New, Renew Reviewed by Momizat on . A new name, increased focus on technology and asset repositioning – these are some changes that Radisson Hotel Group’s brand refresh will entail By Vinita Bhati A new name, increased focus on technology and asset repositioning – these are some changes that Radisson Hotel Group’s brand refresh will entail By Vinita Bhati Rating: 0
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A new name, increased focus on technology and asset repositioning – these are some changes that Radisson Hotel Group’s brand refresh will entail

By Vinita Bhatia & Bibhor Srivastava

Change seems to have become a constant in Katerina Giannouka’s life for the past few months. Last September, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group appointed her as president, Asia Pacific, and as a member of the company’s Executive Leadership Committee she is working in tandem with the global and Asia Pacific leadership teams to drive its success and growth. Responsible for leading the Asia Pacific executive committee and its corporate offices in Singapore, Shanghai and Delhi, she reports directly to CEO and COO, John Kidd.
Interestingly, a year before that, China’s HNA Tourism Group bought US-based Carlson Hotels, and also acquired Carlson’s 51.3% stake in Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group. And even more interestingly, in March 2018, there was another reshuffling of the decks – Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group rebranded itself as Radisson Hotel Group.
Taking these changes in her stride, Giannouka is now busy working with the executive team to ensure that the changes associated with the brand refresh are implemented throughout APAC. However, the big question on everyone’s mind is how will these changes impact the existing hotels and the upcoming ones? “This is a most exciting period in our company’s long history,” said Giannouka, “With its rebranding and many other initiatives in the pipeline, we are positioning Radisson Hotel Group for a bright future. One of the new giants of the global economy, India has been a key market for us for many years. We look forward to working with hotel investors, owners, developers and other stakeholders across the country as we accelerate the expansion of our portfolio and introduce exciting brand concepts such as Radisson Collection to the country.”

THINKING LONG-TERM
To help it claim a spot amongst the top three hospitality firms globally, Radisson Hotel Group has also come up with a five-year strategic review, Destination 2022. Giannouka reiterated that this rise to the top won’t be merely rated in terms of market capitalisation, but will also take into consideration brand recognition amongst guests.
“Over the last year, we had the opportunity to relook at our business afresh and this five-year strategic plan was developed based on what are our strengths, the ostensible opportunities, what we can do and what we need to stop doing,” she explained. While analysing every area of the business, the company realised that it was under-utilising one of its core strengths – the Radisson brand – which is globally recognised.
Industry watchers say that there was need for Radisson to innovate especially as it is up against stiff competition from global heavyweights like Marriott, Hilton, IHG and AccorHotels. Since Radisson was the strongest brand component in its portfolio, clearly there existed a prospect to build its corporate identity around it. After all, it is easier to change people’s perception about a known entity, than create awareness about an entirely new one.
At the same time, it was equally important that each existing brand in company’s portfolio had it own distinct identity and swim lanes to prevent cannibalisation. To ensure that its own brands do not end up competing with one another, Giannouka explained that a little bit of shifting around took place during the rebranding to ensure that each brand is relevant. Take the case of the new Radisson RED, which is a full service upscale creation. It has been positioned in a way that it will not encroach upon Park Inn by Radisson. Radisson RED hotels in the Asia Pacific pipeline include those in Guangzhou in China, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Mohali in India.

RESTYLING ON THE MENU
Currently, Radisson Hotel Group has six brands in India, with the upcoming Radisson RED taking the number up to seven. In Giannouka’s opinion, when it comes to the country, there are some brands that people already know, so it is more a matter of fine-tuning them to hone their understanding of these products. “We are also launching the Radisson Collection, which is crafted as a affordable luxury brand. We want to cater to the affluent middle-class Indian consumer who is increasingly travelling and holidaying, and offer them something that is a little higher-end in experience, but viable economically,” she said.
When it comes to Collection, the idea is not to take existing properties and change the name of the door. Giannouka said that the repositioning exercise gave the company an opportunity to do its portfolio management meticulously, and take a closer look whether there any hotels should not be part of a given brand since it did not fit the overarching identity.
“In India, we have an existing hotel undergoing major renovation with a whole new wing of rooms being built. I felt that it fit at the top of its current Radisson Blu status. We asked the owners whether they would like to elevate the brand to Collection and invest the additional amount. They agreed and that is how Radisson Blu Agra will become the first Collection brand in India,” she elaborated. In short, Collection would not be a relabeling exercise; the brand will be grown through careful conversion or new builds.
Does that also mean that while some properties are rebranded or repositioned, contracts with others will be terminated? After all, it is a well-known fact in the industry that only top-performing hotels bring in better profits for the entire company.
“Well, it’s like stock trading; you keep reconsidering the under-performing assets and investing in the top-performing ones. Similarly, with us, there will be organic attrition where contracts expire and some properties might not fit the new brand architecture. Also, with the brand refresh, we are coming up with evolved standards, and owners might not want to invest in that,” Giannouka said while talking about the strategy to elevate the quality of the Radisson brand experience for owners too.

TECH IS KEY
Recently, Kevin Carl, EVP and CIO of Radisson Hotel Group announced that the company is working on a new and exclusive unified technology platform, called Emma. This will offer on-property access to better data on guest preferences, insights into past stays and purchases to create more personalised experiences for guests, better transparency into meetings bookings as well as inventory details.
To reposition the Radisson brand, Giannouka believed that technology has to be at the core of everything that the company does. “This technology is being built from scratch and while this means that we are investing heavily in it, ultimately it will drive cost down for owners as they will have lesser hardware to purchase, operate and maintain. This investment will drive down our per-booking cost and we will be able to compete better against OTAs,” she emphasised.
Radisson is also rebuilding is website – taking down the number of clicks to book a hotel from around nine to three – to ensure that the user experience is also enhanced. This site is being crated around the concept of a mall, where a buyer can get everything at a single destination; something they learned from other disruptors in the industry.
To offer better value to owners, the company is instilling transparency on its tech platforms – they will get a dashboard where they can see how their property is doing. “While adding value to our relationship with owners, this transparency is critical because they want ROI predominantly – they want to know what they are getting for their payments, for the value of the licenses, being able to track talent, etc. We are creating a platform where they can see it for themselves,” she said.
With eight brands that range from full-service luxury to economy select-service, Radisson Hotel Group has tried to ensure it has one for every customer segment. It has puts owners first to get on the fast lane of the road to growth. Will these steps help it win the battle for the big three league?

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