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Top 100: Thomas Dubaere, AccorHotels, UK & Ireland

19 April 2018 by
Top 100: Thomas Dubaere, AccorHotels, UK & Ireland

Overall ranking: 50 (33 in 2012)

Hotelier ranking: 8 (7 in 2012)

Snapshot

Thomas Dubaere has headed up the UK and Ireland operation of the global French company AccorHotels since 2012, initially as managing director and more recently as chief operating officer. Over the past 10 years, the company has doubled its portfolio in the UK to nearly 240 managed and franchised properties, representing more than 32,000 rooms.

While not all of AccorHotels' 28 brands are present in the UK, every sector is covered, from its collection of budget Ibis hotels to mid-market Novotel and Mercure properties, its upscale MGallery and Pullman hotels and luxury properties under the Sofitel and Fairmont brands. The 2016 acquisition of Fairmont, alongside Raffles and Swissôtel, was particularly significant, bringing the Savoy hotel in London and the Fairmont St Andrews under Dubaere's remit.

What we think

A graduate of the Brussels Hotel School, Dubaere also holds a master's in management from the University of Leuven. He joined AccorHotels in Belgium in 1990 at the Novotel Bruges Centre and moved to the UK in 2010, initially as managing director for budget brands at Accor UK & Ireland.

Dubaere has helped to oversee the digital transformation of the company. All Ibis hotels and selected mid-scale properties have moved their hotel systems onto smartphones and reception desks have been removed to allow staff to spend more time enhancing the guest experience.

Meanwhile, Dubaere has been instrumental in introducing new restaurant and bar concepts into the hotels to compete with high-street brands and attract a younger audience. Hence the launch of Chill coffee shops into Ibis, the Jamboree world food brand into Novotel, and Keepers, with its British-focused menu, into Mercure. There has also been the launch of Bokan, with its artisanal food and beverage offer, in Novotel's 313-bedroom global flagship property in London's Canary Wharf.

A move into the lifestyle sector has seen AccorHotels scoop up the designer-budget Mama Shelter and German boutique brand 25hours, as well as launch its own Jo & Joe economy concept, which blends hotel, hostel and private rental formats. While none of these has entered the UK so far, it has just been announced that Mama Shelter will make its UK debut with a 178-bedroom hotel in London's Shoreditch.

Another new brand to enter the UK and for which Dubaere will be responsible is Raffles Hotels & Resorts, which is to operate the luxury hotel under development in the old War Office building in Whitehall, London.

However, not all of AccorHotels' disruptive challenges to the industry have been successful. In an attempt to combat the power now held by online travel agents such as Expedia and Booking.com, the company opened up its own distribution platform for a number of independent hotels in 2015. At the end of last year it admitted that "results have been below expectations" after failing to add 10,000 hotels to the AccorHotels.com platform as forecast.

With AccorHotels now on the brink of selling half its real estate subsidiary AccorInvest for a reputed €6.6b (£5.7b) to finance expansion, boost profits and continue its focus on meeting exterior challenges, there is no reason to suspect that long-term employee Dubaere intends to move on from the company he joined 28 years ago.

Further information

RE Hotel London Shoreditch to become first UK Mama Shelter >>

AccorHotels booking platform closed to independent hotels >>

AccorHotels to acquire Gekko >>

AccorHotels to consolidate Travel Keys, Squarebreak and Onefinestay >>

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