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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 19, 2018

Cheryl-Anne SturkenSO/Bangkok Rooftop BarBack in 2010, when Paris-based AccorHotels decided to expand the reach of its luxury brand Sofitel Hotels & Resorts (www.sofitel.com), it looked beyond just expanding the Sofitel footprint globally. Instead, it decided to capitalize on the cache of Sofitel and created a distinct sub-brand, SO/Sofitel, which promised a blend of cutting-edge interior design, a thriving nightlife scene and an embracement of local art.


It was a gutsy move for Accor. Several other big hotel companies were already playing in the boutique space: Atlanta-based InterContinental Hotels Group had Indigo, Starwood Hotels & Resorts (pre-Marriott International ownership) had W Hotels & Resorts and Marriott International had surprised the industry in 2008 by announcing a joint venture with boutique hotelier Ian Schrager to create the Edition brand.

But the stylish boutique chain S0/Sofitel, which made its debut on the island nation of Mauritius off the coast of Africa with the 92-room Sofitel So Mauritius Bel Ombre, seems to have hit a chord, especially with Millennial travelers. "People are looking for a transformative experience when they travel," Joa Rocco, vice president, luxury brand management, Sofitel Brands, told me earlier this month at the company's Seventh Annual Global Meetings Exchange held in Montreal. "SO is competing directly with luxury boutiques in their markets and holding their own. This is a bold brand with a lot of local energy, which really plays on its French roots. It gets a lot of Instagram traffic."

While SO/Sofitel is still a very small brand with a portfolio of just four properties to date (two in Thailand and one each in Mauritius and Singapore), the brand will double exponentially by the end of this year and has announced even bigger plans to open an additional 10 hotels by year-end 2021, including Jakarta, Indonesia; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and a third in Thailand. "These properties will offer a luxurious yet irreverent approach to hospitality, celebrating and embracing their destinations’ vibe, energy and local trends," said Rocco.

First up is the 78-room SO/Berlin Das Stue, which is scheduled to open later this month. Located in the former Royal Danish Embassy, which dates from 1930, and overlooks the Berlin Zoo, this newcomer with anything but stately. Offerings will include two restaurants, a signature spa, a gym and meeting space (the final amount of which is still to be announced).

It will be followed by the 137-room SO/St. Petersburg in Russia. Set to open next month, steps from the city's famous Bronze Horseman statue of Peter the Great, the city’s founding father, the hotel will feature several meeting rooms, a rooftop bar, a full-service restaurant, a spa and a gym with an indoor pool. The 133-room SO/Auckland in New Zealand is expected to open this summer, while the 182-room SO/Vienna is on tap to open by year’s end.