Learning from mistakes is an inseparable part of achieving success. It is something Jean-Luc Chretien of Accor has gleaned from his career in the hospitality business.
“I learned a lot from experience because we don’t have the hotel anymore,” he said of the hotel group’s failure to develop its business in Thailand.
“We learned a lot in terms of pricing, how to work with local operators, choosing the right partners for distribution. From that we try not to do the same mistake twice.”
Accor opened its first hotel in Thailand in 1988, two years after Chretien joined Accor Resort as its marketing and sales director, but closed it abruptly.
Seasoned by the experience, he vowed not to make a second mistake twice in anything. He quoted one of his superiors in Accor who said: “You can always make a wrong decision but what you cannot do is to make the same one twice.”
Chretien, Accor’s executive vice president for sales, distribution and loyalty in Paris, was in Jakarta recently to inaugurate an Indonesian-language version of accorhotels.com.
He pronounced it one of his most memorable moments with the group because it has been a long journey to transform traditional distribution into something web based.
“It’s a very symbolic thing because we transformed e-commerce into a strategy beyond traditional languages and markets,” said the 54-year-old.
“Every time, every step that I take and every company that I work with, I become a part of the transformation process. Clearly my mission with Accor is to increase its capacity in distribution and to help develop new channels from e-commerce.”
He is self-effacing when asked to describe modern challenges in distribution.
“For me, the biggest challenge is the fact that I was not born in the Internet era,” he said disarmingly. “It’s like when I told my kids that TV used to be black and white and they didn’t believe me.”
He emphasizes the urgency of adapting to the changes through building a team of experts for optimal use of technology.
“The key to success in this is not simply about the website but about how you’re going to use it, to develop it, to create the traffic, to develop a partnership, etc…”. It also has been a learning process.
“We were not properly up for the challenge and we didn’t have the internal experts. We created a strong team for our website and in each country we recruited new people,” he explained.
“It’s a whole new management scheme in the hotel business since it requires so much expertise. But the people need to be looked after. We need to give them opportunities to develop themselves, otherwise they will sell themselves to somebody else.”
As a result of these focused efforts, his team has gained the trust of Accor hoteliers all over the world with unprecedented revenues.
“I try for my team as well for my company to be creative, but also to be very result-driven. We need to deliver the best results and to transform the way we do business,” he said.
When it comes to solving problems, he underscored the importance of listening to what people had to say and analyzing the situation first before deciding on a course of action.
“Because the worst thing you can do is to not to listen to what people tell you before making a decision. It’s not that you have to cope with everything they say, but you benefit from all the advice and then it’s your responsibility to make the decision.”
It’s all about teamwork in the end because, according to him, he will never become as good as the talented mix of people who work for him.
Chretien’s career in the hospitality business dates back to 1986 when he started with Accor Resort as its marketing and sales director. A few years later he was appointed senior vice president for distribution for the Disneyland Resort Paris; after a series of distribution and marketing endeavors with high-profile companies in Europe, Chretien returned to Accor in 2007.
Chretien’s ability to work on an international scale and to manage people from different nations and cultures probably also stems from the diversity in his family.
He and his wife, who is from New Zealand, adopted children from Cambodia and now they all reside in France. From the state of his family, he feels the world is now open to new things in many aspects of life.
While his job takes him all around the globe, he has also short-listed his dream places to vacation.
He picked Monument Valley near the Grand Canyon in the US as the best spot because he is fond of cowboy movies. Next up is Luxor in Egypt, New Zealand and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
“That’s it. I have to stop there because I hope the fifth place will be Bali,” he said cheerfully.
Although it’s a rare treat for him to visit Southeast Asia, he wishes to see more of the country, learn about its many cultures and work for the betterment of its people.
Name: Jean-Luc Chretien
Jan 2011 – present: EVP Sales, Distribution & Loyalty, Accor Paris Area, France
June 2009 – April 2012: EVP Marketing & Distribution, Accor Hospitality
Oct. 2007 – June 2009: EVP Distribution and Sales, Accor Hospitality
Feb. 2005 – Oct. 2007: Administrator, Rail Europe Group
Feb. 2005 – Oct. 2007: Director, International Distribution, SNCF – French Railways
May 2001 – Nov. 2004: SVP Sales and Marketing, Pierre & Vacances Tourisme
Nov. 1992 – April 2001: SVP Distribution, Disneyland Resort Paris
Jan. 1986 – Oct. 1992: Director Sales and Marketing, Accor Resort Hotels Division
– Featured in Jakarta Post on June 23, 2012 –