Raffles and Fairmont CEO on growing hotels with soul in the Americas and beyond


Some of the shiniest luxury tools in Accor’s brand toolbox are overseen by Omer Acar, the CEO of two of Paris-based Accor’s glitziest brands: Raffles Hotels & Resorts and Fairmont Hotels & Resorts.

Fairmont has longtime brand recognition in the U.S. and Canada, as the luxe hotel chain dates to properties that sprang up along the Canadian Pacific Railway in the late 1800s. In the U.S., the brand launched in 1907 with the opening of the Fairmont San Francisco and has since grown to be Accor’s best-known brand in the Americas.

Raffles, on the other hand, is less of a known entity. Yes, it’s no spring chicken: The first Raffles opened in Singapore in 1887. But save for a short-lived stint in Beverly Hills, California, the ultra-luxury brand only just opened its first North American hotel-condo project in Boston. The rest of the Raffles portfolio is largely in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Expect more from both brands in this part of the world. While their parent company might be based in France, the two brands now call New York City home for their corporate headquarters.

“This really represents the new chapter for both Raffles and Fairmont and, of course, our commitment in the U.S. and especially in North America,” Acar said in an interview with TPG.


The immediate development pipeline for Raffles includes locations in Jaipur, India, a second Singapore location and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

But Acar notes the Raffles team is also looking at future locations in North America, China, Europe and the Middle East. The Raffles and Fairmont CEO told TPG the company is specifically looking in Mexico and Central America, as well as Miami, New York City and the West Coast for North American growth opportunities.

While travelers might look to experience Raffles butler service for themselves closer to home, Acar emphasizes the company isn’t looking to flood any city or country with multiple hotels just for the sake of growth. After all, Raffles’ hometown of Singapore has had to wait 137 years (plus a few more months from now) to see a second Raffles open its doors.

It’s about methodical growth regarding where Raffles will next open — and it all boils down to location, location, location.

“Yes, it’s good to have a hotel in the future in New York. It’s good to have a hotel in Miami, but where in Miami, where in New York will also impact the brand and that’s why we are extremely careful about where and who we partner with,” he added.

On the Fairmont front, the brand has 90 hotels today with an additional 34 in various stages of development. Fairmont has planned openings later this year in Prague and Long Beach, California. Other hotels are in the works for Thailand, South Africa and Czechoslovakia.

A third of the existing Fairmont portfolios is currently under renovation, so travelers familiar with the brand might want to check out their favorite Fairmont hotel to see what’s new. While Raffles in Boston might be Accor’s shiny new toy in New England, Acar noted the Fairmont around the corner is also about to be renovated.

Raffles and Fairmont CEO on growing hotels with soul in the Americas and beyond

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. SUMMER HULL/THE POINTS GUY

The Raffles experience

American and Canadian travelers might be well versed in Fairmont, whether it’s in the city at the historic Fairmont Copley Plaza Boston or more of a resort setting like the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise.

But Raffles is likely more of a lesser-known entity save for the fact that it’s the hotel to stay at in Singapore … and the birthplace of the Singapore sling cocktail. Like Fairmont, a historic element goes with Raffles … and a laser-sharp focus on detail, service and luxury.

“[Raffles Hotels] are more like a jewel box rather than a tackle box,” Acar said with a laugh.

Expect smaller room counts, butler service, fresh flowers and friendly team members. But there’s also an effort to court more locals to utilize the hotels as well. Long Bar at Raffles Singapore might be the place tourists flock to for the Singapore sling, but power dining is also at the storied hotel with offerings like the North Indian restaurant Tiffin Room or La Dame de Pic, a French restaurant open for lunch and dinner.

In Boston, Raffles strikes a fine balance with Amar, a high-end Portuguese restaurant with views overlooking the city’s Back Bay neighborhood, and Blind Duck, a speak-easy that has turned into the must-have table in town mere weeks after first opening.

“With luxury retail, they sell you the dream,” Acar said. “We deliver the dream.”

Hotels with soul

There are brand parallels between Raffles and Fairmont in that both offer history in many of their properties.

Writers Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling were some of the earliest guests to stay at Raffles Singapore. Raffles London at The OWO, one of the newest hotels in the brand portfolio, is a result of an eight-year restoration of the city’s Old War Office — a building once home to Winston Churchill and that counted James Bond creator Ian Fleming as a regular.

Along with Fairmont’s Canadian railway ties, the Fairmont San Francisco is a survivor of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake that occurred shortly before its planned opening. Fairmont manages The Plaza in New York City, and the Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston has a beaux-arts style that can feel a bit like Versailles meets New England.

“For me, when I enter a Raffles or one of the long-lasting Fairmont properties, you kind of enter there and feel the pressure on your shoulders,” Acar said. “Everything in those hotels has taken place: birth, marriages, bar mitzvahs and celebrations. They’re very important stones of the fabric of that city.”

“You can build a new hotel, but you cannot build that soul,” he later added.

So, stepping back, what’s the right note to strike in terms of luxury and ultra-luxury at Accor while remaining a standout — especially as it looks to gain a foothold in the U.S. against competitors like Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton?

“What should we be doing? Focusing on what we are good at and just get better and better instead of just trying to be innovative [or] just being a part of ever-changing pop culture,” Acar said. “I’d rather be stylish than fashionable because I believe fashion changes, but style remains.”

Fairmont and Raffles won’t come and go like a pair of hot pants or frayed jeans. These two want to have staying power like a Chanel jacket.

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By: Cameron Sperance
Title: Raffles and Fairmont CEO on growing hotels with soul in the Americas and beyond
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Published Date: Thu, 28 Mar 2024 14:00:28 +0000