The Strategy Interview

Thomas McCaffreyVice-president, sales and marketing, Novotel North AmericaThomas McCaffrey was recently appointed vice-president, sales and marketing for Novotel North America, based in Scarsdale, n.y. Novotel, part of the Accor Group of France, owns 270 hotels worldwide. There are six in Canada,...

Thomas McCaffrey

Vice-president, sales and marketing, Novotel North America

Thomas McCaffrey was recently appointed vice-president, sales and marketing for Novotel North America, based in Scarsdale, n.y. Novotel, part of the Accor Group of France, owns 270 hotels worldwide. There are six in Canada, four in the Toronto area and one in Montreal and Ottawa, and three in the u.s. Before joining Novotel, McCaffrey was executive director, international sales with Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts, spending 15 years in New York City, three in Chicago and five in Toronto with this hotelier as a regional executive and international sales director.

Q. What is Novotel’s positioning in the marketplace? Sofitel is Accor’s luxury chain, where does that put Novotel?

A. It’s a hotel chain which is worldwide and is very much targetted at the business travel market and the family leisure travel market. It’s mid-range, mid-scale Some of Novotel is two-star. Novotels don’t have doormen and bellmen so that would classify you as a two-star hotel. There’s only one bar so that might make it a three-star hotel. But the rooms, the size of the rooms, the level of service from staff, amenities in the room and bathrooms would put us at a four-star level. So you’re paying at three-star level price and getting four-star service.

Q. What chains do you consider to be Novotel’s competition?

A. That’s the problem – and it makes a problem for me – because I’m a little more classically trained. If you’re three-star you go out and look at all your three-star competitors.

I came from Canadian Pacific Hotels and Resorts, a four-star hotel company, so we looked at all of our four-star competition. When this recession hit, you certainly saw the upper-end hotel companies scaling back. cp dropped business class as an example because people weren’t buying it as a product. So coming back down to reality, they said we have to scale down on some of our amenities so we can cut some of our prices.

It’s not so much who we’re [Novotel] competing with, it’s who is competing with us. We’re now competing with some of the four-star chains and independent hotels for business, which, before, they wouldn’t have gone after.

Q. What about the future of the hotel business in Canada? Are we about to see an influx of new chains or are the present ones just going to try to survive?

A. There’s an expression that’s gone around that I’ve heard in the last couple of years and that is, ‘stay locked until 95.’ I don’t know if we’ll see an influx of new hotel chains. I think we’ll continue to see hotels being re-flagged. They will change chains rather than start new hotel construction.

Right now, I don’t think it’s profitable to build new hotels. Hotel companies that have been in the brick and mortar business – owning the hotel, owning the land – today are looking at management contracts as opposed to ownership of the property itself.

Back to my experience at cp, the only hotel cp really sunk a lot of money into from a construction point of view was Whistler [in b.c.] and they ended up selling it to a Japanese company because it was just too expensive a hotel.

Q. Are there any voids in the market that haven’t been filled by existing chains?

A. I don’t think so. I think everybody is trying to find a niche market. And there are some chains that are trying to find multiple niche markets and tailor different parts of their product to it.

There are hotels that are going after the seniors’ market, which is still a very good market. I don’t think enough has been done in the seniors’ market, and we’re going to look at some things that appeal to seniors.

Q. How would you target seniors?

A. I don’t want to give too much away, but there’s a lot to suggest seniors want more activities. There could be more activities that are education-oriented activities, that we really have to re-think that whole marketplace. The escorted tour market is not disappearing but dissipating and becoming something else.

The whole definition of the seniors’ market for hotels has to take on a new approach. We’ve traditionally looked at – and it’s terrible to say it – what has been called the ‘blue rinse set.’ That’s different today.

Seniors are much more active and independent. They’re independent travellers not restricted to getting on motorcoaches and travelling in groups.

They are the business travel group that is now aging and retiring. They are accustomed to jumping on planes, renting cars and going places on their own. They’re looking for fun and interesting things to do and not just touring around taking pictures of Niagara Falls.

Q. Do you have plans to step up marketing efforts?

A. Yes, because we have some new things that have happened only recently. We’ve changed our logo. We have a new 1-800 number that’s coming on. And, we have something that’s called the Novotel Worldwide Project that we want to talk about with our customers.

Novotel Worldwide is also a very strong supporter of the World Wildlife Fund through a number of different programs.

That is something we will also be promoting our participation in. We’re also looking for local opportunities with different organizations, not just national organizations, but local charities and groups where we can fit in and be of real assistance.

Q. What is more important, chain-wide branding or local community efforts?

A. There’s a certain value to promoting Novotel North America as part of Novotel Worldwide because we are not well known.

In Europe, there are so many more Novotels, and you would know the Novotel name in France, Germany and the u.k. But in North America, with so few hotels and not really having that recognition, you want to be able to promote some of that and be able to talk about Novotel NA as being part of a worldwide organization.