[photopress:hotels1973_the_sting_005.jpg,full,alignright]It is not easy being the PR for the French company hotel Accor. They have enough brands ranging from Ibis at the lower end (think high quality inexpensive) to the outright luxury end which is the Sofitel and that is moving up a fraction — not an easy trick — while Accor is positioning Pullman as an upscale hotel somewhere between the first-class hotel Sofitel and Novotel. The group aims to re-define the concept of business accommodation to make Pullman a dedicated place for living and corporate conferences.
At lunch a Novotel executive asked us — two journalists who have been working since there were wolves in Wales — if we had ever heard of Pullman. Ha!
The term Pullman was used to refer to railroad sleeping cars which were run by the Pullman Company (founded by George Pullman) in the United States. As a result (the PR person did not know this which makes one lament for modern education) every Pullman attendant thereafter was named George in his memory.
Indeed, in the splendid scene in the movie The Sting, where the card game is being manipulated on a Pullman, the organizer was the porter, name George. The real name of the actor has Larry Mann. (All of this is known because the writer used to work with one of the co-producers.)
[photopress:pullman_porter_1.jpg,full,alignleft]Pullman did not keep up the insistence on staff nomenclature when the trains came to Europe. They were run by the Pullman Company or were lounge cars operated by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits.
Specifically, in Great Britain, Pullman refers to the lounge cars operated by the British Pullman Car Company. Of which the most famous example was the Brighton Belle between London and Brighton. Sir Laurence Olivier traveled on it every day. When they dropped kippers from the breakfast menu he wrote in mighty protest. So British Rail closed the line. British Rail was like that in those days.
Gilles Pelisson, the chief executive officer of Accor, undoubtedly knows all this which is why he is the boss. He said, ‘The idea of Pullman is to fill a position in the five-star sector that is left by moving Sofitel higher in the market. We are raising the Sofitel brand’s standards to what is called upper-upscale in Europe, and Pullman will fit into the five-star sector under Sofitel and ahead of Novotel.’
The phrase upper-upscale is, I think, one we can live without. Probably reads better in the original French.
Next year, Gilles Pellison said the Pullman network would have 45 hotels operating in 23 countries in Europe, Asia Pacific, the Middle East and Latin America. By 2015, the company will have 250 Pullman hotels around the world.
In the Asia Pacific region, the Pullman brand will expand rapidly this year, with openings throughout Thailand and China. Further extensive development is planned throughout the region over the coming years, with an estimate of about 40 hotels in operation by 2010.
Note these are hotels not trains. A true Pullman train needs a smooth and well maintained track to work properly. In parts of Asia these are in short supply.
One idea to set the brand differently to the other competition is that Pullman will provide every client with a personal manager to take care of any problem around the clock. The company said, ‘Honesty and transparency are our testimony. The hotel wants to offer good value for money, so whatever a client pays, they will get double.’
Thus the concierge won’t be like George in The Sting. That George organized bent poker games.