Calling it part three of its Ambition 2015 growth strategy, The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group welcomed approximately 1,300 worldwide associates and franchisees to Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas for its annual Global Business Conference. In 2010 in Orlando, Fla., Carlson first announced its five-year growth plan, which included bringing Radisson Blu to North America and a $3 billion investment to upgrade and grow its brands such as Radisson, Radisson Blu, Park Inn, Country Inns & Suites, and Hotel Missoni. It was the first conference since the January joint announcement that Carlson and Rezidor are going to market as one hotel group, although the two remain separate companies.
Carlson Rezidor CEO Hubert Joly kicked off the conference by announcing that three years into the strategy, the company has seen steady progress and that the strategy remains in tact. "We've become boringly predictable," he quipped, "and that's a good thing."
Thorsten Kirschke, president of the Americas, seconded that notion, adding that there was not only progress in 2011, but also the strategy has accelerated due to its success so far. The most notable progress to the plan took place in October with the opening of the first Radisson Blu in the U.S. in Chicago.
But Kirschke noted many other milestones through the year that illustrate the progress of Ambition 2015. He said that 25 percent of the company's Radisson properties have already completed their PIP plans under Ambition 2015. Kirschke congratulated the attendees for the progress on the PIPs in a tight economy but said he looks forward to the rest getting done.
He noted that the promised investment in positioning the brands has stayed very much on track with the plan. "While 20 percent of properties were removed from the system, we promised we would invest more than a billion dollars in positioning the hotels," he said. "We have already invested more than $600 million of that money."
Kirschke also touted the progress of the Country Inns & Suites brand, saying he was particularly proud of its ability to successfully implement a program over 500 hotels in one year to become the first midscale brand to completely rid itself of disposable dinnerware.
Kirschke also said that 70 percent of the Country Inns & Suites brand has been renovated. "It's also been making great progress with conversions," he said. In 2011, the brand opened as far away as India.
Overall, Kirschke said pipeline growth for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group reached 3 percent in 2011. Kirshke said that the group expects 6.7 percent pipeline growth in 2012. Two-thirds of the pipeline is in emerging markets. "That's something we said we wanted to do—to concentrate on these markets," Kirschke said, "so we are right on track."
The group has 1,077 hotels in operation, and a total pipeline of 242. Among the 2012 openings expected are hotels in Brazil, Martinique, Calgary, India, and China.
Kirschke also said the group has made significant strides in revenue optimization, particularly through its investment in Brand.com website and mobile booking platform. "More than $8 million has come though mobile and that's only possible because of the investment we've made in that area," he said.
He also pointed out that the group's sales and marketing spend has increased 84 percent since 2009.
Kirschke also announced a new deal Carlson Rezidor signed with the Edwardian Group of London, England, to rebrand 13 Radisson Edwardian hotels in London and Manchester as Radisson Blu hotels. The companies signed the deal a day before the start of the conference.