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Radisson targets guest service, growth
March 5 2013

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group executives look to enhance the guest satisfaction, brand perception and revenue opportunities with the next phase of changes for their Radisson brand.

  • A pilot program will help set the direction for new offerings such as a mobile and online check-in option, an on-property concierge smartphone application and the launch of an in-hotel charity program.
  • Fifty percent of the properties in the Radisson system have completed PIPs since 2010.
  • The growth of Park Inn by Radisson, particularly in emerging countries, pleases company executives.

CHICAGO—Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is revving up the rejuvenation of its Radisson brand with a pilot program designed to innovate the numerous touch points guests have with the chain’s 426 open properties.

As part of Carlson Rezidor’s ongoing Ambition 2015 program, Radisson’s pilot program seeks to find ways to improve the guest experience and brand perception, which will lead to increased revenue-per-available-room opportunities and better guest-satisfaction scores. The pilot program is being tested at four U.S. Radisson properties in La Crosse, Wisconsin; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; and Seattle. The full program is expected to be rolled out in 2014. It includes a mobile and online check-in option, an on-property concierge smartphone application and the launch of an in-hotel charity program.

“Through a filter of caring, share and daring we’re going after the customer service part of the game,” Gordon McKinnon, executive VP and chief branding officer for Carlson Rezidor, told the 500 attendees of the group’s annual full-service conference last week in Chicago.

“We’re very conscious as we move into the self check-in arena,” said Thorsten Kirschke, president of the Americas for Carlson Rezidor, adding that in many cases it’s the self check-out arena that’s more meaningful to guests. “It’s important to be in it at this stage.”

Part of the pilot program is outfitting employees in uniforms that include T-shirts that reflect the Radisson green trademarked color in its logo.

“The uniforms are taking us into a different area—it’s about attitude, it’s about communication,” Kirschke said. “I’m not sure this can work in other parts of the world. We’ll see how the pilot goes.”

The brand is also introducing new bathroom amenities supplied by Rituals, a European amenities manufacturer, as well as rewriting its “Yes, I Can!” service program.

“We’re trying to take it in a different way,” Kirschke said of the service program. “It’s about making it great for (the staff), much more interesting for them, much more believable for them that they can buy into.”

Another step in bifurcation
The program is the latest chapter in the company’s efforts to upgrade its Radisson portfolio. Since 2010, 50% of Radisson hotels in the U.S. and Canada have completed property improvement plans. The refurbished hotels have enjoyed an 8.9% RevPAR increase, according to the company.

“We have successfully bifurcated the Radisson brand,” Kirschke said. “This is not the same brand any more that you knew three years ago. We have actually proactively pruned our portfolio. We eliminated over 20% of our North American portfolio. We had hotels that were a liability to our brand, and we could not afford to have that continue.”

Raj Rana, VP of franchise operations for Radisson, said brand executives expect 75% of the 426 properties will be renovated by the time next year’s conference is held.

“Right now is kind of a tipping point,” Kirschke said. “It really is an investment in the future.”

The company’s executives also plan to see growth for its Radisson Blu brand. A second Blu in the U.S. is scheduled to open in mid-March in Minneapolis to complement the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago. Carlson Rezidor also announced the conversions of two of its owned assets to the Radisson Blu brand: the Radisson Plaza-Warwick Hotel in Philadelphia later this year and the Radisson Plaza Hotel Minneapolis in 2014.

“We have two separate brands; one operating in upper upscale, one in upscale,” Kirschke said. “We have to be clear how to operate them separately.”

The group added 33 Radisson Blu hotels globally in 2012, growing the portfolio to 272, including the rebranding of the 2,500-room, 13-hotel Radisson Edwardian Hotels portfolio in the U.K. to Radisson Blu.
Bob Kleinschmidt, Carlson Rezidor’s executive VP and chief financial and development office for the Americas, said the brand is looking at several opportunities in New York, but there is nothing solid.

Park Inn shows more growth potential
The company executives are also happy with its midscale Park Inn by Radisson brand, which is rolling out a next-generation prototype. The group opened nine Park Inn by Radisson hotels in 2012 to grow the portfolio to 194 hotels and more than 36,000 rooms in operation and under development.

Kirschke said the Park Inn brand is much stronger in Europe than it is in the U.S.

“We do see some interest that has emerged in Latin America, South America,” he said. “Since we added ‘by Radisson’ (to the name), it has spurred interest.”
“It is a brand with enormous popularity in emerging markets,” said Wolfgang Neumann, president and CEO of Rezidor Hotel Group, Carlson Rezidor’s partner in Europe. “We’re repositioning it to the consumer; it’s all about flexibility and individual choices. Connectivity is a big play in this next (generation) roll out.”

“The way the brand represents itself in terms of its physical product appeals to Asian travelers,” added Simon Barlow, Carlson Rezidor’s present of the Asia/Pacific region, who added that the company has a deal to develop 49 Park Inn properties in India during the next 13 years.

There’s also one Park Inn open in the Philippines with five more coming, Barlow said.

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