Accor did send me last year photos of their new room concepts, which I thought looked faintly ridiculous, but I hoped that they’d be toned down. This is the first time today that I’ve seen the new Agora room design, and it’s probably the most dysfunctional room I’ve been in at any chain hotel.
I don’t much like the design, it feels too old-fashioned to me, but that’s a matter of personal taste of which I’m not too bothered about. I spend enough nights in Ibis Budget to not worry about such fripperies. But the new room design has removed the desk that was in every single room, and taken away the comfortable chair to be replaced with one for a child. There’s also some weird 1970s effect on the ceiling that looks like artexing at first, does everything have to be aimed at the older generation in terms of general room design?
I’d add that Agora is one of three room designs being rolled out, with each hotel being able to choose which one they want. The other two, Plaza and Square, are less ridiculous, but I can’t say I find either of these particularly engaging either, although they do appear to have at least some form of desk.
The whole thing looks like a throw back to the 1970s, clunky and extraneous. The next problem for me is that there’s now just one plug socket in the room which is on a wall. I accept there are two in a new strip panel, but anyone with an adapter can’t use them as they’re recessed. I have no idea what bright spark thought that one up, but a plug socket on the wall is fine with me, they don’t need to be modernised.
But, Ibis have decided to make some other changes. They want music to be at the heart of everything that they do, which isn’t going to end well. We had the situation where they shut the bar and restaurant of their Kielce hotel so a band could play. Music isn’t in my view their answer if they want to bring people together, they need to create areas which are focused around on-trend features such as craft beer or elements that get people talking, even if that’s just a coffee shop. If hotels want to capture the digital nomads (a horrible phrase, but Accor have used it) then they need to be on-trend, not move away from modernity. And, they’ve decided to take away reception desks and get customers to check-in at the bar. Muddled and fiddly, why can’t customers just talk to a staff member at the reception desk?
But the most confusing thing about all of this is that I’m meant to be the customer that the Ibis brand is now targeting. A customer who uses them frequently, who would use their public spaces when not staying with them, who travels so much that they do a lot of work whilst in the hotel, but who also finds joint public spaces highly beneficial to productivity. So, Accor have come in with a new concept that is meant to appeal to people like me, but they’ve delivered something which seems to be primarily aimed at pensioners who don’t work in the room and like design throwbacks.
All rather disappointing, since Accor are planning to have this concept rolled out in all of their hotels by 2022. Since I’m heading towards being Accor Platinum in a few weeks, I do feel slightly loyal to the Accor brand, but I’ll be looking to switch down to Ibis Budget or stay in Mercure instead. My custom is of little relevance to them as just one person, but what’s most frustrating is their design brief seems to describe me as their target market. Their statement that:
“According to Ipsos, 80 per cent of respondents want new hotels to be social venues which accommodate both hotel and non-hotel guests. Ibis is therefore keen on transforming its lobbies into social hubs, where guests can relax, dine, meet and work. New food and beverage propositions will also be introduced to attract external customers as well as hotel guests.”
Is entirely right, social venues and joint working is absolutely the future. Perhaps having a room with a desk and power points that are accessible might be a good starting point though.