Reuters reports that AccorHotels is in talks to buy hotel chain Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Le Figaro newspaper reported in its Thursday edition. The majority owner of Mövenpick, which manages 20,000-plus rooms in more than 83 hotels across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, is Mövenpick Holdings, which also includes catering business Marche International. The minority owner is Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holding Company, which owned a 35.3% stake in FRHI (which operates the Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel brands) which Accor acquired in 2016. Alwaleed is now a minority stakeholder in Accor. AccorHotels said last week it would make further acquisitions in coming years using cash from the sale of a majority stake in its property business rather than pay a special dividend.
So why a look at the brand Swissôtel as this is about Mövenpick Hotels? If Accor acquires Mövenpick they have two Swiss brands in their portfolio. That would make a great opportunity to grow one global Swiss brand. Everything Swiss and Switzerland is a particular strong brand, especially regarding quality in general and hospitality specifically. The Swiss more or less ‘invented’ the present day hotel.
Of these two brands, Swissôtel in my opinion is the one to develop. This is a particular strong name that needs no explaining. I feel the present Swissôtel is undervalued. Its 35 locations (plus 3 in development) are scattered around the world. Together with the 83 properties of Mövenpick however it would make a strong, worldwide brand.
Mövenpick is especially strong in Egypt (where it already started operating in 1976) and the Middle East. Some of the Mövenpick properties would not be on par with Swissôtel, which is in Accor’s upscale division – most similar to Pullman Hotels, and to lesser extent Sofitel. These properties would however greatly fit the midscale brands of Accor, like Mercure or lifestyle brands 25hours and Mama Shelter. Also, there are some cities with both brands. – here rebranding to other Accor brands would also increase a strong Swissôtel brand consistency.
If Accor is to acquire Mövenpick, it should also go for a third Swiss brand: Hong Kong based Swiss-Belhotel International which operates 78 hotels, mainly in Asia and especially Indonesia.
It would be a long post to put my vision for all properties here, but here are some of my thoughts:
Amsterdam has both a Mövenpick (pictured) and a Swissôtel. The Mövenpick would be very suitable to the Swissôtel brand. Basically it would be a change of signage – they can leave the Swiss flag hanging. The Swissôtel Amsterdam is inconsistent with the brand. However, its location right in the city centre of Amsterdam on Dam Square would be a great fit to Accor’s individually styled MGallery brand. And a perfect sister to the Hotel INK around the corner, which went from a Sofitel to MGallery.
Paris neither has a Swissôtel or Mövenpick. Being Accor’s home turf, a Swissôtel outpost is a must. Accor operates 205 properties in France’s capital. The best fit for Swissôtel would be the Pullman Paris Paris Etoile, which opened as the Paris Hilton in 1967 and was sold to Accor in 2009.
Both brands combined have 8 hotels in their home Switzerland. Mövenpick is building a new hotel in Basle, scheduled to open next year. The tired looking Swissôtel Le Plaza Basle would make a great Sofitel after a refurb.
Mövenpick operates several resort properties around the world, mainly in Egypt (like the El Gouna Resort pictured), Thailand and Vietnam. I envision Swissôtel to be a strong urban brand. Therefore the resort properties would better fit with Rixos Hotels, Accor’s five-star resort brand.
About: Swissôtel was founded in 1980 as a joint venture between the Swissair and Nestlé groups. Initially hotels were operated in Berne, New York City, Geneva and Zurich. In 1990, the hotel group became a fully owned subsidiary of the Swissair group. In 2001, with the parent airline in the serious financial difficulties that eventually lead to its demise, Swissôtel was sold to Raffles Holdings Limited, the owners of the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore. In 2005, Colony Capital, a private international investment firm, acquired Raffles International Limited, the company that by this stage owned both Raffles and Swissôtel brands.
Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts is a hotel management company headquartered in Baar, Switzerland. It is owned by Mövenpick Holding (66.7%) and the Saudi based Kingdom Group (33.3%). Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts traces its roots back to the privately owned Mövenpick Group, which was founded by the late Ueli Prager in 1948 when he opened his first restaurant in Zurich. The name was apparently inspired by the feeding action of a gull (in German, a Möwe) and how its simple movements reflected the restaurant’s theme of food served as quickly as possible.