Power List 2017, Jean-Michel Casse, COO, India and South Asia, AccorHotels

When in Rome, act like the Romans, goes the old adage. And if French and in India, just present an mélange of the two. At least that is Jean-Michel Cassé’s, COO, India and South Asia, AccorHotels strategy for the company in the country.
“We have adopted the ‘born in France, made in India’ approach in India by growing more AccorHotels properties across the country,” he said. When probed what he meant by this, he explained that every Accor Hotels have an element of Indianess while still holding on to its French heritage.

So, if guests visit Surya Palace Grand Mercure Vadodara, they can see sculptures by local artist Nagji Patel on the precincts. Similarly, if they go to Sofitel Mumbai BKC, a metal giant metallic elephant poses outside Jyran restaurant and this premium hotel also has a vegetarian restaurant, Tuskers.

Similar Indian nuances will be added to upcoming hotels that the hotel chain will unveil in the country. Currently, Cassé revealed that the company has a projected growth of over 55 hotels with over 10,000 rooms across tier-2 and -3 cities this year.

It was nine years ago that Cassé took charge of AccorHotels’ Indian operations and today his love affair with the country seems to continue unabated. In February 2017, the company promoted him as COO, India and South Asia; he was previously senior VP for AccorHotels India. Having worked across international markets, including Europe, Asia, Middle East and Africa, he has a fair idea about global operational issues and how to manage them in fast-growing geographies.

While announcing his appointment, AccorHotels’ chairman and CEO, Asia Pacific, Michael lssenberg, said that South Asia, and particularly India, is a significant market for AccorHotels globally and the company is committed to it for the long haul. The company has re-entered the India market with its first hotel in 2006.

“Cassé has played an integral role in our success in India since taking over responsibility in 2008. He will lead teams in the region to ensure Accor’s continued growth momentum in India and South Asia led by the group’s fervent focus on guests first and foremost while performing strongly for its owners and investors,” lssenberg added.

A seasoned hotelier, Cassé brings over three decades of industry experience and deep understanding of varied cultures. He is widely recognised for his organisational skills, and in 2004, he was awarded a Gold Bernache for Professionalism by the Chairman of AccorHotels.

In 2007, he was conferred with the ‘Chevalier de l’Ordre National du Merite’, a French honour for distinguished civil and military achievements by the erstwhile French President. By appointment of the French Prime Minister, Cassé is also a special adviser of the French Foreign Trade and President of the committee in India.

Cassé holds a Masters in Hotel and Tourism with a specialisation in services and management. He is passionate about travel and discovering new cultures, and likes to unwind with yoga and music.

AccorHotels owns brands like Sofitel, ibis, Novotel and Pullman in India and its primary focus is to expand the luxury segment in emerging markets like India. This is unsurprising considering that luxury accounts for over one-third of its hotel revenues globally.

Last year, it acquired Raffles, Fairmont and Swissôtel in a $2.7 billion deal, which will give its uber brand offerings an even more distinctive edge. According to various sources, the company is already getting feelers for these two brands though it has not announced any plans about any imminent launches.

At the moment, its key thrust area is expansion of its luxury platform where it sees substantial opportunity. While it will continue to strengthen its existing brands in the country, speculation is rife that it will bring global hotel chains, 25Hours and Banyan Tree, into India soon. However, nudge Cassé for a reply on this and all you get is a conspiratorial smile. So your guess is as good as our!
By Vinita Bhatia

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