Interesting Sofitel as a luxury brand hotel may be a name identity that you don’t know much about. However, it is the concept of developing Sofitel hotels as a luxury brand that will make them the biggest brand among luxury hotels. Every thing about Sofitel is different and not traditional when it comes to luxury brand strategy.
For instance Sofitel was acquired by Accor, another French hotel group, in the late Nineties. Accor is very large, and owns or manages somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 hotels under more than a dozen brand names (Mercure, Ibis, Novotel, etc.) from budget to luxury in over 90 countries around the globe. At first, under Accor, the Sofitel brand got even cloudier, a catch all for hotels, many in France, operating under a common name but often lacking any common characteristics.
Nearly 50 years ago the first Sofitel hotel opened in Strasbourg France, and in the ensuing half century, the company went global. Amassing over 200 hotels worldwide, from Asia to the States, South America to Australia, more than Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton combined, Sofitel became a big hotel group, chain, or company, yet it never managed to become a brand, at least not in the U.S. where few travelers knew it and fewer knew much about it.
Hiring the right talent in the luxury hotel business matters. In 2007 Accor brought in longtime hotel industry veteran COO Robert-Gaymer Jones to revitalize and reposition the brand, and he was subsequently promoted to CEO last year. Jones quickly de-flagged nearly half of the Sofitel properties, cherry picking the best of the bunch and dropping the tally to just 120 hotels and resorts, while setting out to improve these even more. Jones is returning to the company’s roots and emphasizing its “Frenchness.”
Like Hyatt, Starwood, Marriott and Hilton, Sofitel has also stratified itself into three tiers with two new brands, the highest being Sofitel Legends, their flagship palace properties, such as the Metropolitan Hanoi, Grand Amsterdam and the recently opened Old Cataract in Aswan, Egypt. SO is their hip or boutique brand, with an urban and fashion flavor marketed at an affluent younger clientele, with properties in destinations like Mauritius and Bangkok. The new Bangkok SO property is built in a series of 4-story blocks, each designed differently and themed (wood, glass, metal, etc.) and upon booking, guests are encouraged to reserve a room in the block that suits their taste and personality.