Radisson Hotel Group has had a tumultuous few years. In 2016, the company, then Carlson Hotels, was acquired by China’s HNA Tourism Group. In March of last year, under HNA, the company announced its new brand identity, fully embracing operations under the Radisson name. Then, in August, Radisson’s ownership once again changed hands. The company was acquired by Jin Jiang International Holdings, another Chinese company, but one with deep roots in the hotel industry.
Despite the upheaval of the last 12 months, morale was high at Radisson’s 2019 Americas Business Conference this week at the Fontainebleau Miami Beach. Approximately 1,200 Radisson hoteliers from all over the Americas converged to check in with company leadership, share concerns and triumphs, and reconnect with the company in its newest form.
Ken Greene, Radisson Hotel Group’s Americas president, spoke about how the company benefits from the combination of the scale that comes from being a part of Jin Jiang and the future-focused strategies of its corporate team. “I believe the time to take action is now,” he said during the opening general session. “What I want you to know is that yes, we can. We can do this together. Our commitment to you remains unwavering. We continue our great forward momentum. We are making this a reality and we’re already well on our way. We’re making every moment matter for our guests, and over the past year, I’ve been seeing a renewed spirit in your hotels, and that’s simply incredible.”
Power of “Yes”
This year’s conference theme was “Our Difference is Yes.” Greene explained, “Saying ‘yes’ is more than just positive thinking. It’s how you create a standout guest experience. It’s being open to innovative approaches. It’s turning challenges into opportunities. Saying ‘yes’ at the right moment can make a huge difference in other people’s lives.”
After all of the challenges that Radisson Hotel Group faced over the past few years, Greene and the entire corporate team were quick to stress the importance of transparency moving forward, especially regarding the company’s five-year strategic plan, Destination 2022.
John Kidd, CEO and COO of Radisson Hospitality Inc., talked about how the five-year plan remained a top priority for the team and had the full buy-in of the company’s new owner. “Jin Jiang has expressed confidence in our five-year plan and the execution of that plan does remain our primary goal. But like any good owner, they’ve also expressed ideas for new opportunities for the company, primarily centered around delivering synergies across their portfolio of management companies to unleash the potential that all of us bring to the table,” he said. “Size and scale, while it’s nice to have, doesn’t automatically vault you into best in class. That takes hard work. That’s why our five-year strategic plan remains our global road map for Radisson Hotel Group.”
The Radisson team also didn’t shy away from some hard truths, including the fact that many properties had been purged from their system over the past year. “We rolled out our new quality review process and cleared out a number of low-quality hotels from our portfolio. We have asked hotels to leave our system if they were not able to meet our standards, and I will tell you that we will continue to do so. Remember, we are only as good as our worst property,” Greene described. “We must elevate the quality and ensure a consistent Radisson guest experience.”
Additionally, on the third day of the conference, Radisson Hotel Group leaders held a town hall, inviting attendees to share their thoughts regarding new initiatives and relay any concerns straight to the executives. Greene commented to LODGING after this session that he was thrilled to hear not just concerns, but stories about how new programs succeeded and the impact they’ve had on specific hotels.
A key aspect of Radisson’s five-year plan is the implementation of Emma, a technology solution that will serve as a cloud-based CMS, PMS, and more after its launch. “Emma will be bringing new ways to personalize your guest experience and to help you deliver memorable moments at your property. Emma will be integrated into every aspect, every function, of your business, including our new multi-brand platform RadissonHotels.com. And we’re excited to see all these programs launch very soon and continue to increase system contribution,” Greene explained during the general session. Emma pilots are slated to begin this summer.
Shifting Focus to the Future
Aly El-Bassuni, senior vice president of franchise operations for the Americas, said that Radisson is not taking any time to rest on its laurels. “Looking ahead, we will shift our focus to the future and turn our attention to further realizing our mission and destination,” he said. “For 2019 and beyond, we will continue to focus on quality, grow system size through retention, and new quality hotel initiatives. [We will] improve system quality through thoughtful and objective measurements and continue the evolution and repositioning of each of our hotel brands. Finally, [we will] optimize performance to optimize market share and grow system engagement in key and strategic value drivers.”
Kidd added, “There’s a lot to be excited about for our company in 2019. Our road map is clear and now we are accelerating.”