Hotels no longer limit themselves to simply being categorized as hospitality brands. For many groups, the ultimate goal is to morph into a full-service lifestyle brand while staying relevant. Radisson Hotel Group is one such company that has a comprehensive and thought-out plan for achieving this, while delivering memorable moments to guests and building key relationships with owners and investors.
As travelers increasingly seek out brands they can trust, and as hospitality companies position themselves for future success in the ever-evolving global travel landscape, the trend of transforming hotel brands into integrated lifestyle brands continues to expand.
Over the last three years, Radisson Hotel Group has introduced a select number of relevant and compelling brands to owners and guests alike, focusing on upscale and lifestyle segments with Radisson, Radisson RED and Radisson Collection, as well as the newest brand, Radisson Individuals.
The hospitality landscape today looks a lot different now than it did at the start of 2020 due to Covid-19, but through diverse brand offerings, partnerships, business development strategies and expansion, the Group continues to pursue its mission to be one of the top hotel brands in the world and the brand of choice for owners, guests, and talent.
From its acquisition by Jin Jiang International in 2018, to the new launch of Radisson Individuals, which offers independent hotels the opportunity to be part of the global Radisson Hotel Group platform, but with the freedom to maintain their own uniqueness, the Group is shifting its strategy to meet the demands of the modern market.
SkiftX spoke to Elie Younes, executive vice president and chief development officer at Radisson Hotel Group, about the company’s strategic approach and vision for the future. Here are five key learnings from Radisson Hotel Group’s five-year operating and development plan:
1. Harnessing Adversity
When Radisson Hotel Group launched its ambitious five-year plan in 2018, the aim was to optimize its brand portfolio to significantly impact performance and results through global transformation. In 2018 and 2019, the Group achieved record results but then, like the whole industry, faced challenges due to the pandemic.
Despite the difficulties, the Group managed to deliver strong results in 2020 when it came to expansion. ‘’Adversity is challenging, but it also makes you stronger and what matters is how you chose to respond when faced with adversity,” said Younes. “We remain prudently optimistic about the recovery of the industry and are hoping to see the effect of the vaccine rollout in 2021 and 2022. Even in adverse times, we signed 42 new hotels with 7,500 rooms in EMEA and 84 hotels in APAC.”
It’s critical to stay relevant to owners during such tough times. “You need to innovate, simplify, and empower the people around you,” he said. Looking ahead, Younes believes that 2021 will be a transition year and marks an exciting new beginning.
2. Doubling Down on Team Empowerment, Leadership, and Adaptability
With a clear policy of empowering its team, having the right people on the ground in addition to supportive leadership is foundational. “The key is the execution and having the right people in place,” Younes said. “Our behavior is really our strength. We have a very proactive and engaging approach with our partners and investors, and we believe in building long-standing relationships with our owners based on trust and responsibility.”
In carving out its continued relevance in the market, everything from defining brand standards to integrated communication plans must fulfill the intention behind the objective of being relevant to guests and owners. By preparing for changes or challenges that every business leader will face in today’s world — both anticipated and unforeseen — the Group’s mindset is to stay nimble in approach and adjust quickly.
Radisson Individuals, a new concept of hybrid rooms, and Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, created in cooperation with SGS, both launched in 2020. These two initiatives demonstrated how Radisson Hotel Group embraced a dynamic approach and unique business propositions for its partners through ongoing team effort and agile adjustment. Further, the Group continued to invest in its systems and increased digital infrastructure. To address increasing demands from guests and partners, Radisson Hotel Group accelerated the launch of its new Hybrid Rooms and Hybrid Meetings offering, rolling it out in 50 select hotels within a matter of weeks.
3. Innovating and Building Relevant Brand Offerings
Radisson Hotel Group simplifies its approach to its brand holdings through a select number of brands clearly positioned in specific segments. “I am not a supporter of brand proliferation. Each one of our brands needs to have a clear purpose, position, and offer a different value proposition to its guests and owners,” said Younes.
Radisson Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson RED, and Radisson each play an essential role in the overall growth of the brand. “Since we launched this approach a few years ago, we have signed 150 hotels across our newest brands (Radisson Collection, Radisson RED, and Radisson) just in EMEA alone, with 42 new hotel signings in EMEA in 2020,” Younes said. “Despite the current business climate, we continue to remain positive and work closely with our stakeholders to support the business. We are grateful to our hotel owners for trusting our brands and people.”
Radisson Collection showcases properties that have unique character, bespoke design, and exceptional experiences in notable neighborhoods that include The May Fair, A Radisson Collection Hotel in London, and the Palazzo Montemartini Rome, A Radisson Collection Hotel, Radisson Collection Hotel, Moscow, and the Radisson Collection Hotel Palazzo Touring Club in Milan. Radisson Collection launched in 2018 with 14 properties and has since added more than 20 hotels globally to its operating and pipeline portfolio. Key cities include Paris, Milan, London, Moscow, Stockholm, Shanghai, Seville, Cairo, and Lagos as well as leisure destinations such as the Blue Mountains, Cortina D’Ampezzo, Bodrum, Shanghai, and Nanjing.
As the largest upper-upscale brand in Europe, Radisson Blu focuses on personalized service in stylish spaces, while Radisson RED offers select-service hotels with a playful twist on the conventional, from social scenes to bold design. The Radisson brand goes back to basics and offers Scandinavian-inspired upscale hospitality within efficient real estate.
The launch of Radisson Individuals in October 2020 was in response to the evolving environment. The brand gives individual or small chain hotels the benefit of being exposed to the experience and infrastructure of Radisson Hotel Group while maintaining their uniqueness and identity. “The objective was simple: to offer our guests with more possibilities, and owners with more opportunities,” said Younes.
Radisson Hotel Group also launched a comprehensive serviced apartment value proposition to remain relevant to owners. “This asset class is more cycle-resilient than conventional hotels, so we reviewed and expanded this value proposition with a clear development, technical, commercial, and operational framework,” said Younes.
Looking ahead to 2021, Radisson Hotel Group plans to more than double its serviced apartments portfolio within the next five years across EMEA. Today, serviced apartments represent around 10% of the Group’s EMEA portfolio with 45 properties and more than 5,400 units in operation and under development. Radisson Hotel Group operates its serviced apartments as a stand-alone or a mixed-use development in combination with a traditional hotel operation. Serviced apartments will be developed as a brand extension of the existing Radisson Hotel Group’s portfolio to cater to the different segments from midscale to luxury.
4. A Strong Partnership with Jin Jiang International
The Jin Jiang International acquisition in 2018 supports Radisson Hotel Group’s expansion plan with its wider partnership in reaching new international travelers — particularly the Chinese travel market — which is a key advantage in the global marketplace. In expanding brand recognition and property experiences to new consumers through diverse initiatives such as its extensive loyalty program and new co-branded hotels, guest capture competitive rates and additional investor relations have the opportunity for significant growth.
Radisson Hotel Group has an ambitious growth and development plan in place for China where the footprint is set to expand exponentially with more than 1500 hotels by 2025. Youne also noted how beneficial the Jin Jiang International support was during the past year. “Having such a strong financial shareholder with a long-term view of the industry was critical for us. They provided us with important financial support needed during 2020,” he said.
5. Trends and Looking Ahead
When discussing his thoughts on the future, Younes said: “Staying nimble, positive, relevant, and relentlessly pursuing our goals is the best recipe for the way ahead.” He knows there will no doubt be some obstacles throughout the journey, but agrees that overall, the trend for the industry is positive in the long run.
Despite the current challenges, travel will continue to rebound, and more capital is being invested in the industry from both the private and public sectors, he explained. “No matter how trends evolve in terms of customer preferences, financial markets, and real estate dynamics, we will always put the owner and the guest at the heart of our initiatives,” Younes concluded.
Lead image: Henrietta House, a member of Radisson Individuals.