Global Meetings Exchange Stirs Attendees’ Creative Juices

AccorHotels’ Global Meetings Exchange features stimulating activities and spaces

Some participants spontaneously drew on windows, while others built Lego structures or engaged in other fun team-building activities. It resembled a festival—which was the intention—but it actually was the opening day of AccorHotels’ Global Meetings Exchange (GME) 2018 at Fairmont, The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal last month.

AccorHotels Group offered the activities through a collaboration with C2, an annual international business conference held in Montreal that helps established and aspiring leaders unlock their creativity to better face disruption and change. They focused on what they see as nine drivers changing the future of meetings: flexible space configuration, digital immersive environments, thematic decors, modular structures, entertainment acts, content and animation, thematic activities, progressive food and beverage, and tech solutions. Attendees were challenged to solve traditional business problems in nontraditional environments.

“A hotel is a great canvas for engineering human experience, not merely a collection of rooms and amenities,” said Jean-Francois Bouchard, founder, creator and chairman of C2, in his opening remarks.

Many of the activities took place in the hotel’s new, third-floor CoLab 3—a product of a yearlong $140 million renovation project. It provides seven themed rooms and 13 meeting spaces designed to inspire and stimulate meeting groups. A wide, diverse array of meeting settings and work spaces are available, and can be customized for large and small gatherings.

The Ping Room, for example, includes a pingpong table as a meeting table, with carpeting that resembles artificial turf and a Montreal-inspired mural to stimulate creativity. The Swing Room features a garden setting with a 55-inch touch screen, a boardroom for eight people, a couch and two swings.

Other new meeting areas include Agora, a vibrant, multifunctional space on the first floor with plenty of options for conferences, as well as spaces designed for impromptu meetings and interactions on the second floor, where the ballrooms are located.

“Meeting planners at GME in 2017 were asking the hoteliers, ‘When are you going to change your spaces into nontraditional and creative spaces?’” said Anne-Marie Johns, regional director of sales and marketing in Eastern Canada for AccorHotels. The Queen Elizabeth’s CoLab 3 space was an answer to that.

“The goal was to put companies in spaces and environments that foster creativity,” Johns explained.

North American Debut

The activity sessions were one of many highlights of GME 2018, held March 16–19, and reflect AccorHotel’s progressive approach. Participants included several of AccorHotels’ senior leaders as well as 58 hotel and regional representatives, and 26 worldwide global sales representatives. More than 150 meeting planners also attended. It was the seventh annual GME conference, and was offered in North America for the first time. Previous GME gatherings took place in Berlin; Barcelona; Monte Carlo, Monaco; Montreux, Switzerland; and Abu Dhabi and Ajman, United Arab Emirates.

“We felt that it was the right time to move the epicenter of GME to a North American city where we would attract more North American clients,” said Meenaz Lilani, senior vice president of global sales in North and Central America for AccorHotels, describing the decision to hold the event in Canada. “At the end of the day, globally, every one of our hotels, especially in the luxe space, wants a piece of American business, where people are prepared to pay for and appreciate service.”

The company beefed up its North American portfolio in December 2015, when it bought FRHI Holdings, which owned hotel brands Fairmont, Swissotel and Raffles, in a deal worth about $2.9 billion in cash and shares. The transaction gave AccorHotels its most recognizable brand yet (Fairmont) in North America and added landmark properties such as The Savoy in London and The Plaza in New York City to its high-end portfolio.

Staying Ahead Globally

AccorHotels’ roots date back to 1967, when, Paul Dubrule and Gerard Pelisson founded Societe d’Investissement et d’Exploitation Hoteliers hotel group and opened the first Novotel hotel outside Lille, in northern France. Headquartered in Paris, the group now owns, operates and franchises nearly 4,300 hotels and 600,000 rooms in 100 countries (spanning all inhabited continents) representing several brands, from budget and economy lodgings to five-star hotels. The company plans to open 870 hotels in the next five years, 79 percent of which are in high-growth markets.

It operates 80 hotels in Central and North America, more than half of which are in the luxury segment. In 2017, several new developments were announced in North and Central America, with a pipeline of more than 4,100 new hotel rooms. The group aims to expand its presence in the region and to introduce new brands to the portfolio in key strategic markets.

Chris Cahill, CEO of luxury brands for AccorHotels, says that going forward, a major challenge will be to better understand customers’ ever-changing needs. He remains optimistic about the company and hospitality industry in general, though.

“As I look at our industry, it’s the golden age of travel,” he said. “In terms of all aspects of our company, the challenge will be to stay ahead. But I couldn’t be more excited about the next 12 months.”


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