THINGS WERE DIFFERENT for Radisson Hotel Group when it last had its annual conference and created its five-year plan, Destination 2022, including the company’s ownership. But the message from company leaders at this year’s Radisson Americas Business Conference in Miami Beach, Florida.
“The past few months have all been about increasing momentum,” said Ken Greene, Radisson’s president for the Americas, at the conference’s opening general session.
During last year’s conference, Radisson was still owned by HNA Group of Hainan, China, and had just changed its name from Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group to Radisson Hotel Group, which includes Minnetonka, Minnesota-based Radisson Hospitality Inc. and Radisson Hospitality AB in Brussels, Belgium.
After the July 3 death of HNA Group’s co-founder and co-chairman Wang Jian, Radisson found itself on the block as the company also sold off many of its other overseas investments.
It was picked up by China-based Jin Jiang International Holdings. Jin Jiang and its subsidiaries, including Radisson, have about 12,000 hotels and 1.3 million rooms worldwide.
“While HNA was extremely supportive of our business and the creation and execution of our five-year plan, it’s no secret that there were a lot of changes in their business structure over the past year,” said Radisson Hospitality, Inc. CEO and Chief Operating Officer John Kidd.
Kidd said he is confident the acquisition by Jin Jiang will elevate the company to “a new level of strength.”
“We are now owned by one of the leading international travel and hospitality companies, actually the second largest hotel company in the world. In addition, Jin Jiang’s loyalty program has 150 million members,” he said. “This type of size, coupled with the record number of Chinese consumers traveling abroad, provides a number of powerful opportunities for us.”
Kidd, who came to the company with HNA, shared his personal experience with his new owners.
“When I worked in China personally, Jin Jiang was always a formidable competitor. They were also known as being an employer of choice, especially for those seeking to enter the hospitality industry in China.”
Jin-Jiang’s acquisition of Radisson Hospitality AB, meanwhile, is in the final stages of the process of acquiring 100 percent of the company’s stock as required by Swiss law, where the company is traded. The consortium of companies led by Jin Jiang to make the acquisition plans to “squeeze-out” remaining minority owners of Radisson Hospitality AB after its most recent bid for the remaining in the company was approved my most stockholders. That bid left the consortium with 94.12 percent of the Radisson shares and votes, not the 100 percent buy out it needs to satisfy Swedish law.
The consortium is expected to complete the acquisition, however.
“It will happen, it’s just a matter of when,” said Jenny Lindstrom, Radisson’s executive vice president and general counsel.
Meanwhile, Kidd said a global steering committee has been working on ways to bridge the gap between Radisson Hospitality Inc. and its European counterpart.
“What [Radisson Hospitality AB President and Chief Operating Officer Federico González] and I decided to do was to work together like partners because we all felt like our owners, customers and talent deserved better than working in two totally separate environments,” Kidd said. “We wanted everybody to feel that our brands are the same no matter the geographic location.”
But Destination 2022 remains the main focus of the company, Kidd and Greene said, and that includes growing the company’s seven brands organically and introducing new prototypes. Other news at the conference included progress in those areas.
The company introduced a new prototype model room for its Park Inn by Radisson brand at the conference. Targeting the upper midscale market, the new prototype aims to maximize space within a compact footprint.
“Over the past few years we have had strong traction with the brand in Latin America and Europe,” Kidd said. “Backed by our new design prototype and strong development momentum, we hope to leverage this success and bring renewed energy and growth for Park Inn by Radisson throughout the Americas.”
During the conference, the company also unveiled a concept of the next generation guest room design for the Radisson RED brand in the Americas. The boutique RED brand is aimed attracting young travelers in urban markets, offering a casual atmosphere focused on music and art.
“Since opening our first RED in Minneapolis in late 2016, we have learned a lot, both operationally and from our guests,” said Phil Malcolm, Radisson’s vice president for technical services,. “Our latest design concept reflects the continued evolution of RED while staying true to its core pillars.”
Radisson also announced an expansion of its RED and Radissson Blu brands with the addition of six new properties in the Americas. That includes the Radisson Blu Hotel Fargo in Fargo, North Dakota, scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2020; the Radisson RED San Francisco Airport in San Francisco, California, set to open in late 2022; and the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, North Little Rock, Arkansas, set to open in the third quarter of this year and owned by Nupen Patel.
The North Little Rock Country Inn is Patel’s sixth hotel with Radisson and his fourth signing with the company in the last 12 months. The hotel will undergo a $3 million renovation following Radisson’s latest Generation 4 design concept.
“This is someone who wants to be with us, who wants to grow with us,” Greene said about Patel.