“You cannot reject any new innovation"

2 Avenue du LAc ACC 78
91021 Evry- Cedex
Paul Dubrule
Friday 30th April 2010

“You cannot reject any new innovation"

"You just have to work a lot to put it in the right place and right situation”

During the recent launch of INTEHL at the Ecole Hôtellière de Lausanne (see also related article), our Editor in Chief Richard Barnes had the honour of meeting with one of the greatest legends of the business, Mr. Paul Dubrule… the man who braved all odds to launch the Accor Hotel Group. Mr. Dubrule gives us a candid look at some of the secrets behind the group’s success…

What has been the general philosophy of the Accor group with regard to new technologies?

It’s fundamental. The success of Accor has always been based on new technology. You would probably laugh at me about what was in the first Novotel, but the first Novotel had the second cash register in all the Lille area, with a million inhabitants; the first telex; it was the first hotel with a full bathroom; the first with a swimming pool; the first with a direct telephone from the room to the outside. Today it seems ridiculous but at that time it was a complete innovation. I’ve always said to our people that we have to look at any new innovation that can be applied to our hotels. We have to learn if we can use them properly and with a profit.

Obviously the last word is the key… speaking of profit and Return on Investment, is it difficult to calculate this with this kind of thing?

It is not easy, because sometimes you can give something to your customer but that does not mean you can increase your price. At one time, 20 years ago, the marketing manager came with a project for Ibis, saying, “That’s what we have to add for the customer” and there were about 20 items. All the franchisees were happy, applauding, saying “fantastic”, and I said “ok, that is very interesting but for me it means nothing! Roughly, we have to increase our price just to amortise this, by 15 French Francs! Are the customers ready to pay 15 Francs more?” Everyone said no, so I said, “What do you want to do with that? You’re going to reduce your margin, probably be in deficit, so it’s useless… that’s not the way to do it.”

You have to have some idea of what profit you are going to get back. Maybe it is better for the employees, or maybe you can put a few francs more in the rate of the room, or maybe just the customer will have more loyalty but you have to measure it.

What is the biggest challenge in the future? In the next 10-15 years?

There will be a new generation of customers and we don’t know exactly what the needs will be of these new generations… New generations and new countries… for example if you take India and China there are several millions customers that will be travelling.

So what are their needs in their country and what are they outside the country when they travel? That is not very easy.