Chatting with LODGING at the 2022 Hunter Hotel Investment Conference in Atlanta were Tom Buoy, interim CEO, executive vice president, and chief commercial officer, and Phil Hugh, chief development officer, both of Radisson Hotels Group Americas. The two described why Radisson is introducing Radisson Inn & Suites, which they consider to provide the urban market with a welcoming place to stay. Radisson Inn & Suites primarily serves tertiary markets and, they say, is a response to the development team’s exploration of owners’ needs; it fills a “grey space in our portfolio,” an upper-midscale, metropolitan hotel brand meant to inspire guests to make real connections, “one we can basically sell and build out in an urban core.”
Why are you introducing this new brand now?
Tom Buoy: Many today are observing now what they call “revenge travel,” a term I personally think has negative connotations. What I prefer to call the kind of exploration and reconnecting with the world we’re seeing now is “Radisson travel.” It’s all about seeing loved ones you haven’t seen for a long time or friends that you just can’t get enough of. Radisson Inn & Suites is being brought to the market at the right time, because it really is an enabler for doing just that. It’s an affordable hotel product that competes in the upper mid-scale, limited-service segment of the hotel industry. It is designed by our owners for our owners, but is heavily validated by customer research.
Phil Hugh: When I arrived at Radisson in August 2020, it was the heart of the pandemic, so I had the chance to just talk to our owners, who were asking for a Radisson alternative to Country Inn & Suites for their higher RevPAR urban markets. I took this feedback to our “solution center”—what most call their company headquarters—I told them, “I think we have something here that could really help Radisson grow, take advantage of our global name.
How is Radisson Inn & Suites adapted to urban markets?
Buoy: Based on our 40 years’ experience in this segment with Country Inn & Suites, we understood its appeal, which was its welcoming culture, the environment of a home away from home. The challenge was to take that personality, modernize it, and give it permission to play in urban markets. It emphasizes modern comfort, but also adapts to new social and cultural trends, which are around creating a social hub. It is perfect for those who don’t want to pay a premium for a full-service hotel when they can explore local restaurants, spas, and athletic facilities, then return to their hotel to share their stories in a café-inspired lobby in person or digitally in a creative content hub, which is also a gaming studio.
This product embraces and encourages exploration, like its namesake Pierre-Esprit Radisson, a 17th century Frenchman who explored the Lake Minnetonka region near Minneapolis, and fulfills the desire of its founder, Edna Dickinson, to create a social hub in Minneapolis, where the first Radisson Hotel there was known as The Jewel of Seventh Street.
What are the differentiators you are highlighting and why?
Buoy: The Radisson Inn & Suites design was developed with social spaces—but also flexibility—in mind. A typical breakfast room in a mid-scale hotel is generally empty after breakfast hours. With the café-inspired lobby, guests have a place to truly connect at all hours of the day. The social space serves as a hub encouraging people to gather for work, play, relaxation, and more, like you would at an urban coffee shop.
In response to the growing social network of gamers, influencers, and other content creation professionals, the Radisson Inn & Suites design delivers a one-of-a kind Creative Content Studio featuring monitors, gaming chairs, and a high-speed Internet connection for social media content creation or video game play. This unique flexible workspace also allows guests to combine work and pleasure organically.
Hugh: This brand is also based on a more flexible operating model. We put the power back into the hands of the owners, the entrepreneurs who know the market and their guests better than we do from a local perspective. Rather than having 30 items for breakfast, we’ve come up with five really important items that we think the consumer wants. Of course, it starts with really great coffee, but it’s for the owners to decide how to do it best. Our goal is to continue to innovate, adapt this brand to owner’s needs over time. We’ll evaluate through reviews and tweak, but we need to trust the smart people who really understand this industry, and enable them to flex where necessary and bring us even better ideas.
What kind of markets are you targeting?
Hugh: With Radisson Inn & Suites, we’re looking to go where we are not, into that gray space we identified—urban centers. We made the hard decision financially not to put it in Country Inn & Suites-protected territory, unlike many of our competitors that launch brands without protecting them from their existing products.
Buoy: As far as who we are targeting, I never classify a hotel based on demographics. To me, it’s not about a market segment but about the trip persona and reason for traveling. Many people who are frugal in their daily life will happily splurge on a luxurious trip—for example, a river cruise or the Orient Express. Similarly, business travelers generally chose a hotel based on their company’s practices, not their personal choices. I believe the traveler’s budget adapts to the circumstances.
How does Radisson Inn & Suites fit into your growth plans?
Hugh: This limited-service brand has created a lot of buzz for us. It is consistent with our brand architecture and plays off the global brand awareness of Radisson. We expect it to drive significant incremental growth for the company across the Americas in Canada, the United States, and the Caribbean and Latin America (CALA) region. The addition of Radisson Inn & Suites hotels in the Americas presents us with a tremendous opportunity as we look to revitalize our limited-service segment in metropolitan markets. Combined with our efforts to enhance our existing portfolio, the launch of this new brand enhances our worldwide reputation for bringing thoughtful, curated brands to the market and positions Radisson Hotel Group Americas for significant growth in the years ahead. Such growth is good for everyone. With more marketing funds and heads in bed, there’s more brand awareness, which helps all franchisees.