Carlson Rezidor looks to boost reputation and rate at Radisson


RadissonBlueAqua-ChicagoSpeaking at a lodging conference in Los Angeles last October, Joie de Vivre Hotels founder Chip Conley opined on the future of certain full-service hotel chains by showing a graphic of three tombstones with the words “Crowne Plaza,” “Radisson” and “Ramada” on them.

But Radisson isn’t buying it.

In fact, Minnesota-based Carlson Hotels is about three years into a five-year plan in which its approximately 150 Radisson properties in North America will get about $1.5 billion in upgrades, or about $10 million per hotel.

The upgrades are part of a strategy by Carlson and Belgian sister company Rezidor Hotel Group to boost the reputation, and average price point, of the upscale, full-service Radisson brand.

They are also banking on the additional panache of the newly introduced Radisson Blu badge to the U.S. and new programs designed to upgrade the brand’s food and beverage and technology programs.

And this month, Radisson is looking to boost its techie quotient by starting pilot programs at four of its properties — in Seattle, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and La Crosse, Wis. — that will include services such as online and mobile check-in availability as well as a mobile concierge.

“Efforts made over the last three years to improve our properties and to deliver on our service promise, will be enhanced by new innovations gathered from the pilot project,” Gordon McKinnon, executive vice president and chief branding officer at Carlson, said in a statement late last month. “In an iconic way, technology has made human interaction even more precious.”

As for panache, Carlson and Rezidor are bringing their 272-unit Radisson Blu brand across the Atlantic. The brand’s first U.S. hotel, the 334-room Radisson Blue Aqua Hotel, opened in Chicago in October 2011, while its second, the 500-room Radisson Blu Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., opened March 15.

Additionally, the 301-room Radisson Plaza — Warwick Hotel Philadelphia will become the third U.S. Radisson Blu this summer after a $17 million upgrade, while the Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis will become a Radisson Blu in 2014.

The changes come at a time when Carlson and Rezidor have been restructuring both their leadership and marketing approach in order to best capitalize on the travel-spending rebound both in the U.S. and abroad.

Early last year, Carlson and Rezidor combined their marketing and branding entities to create the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

Last August, Carlson named longtime executive Trudy Rautio as its president and CEO after Hubert Joly resigned to become president and CEO of electronics giant Best Buy.

And earlier this year, Wolfgang Neumann succeeded longtime Rezidor Hotel Group CEO Kurt Ritter.

As for Radisson, whose first hotel opened in Minneapolis in 1909 and which last year celebrated its 50th under Carlson, such changes can’t come soon enough.

Like InterContinental Hotels Group’s Crowne Plaza (which is undergoing its own rebranding effort to push the chain upmarket), Radisson ranked far behind brands such as Hilton Garden Inn and Marriott International’s SpringHill Suites in J.D. Power’s 2012 North America Upscale Hotel Rankings.

Specifically, Radisson ranked average for its food and beverage offerings and below average in areas such as reservation efficiency, room quality and hotel facilities. Those rankings followed up a 2011 survey in which Radisson and Crowne Plaza were the bottom two ranked among the 11 upscale chains surveyed.

And there are signs that improvements such as room upgrades and newer on-site restaurant concepts are taking hold. At the North American Radisson properties that have been upgraded since 2010, revenue per available room was up 8.9% in the past year.

As for the Radisson Blu Aqua, which takes up the first 18 floors of Chicago’s 81-story Aqua Tower, that hotel has received an average TripAdvisor score of 4.5 out of five rating points and ranks No. 14 among 166 Chicago hotels.

The Windy City property “has had a remarkable ramp-up in its first year of operation,” Neumann said at Carlson Rezidor’s annual business conference in Chicago late last month. “That’s something we can actively take to the market as a value-added proposition for future projects.”

Follow Danny King on Twitter @dktravelweekly.


From Our Partners

From Our Partners

Which Events are on Your Calendar for 2023?
Which Events are on Your Calendar for 2023?
Register Now
Welcome to the Exceptional
Welcome to the Exceptional
Read More
How to Grow Your Business with Paul Gauguin Cruises – and Develop Your Client Base
How to Grow Your Business with Paul Gauguin Cruises – and Develop Your Client Base
Register Now

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI