voco was launched by parent company InterContinental Hotels Group, one of the world’s leading hotel companies in 2018. The new, upscale brand combines the reassurance of a worldwide brand with the informality and charm of an individual hotel. Here, RLI sits down with Will Yell, Head of voco, EMEAA to discuss how the brand came about, its growth since inception and plans for the future.

Originating from Latin, the very name voco means ‘to invite’ and ‘call together’, representing the brands thoughtful, uncomplicated and charming nature. Whether it’s a work trip, weekend get- together or a family celebration, the brand combines character and quality to create unstuffy hotels with welcoming hosts.

The brand was launched by InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) to address a gap in the $40bn upscale market, which is expected to grow a further $20bn by 2025. Currently there are 12 voco hotels open across Australia, the UK, Montenegro, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE.There are an additional 21 already in the pipeline in some fantastic locations such as Paris in France, The Hague in The Netherlands, Sydney and Melbourne in Australia and Edinburgh in Scotland, UK.

“We launched voco in June 2018, and it has become one of the fastest brand launches in IHG history,” comments Will Yell, Head of voco, EMEAA. “We always knew there was a real opportunity in the upscale market for a brand such as voco, one which caters equally well to leisure and business guests and offers a distinctive, unstuffy guest experience and it’s been fantastic to see the positive response we’ve had from guests and owners so far.”

Despite the undoubted impact Covid-19 has had on the industry, what with global travel restrictions and social distancing measures, Yell is still confident the company will have some flagship openings to look forward to in the next 12 months.

In the pipeline is the opening of voco Grand Central in Glasgow – a conversion of an iconic hotel in the heart of the city.The brand’s first new build property will launch in the centre of Melbourne and be part of the ‘380 Melbourne’ multi-use development.The business will make its debut in South East Asia, with the opening of voco Ma Belle Danang in Vietnam and finally it will complete its 4,300 room voco hotel in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

When discussing potential new markets,Yell explains that they see significant opportunity to convert urban destination and heritage properties in a wide range of locations.They are also very excited to see the momentum that is being built in Continental Europe and France – a perennially popular market where IHG has a strong value proposition and a great track record.

voco Dubai exterior
voco Dubai lobby
voco Gold Coast, Australia

So what is it that makes new properties attractive for voco?

“We developed this brand to appeal to owners of existing high-quality hotels. In that vein, we are excited by hotels which already have their own character and charm – and where we can thoughtfully layer on our identity. voco Oxford Thames is a fantastic example of this – a heritage property, steeped in history, which has been given a real lift by the voco visual identity and service style,” explains Yell.

Each hotel in the portfolio has its own sense of style and individual character whilst maintaining a playful and distinctive visual identity, with the signature yellow bringing a modern and vibrant flair to the hotel interiors.Whether it is a newly built property or a well-known hotel with plenty of history, they foster and celebrate all the individual spirit and elements that make a hotel successful.

The ethos of the brand is focused around three moments that they consider central to a guest’s stay. These are ‘Come on in’ – a signature welcome experience, swift and simple check-in with an unexpected, locally-influenced treat to kick-off a guest’s stay. Then there is ‘Me time’ – This encourages guests to take a moment for themselves with extra cosy beds and bedding, quality bathroom amenities, rejuvenating aerated showers, a variety of viewing content on Smart TVs and excellent connectivity in every room.

Finally there is ‘voco life’ – These are vibrant and sociable bar and lounge spaces that work for different moments of the day, so that guests always have space to relax and enjoy themselves – from offering a great coffee to start the day or shareable and classic dishes in the evening that provide something to talk about afterwards.

“We launched voco on the back of extensive guest and owner insight and have always sought to provide a more distinctive, less standardised experience than what many guests experience in the upscale segment,” explains Yell.

“Despite the challenges currently facing the hospitality industry, we are still in some active conversations with prospective voco hotel owners, and we look forward to continuing to build on voco’s momentum and expand it to new markets.”