IT WAS LIKE a ribbon-cutting at a new company.
Radisson Hotel Group launched its brand conference on April 3 with a general session in which leadership laid out the rebranding, repositioning and growth plans of the parent company as well as its brands in the Americas. The revival targets two brands well known throughout the U.S. – Country Inn & Suites and Radisson.
Known as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group until early last month, the Minneapolis-based hotel owner and franchiser is undergoing an historical transformation its leaders say will make Radisson Hotel Group one of the top three hotel companies in the world in just five years.
“We are more than a new name,” said Ken Greene, president of the Americas, during Radisson Hotel Group’s Americas brand conference this week at Rosen Shingle Creek Resort in Orlando, Florida.
“Our vision our goals our new initiatives for the Americas are being launched at this conference,” Greene said. “Over the next five years, we will focus exponentially on increasing rooms and driving revenue to our properties.”
Not even a little rain the night before could dampen the enthusiasm and hopefulness the company shared with current and prospective franchisees the following morning.
HNA of Hainan, China, acquired the family-owned company in December 2016. Over the ensuing year, the company restructured its leadership, which in turn restructured the company’s divisions, bringing in new people with new ideas on how to transform its stagnating brands into energized money-making ventures. “We’ve created a whole new organization. Our number-one focus is you,” Greene told owners.
Radisson Hotel Group will “change the hotel industry landscape” through new design; a ground-breaking technology package that includes PMS, CRS and revenue management; and revamped marketing initiatives, including transforming its Club Carlson loyalty program into Radisson Rewards.
“Our guests demand change. It’s a whole new world of global travel,” said John M. Kidd, CEO of Americas. He explained the company chose Radisson as the name of the company, which he called the “umbrella brand,” because of its high recognition by travelers in the U.S. and the rest of the world. The company has three hotel brands with the name Radisson – Radisson, Radisson Blu and Radisson Red.
The strategy to reposition Radisson Hotel Group is very well thought out, Kidd said. The three guest-centric prongs in the makeover are making sure guests feel at ease, are able to experience the local area during their stay and take away some memorable moments.
“Last October, we started the machine turning,” Kidd said. “We are breaking new ground. Destination 2020 is only a milestone, a stop along the way. Radisson Hotel Group’s success is a journey.”
In all, Radisson Hotel Group has eight brands and 1,400 hotels that do business in 114 countries. Its two most-ubiquitous brands in the U.S. are Radisson, an upscale, full-service hotel, and Country Inn & Suites, an upper midscale select-service brand. Both brands received a lot of attention during the first day of the conference as company leaders outlined how they will work with franchisees to rejuvenate properties and market to a wider audience of travelers.
Country Inn & Suites marked its 30th year in business last year. Aly El-Bassuni, head of franchise operations at Radisson Hotel Group, said Country Inn & Suites will continue to be an anchor brand for the company. “It is a strong brand,” El-Bassuni told owners during a special brand session.
The brand’s footprint grew throughout the U.S. primarily because of Asian American franchisees investment. A few years ago, the company rolled out the brand’s Gen 4 prototype, but owners have been slow to transition to the new design. So far, more than 100 hotels have the new design. The company has franchised more than 450 Country Inn & Suites hotels, mostly in the U.S.
To meet its plan to double the number of Country Inn & Suites hotels in Radisson Hotel Group’s inventory, the company is revving up the Gen 4 redesign program. It will offer loans to owners who cannot find financing for the upgrades through conventional lenders. The company will also end licensing contracts with owners who do not take part in the PIP. Quality reviews of the hotels will begin this summer. “We are willing to become a little bit smaller to set the stage for growth,” El-Bassuni said.
Radisson Hotel Group has launched similar loan and quality assurance programs for Radisson while unveiling a new prototype for guestrooms at the conference. The overhaul of the brand is significant. It encompasses a total rebranding in imagery and messaging, adopting Scandinavian lifestyle and design influences to create a calm and simple guest experience. Radisson Hotel Group will roll out redesigns of Radisson hotel’s public spaces later this year. There are 160 Radisson hotels in the Americas, mostly in the U.S. Radisson Hotel Group expects to remove 10 percent to 15 percent of “non-compliant” hotels in the coming months.