Accor Pacific CEO Sarah Derry talks recovery and the changing guest experience

Sarah Derry, Accor Pacific CEO, is all about the guest experience.

CIM spoke with Sarah Derry, Accor Pacific’s CEO, about the opportunities ahead as the region bounces back.

What is the priority now that things have returned to normal? When AIME opened in 193 Accor had no hotels and today we have 36 in Melbourne alone. Our ambition is to continue to grow our network, particularly with some new brands that we don’t have here yet. One new brand is Handwritten, which was launched globally at the end of the year, with our second one to open in a couple of weeks. We also want to grow our lifestyle market as well, to give people new experiences in hotels.

Has the guest experience changed? I think it is all about experiences and creating memories for people. What makes a great hotel, or restaurant or meeting is generally the people, experiences and the connections you’ve made. The great challenge for us is to constantly reimagine and make sure those experiences are bespoke.

The Wonil Hotel Perth was the first Handwritten Collection property in Australia.

How does Accor serve the guest experience better? The nature of what we do is to get to know our customers even deeper. And that’s why the loyalty programs are so important because our customers and meeting planners (Accor Limitless) are staying with us more regularly and once we get to know our customers well we can absolutely nail those experiences.

Data still has to be interpreted by people so we can deliver on it. We do have the data and the systems, but it still comes down to someone taking the initiative to want to make your experience really memorable. At the end of the day this is about choice for the customer. If we want to keep growing loyalty we have to have choice.

Which areas have yet to fully recover? Regional areas were incredibly strong post Covid but we haven’t quite got back to 2019 levels in the cities. We are getting there now but to do that we need business events, entertainment and sporting events back and cities to be invested in. I believe the big events are really important to fill a city, but we should also put on a combination of smaller events.

One thing I want to commend is Tourism Australia and the state tourism organisations, who have really understood this early and invested in the campaigns. This is where industry and these organisations can work hand in hand with our partners in meetings and events to get our cities back.