Sofitel’s revamp includes new luxury brands, agent training
By Jeri Clausing
CHICAGO — “Life is
magnifique.” That’s the slogan Sofitel
has attached to its revamped luxury hotels, with the emphasis on
Two years after the French hotel giant Accor made Sofitel an
independent business unit led by
CEO Yann Caillere, the company
is nearing completion of a sys-temwide overhaul of its top-tier
brand and has launched two sub-brands, Sofitel Legend and So by
The Legend brand will encompass some of Sofitel’s older properties, and So will be its edgier,
The aim is to raise the bar on
luxury and service and make
sure its hotels offer a touch of the
brand’s French roots.
It also pushing to expand both
its presence and awareness of the
brand in the U.S., where Accor
is better known as the parent of
Caillere and a group of Sofitel
executives recently hosted a group
of luxury travel agents at the Sofitel Chicago to showcase its top
Sofitel is hoping to add eight to 10 properties in the U.S. Seen here are the lobbies of the Sofitel
Chicago, left, and Sofitel Los Angeles.
properties and unveil special
packages and training programs
“The outbound market for our
hotels from the United States is
so strong. We need, and we have,
strong links with travel agents,”
During the Chicago meeting, Sofitel introduced an online university, www.sofitel-university.com, where agents
can take five courses teaching
them about Sofitel and its luxury
standards, and the Sofitel Travel
Experience Program for select
STEP includes packages that
pay agents 20% commissions.
Agents in STEP will also have
numbers for key
people at all of
its properties and
a contact for a
to help resolve any
issues an agent’s
client might have.
are going to have
the power to make
make sure your
guests are treated the way you expect,” said Don Kelly, senior vice
president of sales.
Sofitel also announced it is
centralizing its commission payment system so all payments are
processed by Sofitel, not by the
Kelly said the idea was to eliminate confusion about whether
guests did or did not actually arrive for their stay.
“If the hotel does not notify
us in writing that a guest was a
no-show, we are making the payment,” Kelly said.
Although there are 139 Sofitels
around the world, the company
and its online training program
highlight the top 31 properties.
The company also detailed its
expansion plans, which Caillere
said he hopes would include sev-
eral new properties in key U.S.
markets such as Boston and San
“Basically, we would love to
have an additional eight to 10 hotels in the United States,” he said.
Globally, he said, Sofitel hopes
to expand its network to 250 hotels over the next several years.
$157 million in upgrades
Right now, it is focusing on
promoting the Sofitel upgrades,
which Caillere said have cost the
company about $157 million.
That estimate does not include
the investments by individual
properties; the Cairo hotel alone
spent $50 million.
In addition to ensuring that the
top luxury ame-
nities, Sofitel will
Caillere said the
overhaul began in
2006, when he re-
turned to Accor
after a stint with
“It started with
a screening of the network,” he
said, which at the time was 206
“We are down to 139, and we
will go down further.”
Some of those hotels were
taken out of the Accor system
completely, he said, while others
were transferred into other Accor
About 25 are being converted
to Pullman, a new brand announced by Accor at the same
time it launched the Sofitel overhaul.
Caillere said Pullman was a
more traditional brand, along
the lines of Hilton or Marriott.
Currently, Pullman is being
rolled out in Europe, but Caillere
said the company hoped eventually to have 20 to 30 Pullman hotels in the U.S.
older properties, and So by
Sofitel will be the