ABTN talks to Jean Gabriel Pérès, president and CEO of Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, about the company’s expansion plans and attracting business travellers
Mövenpick has 69 hotels in 24 countries with a further 30 properties planned or already under construction in Ankara, (Turkey), Dubai (four projects); Abu Dhabi (three projects), Shanghai (China), Dharamshala (India). Focusing on expansion in its core markets of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, Mövenpick specialises in business and conference hotels, as well as holiday resorts. The hotel company is owned by the Mövenpick Holding (66.7%) and the Kingdom Group (33.3%).
You are undertaking a very rapid expansion, but it seems as though the US isn’t part of your plans?
In order to be efficient in the distribution field, you need at least 50 hotels in the US. You need to have a strong presence and footprint, and at this stage I don’t think we could grow with management contracts in the US easily. I would have loved to have acquired Rosewood Hotels but it did not come our way. Maybe there will be another opportunity. We are also so busy with the four other continents and we don’t want to stretch the company too far, especially while the economy is such a challenge. Having said that, we would look at opportunities in the gateway cities. The US market is in our top five and they are fans of the Movenpick brand when they try us.
What do you think the brand means?
Well they know that we are Swiss and that represents quality, consistency, particularly in food and beverage. The UK market is our number four, so we will do well when we get a property here.
Wouldn’t it make sense to have a three or four-star brand to help distribution?
We have done a lot of work to revitalise the brand and create more consistency. When I arrived 13 years ago I had everything from three to five star hotels, so the focus has been to streamline the company, and 15 hotels have left over the past five years – those that did not fit in the upscale category. That has been the initial focus of the company. Movenpick as a global brand name is absolutely upscale and I don’t think we could segment the brand and create a three-star brand. We prefer to focus on what we have and we are so busy already opening all these hotels in the next two or three years, maybe at some point of time we will see if we can go in another direction but it’s only when we have our 100 hotels open.
How is business across the portfolio?
It’s good. We have focused on the MICE business which has helped lift the revpar, and we have opened in a number of destinations which traditionally were strong in revpar such as Amsterdam and Hamburg.
What do you hear from your sales people about the RFP process?
Luxury perception is a dangerous thing. I see people in my hotels who used to stay in luxury properties who are discovering Movenpick as a business hotel company, and because of some restrictions which are being put in place by banks, in particular, they say you can’t go to a five-star hotel, but you can have upscale. So those who want palaces, we now have them staying with us which is very beneficial. We’re not blind about what’s happening. The corporate deals are not pushing our rates down. We are opening an extension in Lausanne which is going to be very upscale – it will have an additional 64 rooms and it will come at a higher rate. We have also renovated all of our hotels over the last five years, which has added a premium to the rate. They are asking for free wifi and breakfasts. For corporate accounts with lots of loyalty and who pay a certain rate, we would extend it after a certain number of room nights.
Do you offer free wifi?
It depends on the marketplace - there are no set rules. There are some destinations which command free wifi, but then some competitors offer it but then don’t supply a proper service.
What’s magical about the reaching the number 100 in hotels?
It shows that we will be pretty well balanced across the four continents. We shall probably have around 50 business and 50 leisure, roughly. It’s also a kind of maturity for the company. 2015 will be the year when Movenpick blossoms.
What about joining the Global Hotels Alliance (GHA)?
We have been invited and it has a lot of merits, but we have our own things we can do with our website, sales teams and so on, so there’s a lot I can do to drive our strategy with our people. Walking on our own legs has generated a lot of value for the company.