New ‘hotelplex’ in Seoul a test for Accor

All that glitters is gold. This sculpture, an emblem of the complex, beckons guests to visit

Aside from the challenge of filling 1,700 new rooms in a soft market, AccorHotels’ new ‘lifestyle hotelplex’, Seoul Dragon City, is a test whether four Accor brands of different price points can co-exist without any downsides in one complex.

The brands are Grand Mercure (202 rooms), Novotel Suites (286 rooms), Novotel (621 rooms) and ibis Styles (591 rooms).

Interviewed about this in Seoul on November 1, Accor’s chairman and CEO Sebastien Bazin told TTGmice that Seoul Dragon City is a “bigger, stronger” push by the chain in co-locating brands under one roof.

All that glitters is gold. This sculpture, an emblem of the complex, beckons guests to visit

“Novotel and Ibis have shared a common lobby space, same back of the house – there’s a lot of efficiency which the clients won’t notice,” said Bazin. “Why should we limit this to only two brands when three or four will bring us even greater economies of scale?”

On the question if a Grand Mercure client would take kindly to sharing space with an ibis guest, Bazin said: “If we have clients who don’t accept differences in means, social status, colour of the skin, religion, culture, they shouldn’t be staying with us. They should accept these differences. The more they cross, the better their experiences will be. It is totally part of my strategy to mix them, as well as with the locals, as much as I can (in areas such as F&B and entertainment).”

Bazin said hotels had been “too draconian” in their thinking that a restaurant in Novotel should only be for Novotel guests, or a bar in ibis should only be for Ibis guests.

“It’s totally wrong to me. When you go to a restaurant in any place, you do not know who the person having dinner next to you is. He could be a student, an investment banker, a government official, a CEO. Why do we accept that elsewhere and not in hotel restaurants? This is precisely why we built the Sky Kingdom,” he said.

Sky Kingdom, suspended on the top between ibis Styles and Grand Mercure buildings, comprises four full floors of entertainment. Highlights include the King’s Vacation, a lounge bar that reinterprets the royal European vacation, with a range of cuisines and beverages on offer; an indoor swimming pool, Skywalk; and a performance stage.

Another is the Sky Beach, a private beach club with music and international cuisine with a setting reminiscent of the legendary beach clubs of Greece or Las Vegas.

The only downside to the hotelplex that Bazin could think of, was the possible price comparison.

“People have to understand why they pay US$20 more to be in the same facility,” he said. “Other than that, the design is superb, the location is great and, don’t be afraid of the size, 1,700 rooms. Hotels in Las Vegas have 6,000 rooms.”

Patrick Basset, Accor’s COO Upper South-east and North-east Asia, added that Seoul Dragon City was a mixed-use development with multiple market segments including MICE, long and short-stay service apartments, and is designed to be a new destination in its own right.

A site inspection led by cluster general manager of Seoul Dragon City, Jerome Stubert, shows a jaw-dropping ultra-modern complex with each hotel easily the next-gen product of its brand.

MICE facilities are equally contemporary in design and have “the highest technology possible”, said Basset. There are two grand ballrooms of 1,200m2 each, 17 meeting rooms, and 11 restaurants and bars.

The developer, KOSDAQ-listed Seobu T&D Corporation, is said to have spent some US$400 million on the construction, which represents its foray into hotel investment, said a source.

Accor started its partnership with the Ambassador Hotel Group 30 years ago managing the latter’s hotels. Since 2005, the joint venture, Accor Ambassador Korea, has been managing other people’s assets.

Seoul Dragon City takes its name from the Yongsan (Dragon Mountain) District where it is located. This is in the centre of Seoul close to major business districts such as Yeouido and Gangnam, and commercial districts including Itaewon and Myeongdong, said Accor. The complex is adjacent to malls and shopping centres, movie theatres, tourist attractions and embassies, it added.

The hotelplex is 57km from Incheon International Airport and 22km from Gimpo International Airport.

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