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In Conversation With: Damien Perrot on defining ibis Hotels’ new design era

800 533 Hamish Kilburn

The world’s most iconic budget hotel brand is undergoing a major redesign following the growing demands of the modern traveller. To understand all the design details of the new generation of ibis Hotels, editor Hamish Kilburn sat down with Damien Perrot, Senior Vice President, Design Solutions for Accor, to find out more about how the new ibis was conceived in three separate designs…

With more than 1,170 economy hotels open worldwide, ibis has become somewhat of a trailblazer in the congested budget sector of the hotel industry. Opening up in neighbourhoods that before the ‘70s may well have not existed for the modern traveller, the company’s aggressive expansion into tier two cities bridged the gap between travellers and the freedom to explore the world while on a budget.

With the aim to ‘shake up budget hotel standards’, the brand, which is known for its basic and standardised design, is now in the process of reinventing itself to become more flexible to cater to a wider demographic. Using interior design as its tool, Ibis’ latest face lift includes new guestrooms, F&B areas and living spaces. “Its transformation is primarily based on customer behaviour and how guests instinctively use the spaces,” said Steven Taylor, Chief Brand Officer at Accor in the official statement from the brand. “Today, the brand is a truly vibrant place where travellers and non-staying and local customers alike can dine, sleep, work and feel welcome.”

Leading the extensive brand renovation is Damien Perrot, Senior Vice President, Design Solutions for Accor. “I wanted to achieve a design that was living, vibrant and real,” he told Hotel Designs. “The objective, in terms of design, is to attract people and allow our guests to have a great experience that will naturally encourage them to return.”

“Perrot launched competitions in America, Asia and Europe in order to garner inspiration from all corners of the world.”

The design, marketing and brand team came together with the ambition to rethink ibis as if it was created today. “The simple fact was that we felt obliged to confront the way in which our guests’ behaviour and lifestyles have changed,” explained Perrot. “Our idea was not to radicalise the form, but instead to create a concept in line with that of the modern travellers’ needs of today.” In order to keep the thoughts open and fresh, Perrot launched design competitions open to all in America, Asia and Europe in order to garner inspiration from all corners of the world. “The brief being light in context around what we wanted was key as we did not want to restrict the designers’ creative flow,” adds Perrot. As a result, the brand was able to handpick the designers who put forward realistic and brand-worthy solutions to the challenge.

Following the competition, the new ibis was to be divided into three concepts drawn up from three separate design studios. Studio Innocad from Europe, Studio FGMF from Latin America and Studio Soda from Asia together were Perrot’s answer to the new generation of ibis hotels.

Studio Innocad – Europe

Flexible living area with hammocks by entrance - blue and while tiles

Image credit: INNOCAD Architecture

The concept is a modular, flexible and customisable approach for architecture and interior, for renovation as well as new construction of ibis hotels. Designed around the fluid transition between inside and outside, the different settings of social spaces invite travellers and locals to explore several atmospheres and areas and are importantly not limited to be in one design during their customer journey.

Studio FGMF – Latin America

Modern Scandinavian room with flexible living spaces

Image credit: FGMF/ibis hotels

Urban living comes to the heart of the hotels with the design concept from Studio FGMF while the street outside becomes an integral part of the lobby. Unveiling a new pedestrian walkway, the hotel concept is gallery of local inspiration.

Meanwhile, the guestrooms have been imagined to be comfortable in a modern style, featuring a bookshelf as a centrepiece. A functional layout opens up new possibilities for guests to relax in the home-from-home setting.

Studio Soda – Asia

Modern, opening living areas

Image credit: Soda Studio/ibis hotels

Flexible, modular and contemporary, the concept that was imagined by Studio Soda is one that offers everything the modern guest is looking for; comfort combined with warmth. The lobby has been specifically designed to welcome the outside world, with a terrace area that extends out onto the street. The result is a public area that is welcome and free for guests to eat, relax, work or play.

“When we are rethinking ‘the new’, it is essential to forget what it is today,” explained Perrot when confronting the challenges of the project. “After the big idea in terms of design, the question is how can we apply that into our existing hotels. That’s a really big challenge, but I think we have succeeded.

Portrait of Damien Perrot

Image caption: Damien Perrot, Senior Vice President, Design Solutions for Accor

“The other challenge is to not be distracted by trends. Each design concept that was accepted stayed true to the DNA of the brand, which is very modern. Throughout the project, I want to demonstrate that modernity is in line with a new way of living.”

With the ambitious plans to redesign all hotels in the ibis portfolio by 2022, the aim is not for all hotels to be identical to one another. Instead, each property is aimed to have its own quirky personality. “Each concept is not 100 per cent defined. But the designer will apply the concept on projects and select different furniture and lighting to suit the hotel,” said Perrot. “In order to be able to roll this out globally, we have to have guidelines and style book. Each document helps the designers to roll out this concept. In those guidelines, we explain the boundaries that can and can’t be broken to achieve the final design of the individual hotel.”

Each hotel to adopt the new design concept will be better equipped and better designed to personalise the overall guest experience. The refreshing, and very different, designed concepts suggest heavily that ibis strongly believe a good hotel experience is much beyond experiencing a good night’s sleep. To achieve that overall home-from-home experience, the brand has redefined its public areas, F&B environment and guestrooms allowing its guests to tailor-make their own travel experience when checking in.

Main image credit: FGMF/ibis hotels

ibis London Canning Town

ibis Hotels contributing to Canning Town regeneration

998 602 Daniel Fountain

Offering unrivalled access to a host of London’s most bustling business and leisure hubs, the new 196-bed ibis London Canning Town hotel delivers style, comfort and affordability to all travellers, in one of the capital’s most exciting emerging locations.

The hotel is a key element of the newly-established Hallsville Quarter – a £600 million town centre project established in conjunction with the London Borough of Newham and property development company Linkcity. The hotel and surrounding residential and retail properties form a key part of the much wider £3.7 billion Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration Programme, which aims to transform and establish the east London area as a thriving and prosperous community.

ibis London Canning Town (5)ibis’ commitment to the local area includes the creation of 25 jobs at the hotel and supporting local food and beverage providers where possible – including trendy east London coffee roasters Climpson and Sons, who will provide beans for the hotel’s Chill #08 café bar and restaurant. The café and bar will act as a food and beverage hub for the area, for hotel guests and visitors alike.

Commenting on the opening, James Wheatcroft from ibis Hotels says: “When you think of cool areas in London you naturally look east. Canning Town is a brilliantly located, up and coming area, so we’re delighted that our hotel is an integral part of its regeneration. Our Chill #08 café bar and restaurant will attract hotel guests and local visitors alike, making it a real go-to destination in the community. We’re committed to offering all our guests access to incredible experiences and this new hotel is perfectly located to provide this, being a stone’s throw from The O2 and within easy reach of all our capital’s main attractions and key transport hubs, such as London City Airport and even Heathrow.”

ibis London Canning Town (4)Guests staying at the hotel can expect a good night’s sleep thanks to soundproof, air-conditioned rooms and revolutionary bedding concept, Sweet Bed™ by ibis. Free super-fast fibre Wi-Fi and 24-hour reception service will keep guests connected at all times.

ibis Canning Town will also feature ibis’ unique guest welcome initiative introduced in 2017. In all ibis hotels, guests are greeted on arrival by staff with room keys in hand who are linked to the ibis online fast check-in and check-out service via smartphones. This has replaced check-in desks and unnecessary waiting times with smiling faces and stress-free experiences, allowing even more time for guests to enjoy a stay in the city around them.

AccorHotels in Russia

Russia’s largest new hotel complex under AccorHotels management

1000 552 Daniel Fountain

Russia’s largest new hotel complex, Novotel Adagio ibis Moscow Kievskaya by AccorHotels management, is located right in the heart of Moscow, alongside the Moscow River and in between major business and historic districts.

Hotels surrounded by modern architectural ensembles and legendary historical buildings such as The House of the Government of the Russian Federation, The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Moscow Kievskaya railway station.

Russia's largest new hotel complex, Novotel Adagio ibis Moscow Kievskaya by AccorHotels management, is located right in the heart of Moscow

The complex consists of three well-known international hotel brands of various categories under one roof. Multifunctional shopping and hotel complex combines three hotels: Novotel Moscow Kievskaya with 202 rooms, Adagio Moscow Kievskaya with 149 rooms and ibis Moscow Kievskaya with 350 rooms.

Russia's largest new hotel complex, Novotel Adagio ibis Moscow Kievskaya by AccorHotels management, is located right in the heart of Moscow

Modern and stylish hotels offer the highest standards of international brands and a wide range of services: 24 hour room service, a cozy bar, two restaurants, a conference centre equipped with the latest technology and a wellness centre with a swimming pool.

Novotel Moscow Kievskaya
Adagio Moscow Kievskaya
ibis Moscow Kievskaya

Ibis Styles Hungary

Ibis Styles arrives in Hungary with two new properties

1000 634 Daniel Fountain

Economy designer brand Ibis Styles is thinking big with the opening of not just one but two new hotels in Budapest.

This is a new country for the brand and a new opportunity to once again convey its distinctive personality and character. To mark the occasion, the teams from AccorHotels Hungary have organised a custom inauguration event bringing together partners, clients and members of the local communities.

Opened back in May, the ibis Styles Budapest Centre and ibis Styles Budapest City, both former Mercure establishments, convey the “Happy Mood” feel of the ibis family. During the launch event, inspired by a storytelling concept for the two establishments, Gilles Clavie, President and CEO of Orbis SA/AccorHotels Eastern Europe, explained that: “The opening of the first ibis Styles hotels in Hungary is a major step for our Group in the region, as well as for the brand. With the arrival of ibis Styles to Hungary we are bringing innovation and a new hotel experience for the guests, offering unique design and atmosphere, a friendly service and welcome, where guest can feel the conviviality and unique storytelling created around the hotels”.

Ibis Styles Hungary

The talented Polish design agency Tremend created the interior decor for both establishments, which feature fun and distinctive living areas. Including bright and refreshing colours, modern materials, amusing geometric patterns and brightly-lit interiors, all aspects of the brand’s distinctive style contribute to a well-established and hard-hitting storytelling concept.

The goal of the ibis Styles Budapest Centre is to take its guests back to their happy childhood days with a “play” theme! With brightly coloured fitted carpets and video game illustrations featured on the walls of the bedrooms, game boards in the public areas and humorous signage, everything has been carefully designed to ensure that our guests have a fun and happy stay here.

Ibis Styles Budapest

For its part, the ibis Styles Budapest City offers guests a “bicycle ride” experience. This includes chair backs in the shape of handlebars, wheels for chandeliers, hanging bicycles or cycle lanes marked out on the ground. All cycle-related imagery inviting the guest to embark on a special journey.

“It was quite a gamble, but it paid off,” explained Armand Bikart, Design Director Eastern Europe at AccorHotels. “The challenge lay in totally redesigning the interior of two former Mercure hotels which were looking a little tired and even obsolete, with the aim of creating something completely different. And achieving all of this on a very tight budget. This is one of the brand’s first openings in the country and so we had to get it right. In my view, today we can all be very proud of the results. These two hotels are a showcase for modernity, with a very clear and unashamed designer feel to them”.

ibis, Brighton

ibis, Brighton (Patrick Goff)

1000 726 Daniel Fountain

Budget hotels have flourished in recession. Not only will business people trade down, but the ‘bang per buck’ element has become exaggerated as new budget hotels continue to come on stream whilst established hotels postpone refurbishment, waiting to see revenues grow again. Indeed many poor four stars, used to competing with similar establishments through price and the service they offer have become victims of this policy on both fronts. As an hotelier said, “when you drop your price it is akin to dropping your knickers to be popular – once down it is very difficult to get them up again”. Not only is raising prices again difficult but the level of service provided by budget chains like Premier inn, Campanile or Ibis has improved, in part due to ‘facilities creep’ and in part in response to their growing popularity and changing customer profile.

The Ibis Brighton City Centre is a prime example of this change. The new hotel has, says manager Dominic Sauls, been the subject of intense scrutiny by Brighton’s 4 star hotels and has already resulted in at least one bringing forward a refurbishment programme by two years. Brighton hotels are notorious for being shabby, and their financial management has been poor. After the previous recession one chain put 14 hotels on the market, including Brighton hotels, as too far gone to be refurbished (see the transformation on one wrought by new owners in Basingstoke’s Apollo) and after this latest collapse by the economy it is the Grand on Brighton’s seafront, badly served over the years by its owners, that has been put on the sale block.

The replacement of a somewhat seedy casino by the station with the new build Ibis was an opportunity that has been seized with vigour. Whilst the bedroom format (of which more later) is Ibis standard the ground floor public areas are not only proving a successful functioning design, but the operational management is also infusing them with some touches of the eccentricity that has characterised bawdy Brighton since the Prince Regent’s day.

ibis, Brighton

The location is a fifteen minute walk from the sea front but only a few strides from the magnificent glass roofed terminus that is Brighton station. Behind the hotel is the thriving arts and crafts driven area that the North Laines has become, its workers terraced houses and small shops creating a different kind of community to that of the older original Lanes and Georgian terraces and squares of the Brighton along the sea front. Brighton is a University town with a very large student population (the editor did his postgraduate studies here in the old art college) and the colleges drive occupancy along with the business community, as parents come to check up on or bail out their offspring studying here.

The major innovation for the Ibis branding is the introduction of an all-day bistro. Starting with the presentation of the full ‘English’ at breakfast as well as offering food and coffee all day alongside a bar service. This follows other of the budget brands in growing a food offering in addition to their previously bed only offer. This ‘facilities creep’ is the traditional slide up market and other hotels such as Yotel, Tune or Bloc hotels will slide in underneath by offering just a bedroom without any trimmings. Travelodge started a budget revolution in the UK by tacking bedrooms on to a chain of roadside eateries, the Happy Eaters, and Premier Inn separately grew out of Whitbread’s beer and food enterprises so it is not surprising to see other chains developing food services too.

ibis, Brighton

The Ibis in Brighton uses technology to enhance both the service and the guest experience. Electronic keys guard lift access, and electronic signage at reception allows management to tune and alter, for example, rate information almost at will. Thus if there is plenty of space rooms can be discounted but once break even has been reached prices can be altered, much as airlines make discount seat sales of a few seats on the plane and sell the rest at an increased and full fare mark-up.

The bistro area is simple and functional and despite its higher rate over surrounding ‘greasy spoon’ restaurants, it is also popular. In part this is due to the endless coffee supply and decnet food. The bar too was busy during my stay. Design of both areas enables service and cleaning to be done simply and easily by few staff, and the colour is bright and cheerful, using the ibis ‘house red’ colouring. Roller shutters conceal coffee machines etc, whilst the bar is a simple extension of the reception counter.

ibis, Brighton

Individual style touches relieve the strict functionality and the use of colour breaks up the space. There are small idiosyncratically designed stool at the bar tables for example, whilst large candle holders light the entrance door lobby. Local art is also being introduced in this area to further help both links with the surrounding community and the individuality of the unit.

ibis, Brighton

Bedrooms are always the most important area of an hotel, unless you are a party spot, where guests don’t so much sleep as collapse unconscious. The Ibis chain has recognised the competition for a good bed and has invested in new ‘Sweet Bed’ beds with thick comfort enhancing mattress toppers on each. The rooms are effectively soundproofed (except when some muppet doesn’t quite shut the window properly) so a good nights sleep is part of the experience although the chain stops short of the guarantee offered by Premier Inn. Premier Inn boasts it has the best beds (by Directory company Hypnos, the Queens bed makers) but the new beds at Ibis seem to be a match for them.

Room design amongst budget hotels has always been pared down to offer all the facilities needed by a guest for as small an installation cost as possible. Preformed units including podded bathrooms, take advantage of offsite manufacture and are just dropped into place. However here the chain has a number of rooms with a bathroom that is a site build, and they are larger than the standard podded unit. So much so that a four star chain providing shower rooms only will find itself with a cheaper competitor at a lower star rating offering a bathroom as good as theirs. In my view the bathroom is an area where competitive edge is being thrown away by hotel developers seeking ever cheaper installations.

ibis, Brighton

If the top luxury hotels are increasingly moving to his and her bathrooms in their offering why do mid-range operators think they can get away with shower only? It is this blindness to the preference of families and the 30% of guest surveyed who state categorically a preference for a bath that should enable four star hotels to differentiate themselves from the budget competition. When even in the budget market hotel groups offer baths as well as showers then the mid -range hotels in competing not just on service but on price too. The star rating authorities (an increasing irrelevance to hotels) are also ensnared in this web by approving five star hotels with shower only offerings.

It is not surprising in this scenario that the manager here has seen executives from his local competition checking out the offer. With a good location and a product that is markedly improved, as HotelDesigns saw in the Accor Blackfriars new builds, this Ibis poses a significant challenge as a new entrant into the Brighton hotel scene.

From a visit by Patrick Goff in November 2013. All images and words are ©Copyright HotelDesigns 2013