by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | March 05, 2018
At AccorHotels' 2018 Global Meetings Exchange held in Montreal this past week at the newly renovated Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth, Chris Cahill, CEO luxury brands and hotel services North America, Central America and the Caribbean Region for the Paris-based hotel chain, was bullish on his company's performance in the coming months. 
"AccorHotels is enjoying a record year of growth in our upper-upscale segment, and we want to increase that by 50 percent this year," he said. Group business, Cahill insisted, will continue to be an important revenue driver for the company, despite increased transient demand and a dip in group business from 40 percent in 2007 and 2008 to 34 percent in 2017.
"Meetings are still an important part of our business. It is the value of long-term relationships with customers who will carry you through those cycles," said Cahill. "Anybody can get a high rate from a luxury guest, but you may never see that guest again when you are not full in a downturn."
Speaking before an audience of several hundred clients and members of the sales team from across the company's 11 brands, Cahill outlined a number of key initiatives for 2018, including repositioning the Pullman and Fairmont brands, expanding the Sofitel portfolio, and finalizing the merger of the Fairmont Raffles Hotels International and AccorHotels loyalty programs.
In July 2016, AccorHotels, whose brands include Grand Mecure, Pullman and Sofitel, finalized its purchase of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International for $2.7 billion, giving it significant cache in the luxury category, particularly in the North American market, where it has 38 properties.
Two more Fairmonts are scheduled to open this year in the United States. The new 1,048-room Fairmont Austin, with 140,000 square feet of meeting space and a glass skyway connection to the Austin Convention Center, will debut later this month. The 394-room Fairmont Century Plaza, Los Angeles, a renovation of the former Century Plaza Hotel, is part of a $2.5 billion mixed-use redevelopment project, which includes 63 branded residences within the original hotel, as well as retail and parking facilities.
It will be a dizzying pace for the company, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2017. Last year saw an unprecedented number of acquisitions and partnerships, as AccorHotels added another 40,000 rooms worldwide and launched a number of companywide initiatives targeting the environment, gender equality and accessibility for people with disabilities.
While each of AccorHotels' brands did very well competitively in their respective segments in 2017, Cahill said the company is conducting a deep dive into quality this year, because, he said, "Brand integrity is of absolute importance." Each hotel will be evaluated in the coming months to determine if it meets brand standards, warrants a capital investment to remain brand-worthy or needs to be repositioned under a different flag.
When asked by the event's moderator what excites him about the company's future, Cahill said, "When I look ahead to the next 10 to 12 months, I think about how to get ahead of the pace of change to be able to take advantage of it. It makes for an exciting future. I think we will have a lot of social and global economic tensions, but I am excited about the next 12 months."