Up Close With Franck Kermarrec, Millennium Hotels & Resorts

Millennium Hotels and Resorts operates a global portfolio of 135 properties under three umbrella collections: Leng’s Collection, signature independent 4 and 5-star properties, including the new M Social brand of hotels; Millennium Collection, the brand of 4 and 5-star properties that carry the Millennium name; and the Copthorne Collection of value-priced hotels. Luxury Travel Advisor caught up with Franck Kermarrec, global chief marketing officer, who joined Millennium earlier this year and is based in their London headquarters, to learn about Millennium’s plans for growth and upgrades of existing hotels around the world.

Which Millennium properties are most suitable for luxury travelers?  

For luxury travelers, the Leng’s and Millennium collections, which include the company’s most iconic hotels [such as] the Grand Palace on the Via Veneto in Rome, M Social in Singapore designed by Phillipe Starck, the 140-year-old Baileys Hotel in London, and the Millennium Biltmore—famed for hosting the Oscars—in L.A. It is my belief that the greatest strength of our portfolio is our locations within each destination. We have hotels in 13 U.S. cities, from the historic Bostonian in Boston, the Knickerbocker in Chicago to the recently refurbished Millennium Broadway and the Premier by Millennium, both in Times Square, New York City. And around the globe, we also are well-situated for both leisure and business; the new M Social in Auckland is good example. It's by the harbor, next door to the Google offices, while offering easy access to main attractions of the city. 

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Where are your main areas of growth?  

We are growing in two ways, by adding new properties and investing capital in our current portfolio. Globally, the Middle East and China are hot for us, but we are also focusing upgrading our current properties. Here in London, we are doing an exciting overhaul of the guest rooms and public spaces in our Millennium Hotel Mayfair hotel on Grosvenor Square, which has just started and will finish in early 2019. Many of our properties are in the plans for renovation—Knightsbridge, Glasgow, Birmingham, also in Paris and Singapore. In some instances, we are converting existing hotels into the M Social brand. Again, Auckland is a great example; this hotel was formerly a Copthorne.

What is Millennium’s M Social brand about?

Social is our newest brand, which was created a few years ago from the vision of our Chairman and Owner, Kwek Leng Beng, who engaged Philippe Starck to bring his idea to life as a  beautiful hotel in Singapore. M Social is a festive brand full of joy with lots of color, yet the vibe is laid back with the right level of technology, a bit quirky in the design to capture the feeling of the destinations. We opened the second M Social in Auckland, New Zealand, we are opening a new M Social in Shanghai and a few others coming. I love this brand and can't wait for more M Social hotels to open!

What is your first priority since joining Millennium six months ago?  

Revamping the loyalty program, and I am happy to tell you there will be an exciting component for travel advisors. We are inventing something new for loyalty. Our revised program will be simpler, more clear and more transparent for guests. We are moving away from points and tiers, which I think is an old fashioned way of looking at loyalty. We want to reward our guests almost instantly and be part of the memorable experiences they will have in our hotels

What will the new loyalty program offer?  

The new program will launch in the middle of 2018 with more tangible “micro benefits”—things linked to the hotels and experience like upgrades, afternoon teas and cocktails, club access, as well as useful and immediate benefits with partners that are meaningful to our guests. We might offer things like a code to get two months free with our video streamlining partner. Overall, our aim is to make the program less transactional and more about authentic benefits with real value. We will also introduce a separate loyalty scheme for the Leng’s Collection which will launch mid-next year. The Leng’s Collection program will provide experiential rewards, such as a private visit to V&A Museum, a cooking master class in Auckland, a visit to a movie studio in Los Angeles, or other exclusive access to events and places.  

Any specific plans for the Travel Advisor community?  

Travel advisors are very important to us. With 36,000 rooms and 135 hotels, we are still small compared to the big hospitality players. Despite our scale, we keep investing in our sales force and tools, with a priority to keep relationships going with travel agents, mostly with personal one-to-one meetings. Maybe a bit old fashioned, but it works!  We have a very stable and long tenured sales force. 

With so many Millennium Hotels to visit you must travel often, what are your personal top travel hacks?

Before I get on a flight I always switch my watch to time of the place I am going. I try to never drink a drop of alcohol on a plane, and change my eating, as I don’t eat the breakfast just before landing if the plane is arriving at 6 p.m.

Any tips for visitors to London?  

I’ve lived in London six years, and love it. My favorite places are not far from where I live in Fulham. I love Bluebird on the Kings Road in Chelsea and the best pub is the Harwood Arms (a Michelin star pub); you need to plan and book three to four weeks ahead, but it is totally worth it!

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