may be smaller at first and some traditional business travel will be replaced by “bleisure,” but we believe both will begin to rebound next year.
What’s the one takeaway people should know about Heather McCrory?
I am determined that Accor will be the best-in-class operator in every market we operate / franchise in.