France's Accor aims to open 100 hotels in China in 2-3 years

SHANGHAI Tue Feb 28, 2012 5:40am EST

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - France's Accor SA, Europe's largest hotelier, aims to open 100 hotels in China in the next 2-3 years, the chairman and chief operating officer of Accor Asia Pacific, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Michael Issenberg was speaking on the sidelines of a news conference in Shanghai, where the company launched a customised Mercure brand for the Chinese market.

With operations in 90 countries ranging from the luxury Sofitel chain to budget Ibis and Motel 6 brands, Accor hopes the new initiative will mean an increased share of a highly competitive market.

Issenberg added that the company had opened 66 hotels in China last year and was targeting a similar number this year.

The customised Mercure brand will be called Grand Mercure -- "Mei Jue" in Mandarin. The hotels will cater to upscale domestic travellers, offering services such as morning Tai Chi exercises and 24-hour rice porridge.

Accor (ACCP.PA) plans to expand the Grand Mercure network to 65 hotels across tier-one to tier-three cities by 2015, from 10 currently. The firm said in a statement that it has already secured commitments for 10 hotels.

"The Grand Mercure brand provides Accor with a fresh platform for organic upscale expansion throughout the country," Accor Greater China Chairman and Chief Operating Officer Sam Shih said in a statement.

InterContinental Hotels Group Plc (IHG.L), the world's top hotelier, has also made expansion in China a top priority. It plans to launch a new brand developed for the Chinese market. In October, IHG said it had signed 12 contracts for its new hotel brand and intended to take the brand overseas.

Accor, which owns 4,200 hotels worldwide, recently confirmed its objective of opening 40,000 rooms in 2012. The company operates seven brands and 121 hotels in Greater China.

(Reporting by Melanie Lee; Editing by Chris Lewis)