Accor launches new collection brand targeting midscale segment 

If it’s an Accor announcement, it must be a new brand.  

On Thursday, the French hospitality giant introduced a new collection brand to the market in Handwritten, which will target midscale, independent hotels that need some extra push behind them that Accor can provide.  

Handwritten Collection joins Accor’s other collection brands, including Emblems Collection, which targets the luxury segment, and MGallery Hotel Collection for upper-upscale hotels. 

Collections, or soft brands as they are often referred to, allow hotels to join a global brand company without shedding or relinquishing their independent spirit by having to adhere to often stringent brand standards. In exchange for fees paid, these hotels receive global exposure through, in this example, Accor’s global distribution system, loyalty program and other marketing capabilities. 

The first two hotels joining Handwritten Collection are Hotel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental, Handwritten Collection and Le Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa in Saint Gervais, France, both joining in January. Prior to joining Handwritten, Hotel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental was part of Accor’s luxury Sofitel brand. A question to Accor asking how a luxury hotel fit into the collection went unanswered. 

Accor said the Handwritten Collection has already signed 13 properties and expects to reach more than 250 hotels by 2030. A total of 100 hotels are currently in negotiation to join the collection, Accor said. 

Camil Yazbeck, the global chief development officer for Accor, said the new collection brand fills a gap in Accor’s portfolio. “During the post-COVID period of rising costs, inflation and competition, independent hotels have realized they need the strength of a powerful sales distribution and loyalty platform to increase the revenue, while keeping their own distinctive personality,” he said during the brand’s rollout to media. 

Yazbeck made the case that hotel assets offer opportunity and yield that other asset classes can’t currently provide. “Hotels provide high returns versus office, retail and logistics where yields in many regions of the world are just not available anymore,” he said, adding that collection brands are one of the highest growth categories in hospitality and that owners an expect compressed cap rates at exit.  

He further noted that the Handwritten Collection is flexible “because we have more flexible brand standards and it being a franchise contract.” 

The unique selling point to a current owner of an independent hotel are the minimum start-up requirements to join, meaning limited capital spend, and the flexibility of a franchise agreement. “It’s the best of both worlds,” Yazbeck said. “It maximizes hotel revenue thanks to powerful core sales, distribution and a loyalty platform from day one.” 

Handwritten Collection properties opening over the next several months include Hotel Shanghai Sheshan Oriental, Handwritten Collection in Shanghai, China; Le Saint Gervais Hotel & Spa, Handwritten Collection in Saint Gervais, France; Wonil Hotel Perth, Handwritten Collection in Perth, Australia; Hotel Morris, Handwritten Collection in Sydney, Australia; and Le Splendid Hotel Lac d’Annecy, Handwritten Collection in Annecy, France. Additional properties will open throughout the remainder of the year and beyond, including Hotel Les Capitouls Toulouse Centre, France; Oru Hub Hotel, Handwritten Collection in Tallinn, Estonia; Square Lodge Hotel La Roche sur Yon, Handwritten Collection in La Roche-sur-Yon, France; Sunrise Premium Resort, Handwritten Collection in Hoi An, Vietnam; Paris Montmartre Sacré Coeur, Handwritten Collection in Paris, France, as well as properties in Bucharest, Romania and Madrid, Spain.   

Accor stressed the notion of “host” as the thread that runs through these collection hotels.   

“The manner in which each host interacts with their guests is thoughtfully considered and brings to life their own personal passions,” added Caroline Bénard, global SVP economy and midscale brands for Accor. “Whether in a social setting or the privacy of a guest’s room, there will be moments of storytelling and engagement that create a genuine connection. This rapport between host and guest contributes to a more meaningful and memorable stay experience.” 

Soft-brand collections have been around for more than a decade now and almost all the major branded hotel companies have one or more throughout each segment of the industry. Choice Hotels is typically regarded as the progenitor of the concept, launching the Ascend Collection in 2008. Others followed, such as Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, Hilton’s Tapestry Collection, Wyndham’s Trademark Collection and more. 

Meanwhile, companies like Preferred Hotel Group and Leading Hotels of the World have represented independent luxury hotels for years.