Sofitel is the top luxury brand of the Accor family of hotels – and they are positioned far up the luxury ladder from the budget ibis hotels that make up the majority of Accor properties. So, how good can a luxury hotel be, when it is run by a budget chain? Read on to find out who they are and what you can expect!
So, who are they? Sofitel started with their first hotel in Strasbourg, France, in 1964 and grew to a chain of 100 hotels. They became part of the Accor group in 1997 and have continued to grow, especially in Asia. Today, they have 121 hotels in 41 countries.
Rather than just giving you one quote from their marketing material as usual in my hotel experience posts, I’ll give you a description with a couple of them – they are just that interesting! The brand slogan is “Life is Magnifique” and Sofitel celebrates its French heritage by promising to offer “a genuine experience of the French “art de vivre” “ Their positioning is based on three strategic pillars:
Design – “Sofitel joins forces with designers, architects and artists who interact with the different places and play with their codes”
Gastronomy – “building bridges between local cuisine and French food heritage”
Culture – “Sofitel is associated with cultural happenings and organises events”
And while for most hotels that would come across as marketing babble, in Sofitel’s case it actually holds true and is an authentic representation of the brand. I’ve found Sofitel properties to ooze style, showcase great design and offer fantastic food at their restaurants, distinguising them from the many cookie-cutter hotels with bland hotel restaurants!
Sofitel has taken this further by introducing two “lables” – the Sofitel Legend hotels, “often with historical, century-old buildings, legendary places imbibed in history, that are attractions in their own right in their town or country” and the Sofitel So hotels, designed in partnership with famous designers, like Christian Laxroix or Karl Lagerfeld! They have also taken their management experience downmarket to the slightly less luxurious “M Gallery” hotels by Sofitel.
What experience can I expect? Sofitel is a full-service, luxury brand, so you can expect all the amenities of the category and full pampering that comes at this price point. True to the brand promise, you can expect the hotels to be contemporary and tastefully stylish – more stylish than American luxury brands like Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton, and more tasteful than the sometimes over the top W Hotels. You can also look forward to some truly unique properties, like the Sofitel Luang Prabang, housed in an old villa and the oldest building in the chain.
And, also true to the brand promise, you’ll find unique restaurants, offering cuisine that is proud of its local roots and has a French touch. And those French touches continue into your room, with French luxury brands for the bath amenities or spa products.
You can also expect professional, sophisticated service at Sofitel properties. While the American chains sometimes struggle to uphold the high service standards in developing countries, I’ve frequently seen management staff trained at leading hospitality schools to supervise hotel operations and enforce a level of service that you don’t find at competing properties in that location. Somewhat to my surprise, belonging to Accor, a hotel group full of budget hotels, has not marred the luxury experience – Sofitel seems to have the freedom to operate without undue interference from the beancounters at headquarters! Few companies manage to serve budget and high-end markets AND do well at both ends of the spectrum!
Sofitel is part of the Accor LeClub rewards program – and, while you’d think that belonging to a large chain is an upside, it’s actually the only negative of being chained to a budget hotel group. Accor’s customer service for the reward program is generally pretty bad, with points frequently not posting and non-sensical, copy & paste letters being the standard of service when you try to get it fixed – that is a far cry from what you experience at the Sofitel hotels, so you might want to temper your expectations from the rewards program or it might spoil your stay!