Accor is to make its debut in the backpacker market, initially with three backpacker `hostels` in Auckland, Rotorua and Wellington, and with a number of other sites under consideration in the rest of New Zealand and Australia. Accor will be the first major hotel group to enter the backpacker market and will do so with the aim of providing contemporary backpacker-style accommodation but with more consistent and reliable operations. Accor will enter the market with product that meets the four main criteria of backpacker travellers - prime locations, good-value prices, and high levels of safety and cleanliness.
A new brand name will be launched soon for the backpacker`s initiative, which will be rolled out over the next twelve months with a combination of new developments and management takeovers.
All Accor backpacker hostels will be staffed by specialists in the area, with a 24 hours a day/7 days a week operation designed specifically for the needs of contemporary backpackers.
The first backpacker hostel signed is in Auckland and is being developed out of a heritage building located on Fort Street in the heart of the city`s backpacker and entertainment strip. The 435-beds hostel will comprise 40 en suite bedrooms and 355 beds in share-rooms of mainly four to six beds. The hostel will also include a bar and café area with regular entertainment and activities, self-cooking facilities, and a travel centre, which will provide internet and job search facilities, as well as assistance for visa applications, banking, CVs, and other clerical services.
The second hostel signed is in Wellington in Cambridge Terrace, off Courtney Place, in the heart of the the city`s most popular restaurant, entertainment and backpacker district. The 298-beds hostel will be developed out of heritage-listed 1930s art deco building, the King George Building, and will be the city`s newest and best fitted-out backpackers hostel.
A third hostel is being finalised in Rotorua, which is a popular location on the backpackers trail in New Zealand. Final discussions are taking place, but the hostel is already operating as backpacker`s accommodation and is regarded as the city`s best located hostel, with the widest range of facilities and activities for its guests.
Other key destinations in New Zealand for Accor`s backpacker chain include Christchurch and Queenstown. Following the roll-out of the New Zealand network, Accor will look to establish a similarly extensive network of hostels in Australia, with Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Cairns, the Whitsundays, Adelaide, Darwin, Broome and Perth amongst the targeted locations.
Latest surveys show that in both Australia and New Zealand, the backpacker sector is the fastest growing of the tourism market. Between 1993 - 1999 the number of backpackers visiting Australia grew at a rate of 14.5% p.a. (Jones Lang Lasalle). In the twelve months to June 2000, 423,400 backpackers visited Australia, generating 29 million nights or 26% of total international visitor nights. In New Zealand, the sector grew at an annual rate of over 11% for the year to March 2002, and the market represents a total of 3.6 million room nights annually.
Commenting on the launch of the backpacker initiative, Accor Managing Director for Australia/New Zealand, Michael Issenberg, said that the backpacker sector had not only proved itself to be the most resilient in the market, but also the sector with the greatest potential for future growth and diversification.
The backpacker travel experience is a very different one from that of the traditional tourist, who books an all-inclusive holiday package and stays in hotels,” he said. “And all the evidence suggests that more and more travellers - irrespective of their financial status and even age - are choosing to travel this way because of the lifestyle aspects of the experience.
“Our aim is not to change the backpacker experience, but rather to make it better and more reliable.
“Until now, most backpacker accommodation demand has been channeled into unbranded, low quality backpacker motels and hostels due to the lack of quality branded accommodation, but Accor is set to change that with a globally branded and professionally managed operation that will attract even more travellers to the sector.
“Our first two hostels in Auckland and Wellington are typical of the product we are planning to offer. Both have great character, in the best locations, and will have the best facilities and service in their respective markets. “New Zealand and Australia have been chosen as the global test-ground for the concept because they have the most sophisticated backpacker market in the world. Accor is already the largest accommodation group in the region and we will be able to utilise some of our systems for marketing and reservations, while employing experienced backpacker operators to manage the various hostels. “The backpacker segment is a logical progression for Accor, as we already are the leaders in providing accommodation for the economy and budget sectors, and recently we entered the youth market with the first-ever Contiki Resort in Australia.”
Mr Issenberg said that the principal markets for the backpacker hostels will be UK, Europe, America and the domestic region, but growth was also anticipated from Japan and the rest of Asia.
Accor is the worldwide leader in travel, tourism and corporate services, employing 147,000 employees in 140 countries, with two major international activities: hotels: 3,700 hotels (415,000 rooms) in 90 countries (including over 100 hotels and resorts in Australia and New Zealand under the brands Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure, All Seasons, Ibis and Formule 1) as well as travel agencies, restaurants and casinos; AND services to corporate clients and public institutions: each day, 13 million people in 31 countries use a broad range of services (food vouchers, people care and services, incentive, loyalty programs, events) engineered and managed by Accor.