Plugging Away Merrily

While jostling for the top three spot in the global hospitality space, for now Raj Rana, CEO, South Asia, Radisson Hotel Group is working round-the-clock to make everyone associated with the company aware of the bright future in store for them.

Recently at HICSA 2018, when Manav Thadani, founder-chairman of Hotelivate was asked his opinion about Radisson Hotel Group, he said that it was one of the most well adapted global brands in India. How did your company manage to achieve this status?
I am thankful to Thadani for his statements, which speaks about the strength of our core competency and what differentiates us from other companies. This has happened because we have always steered from diluting our brand standards, and because we have adapted to the locale, which is a key word in our five-year strategy. We understand what the local owners, guests and employees want. It has helped us create some great success stories in the past few years.

How are you getting all stakeholders, especially owners, in India on the same page about the new brand refresh?
Our owners have been well communicated about the owner-value proposition with this brand repositioning, which has many aspects. Firstly, we have explained to them what we are doing to improve their topline, since we have an almost 50% franchise portfolio.
Besides, we are informing them in-depth about the various levels we are investing in, like technology enablers because today the hospitality industry is heavily dependent on technology. We are investing in destination platforms, so that we can better compete with OTAs and other disruptors. Additionally, we are investing in property management systems (PMS) so that there is better reporting, analytics and ability to understand how to make good decisions. At the same time, the owner of a managed portfolio is looking for talent and people development, an area that they are often lacking in. We help in that too. These are part of the owner-value proposition. And the last, and probably a crucial, part is the guest. Our guests identify with Radisson Hotel Group and the name change removes the confusion in the loyalty programme; they no longer have to worry about what is Club Carlson or Radisson Rewards. The value proposition that we have brought to the guests in the newly designed programme, the more redemption options – those are all very strong points working in our favour.

Radisson Hotel Group has always been viewed as a pro-owner company. However, with the rebranding and new brand architecture, how will you decide the owners best suited for respective brands?
Our owners are on this journey for us and we have always had 100% renewal rates. But I would take this with a grain of salt; I don’t think we always want 100% renewal rates, also. There are some hotels where we need to stand tall and part ways. With this rebranding, there will be some pruning that we will do.
For instance, maybe many years, when we were trying to get to critical mass we added hotels that we should not have accepted because they do not fit the brand architecture. Or even if the owner is willing, maybe they do not have the funds or ability. We will be shifting gears to have better integrity so that the guest experience is consistent with what our brand stands for.

How are you going to help owners also manage technology, which will be a key differentiator in this business?
I also see technology as a threat to the hotel industry at large. There are enough disruptors out there that are firmly standing on the legs of technology, rather than brick-and-mortar, who are threatening to take away business from hotels from the traditional delivery mechanism. Recognising that, investing in technology is front and center in our five-year plan. Secondly, the cost of technology is also a big pain to owners. Imagine if they have to change their PMS every few years. Hence, we are launching a cloud-based platform, because we understand that the physical shelf life of technology is shortening. It is incumbent on us as brand owners to lower technology’s shelf life and make it available to our customers.

How is your growth story looking in India?
We aim to expand our portfolio to more than 200 operational and under-development hotels by 2022 in South Asia, where we are already a dominant international player. We already signed Radisson Blu Resort Visakhapatnam, Radisson Panipat City Centre and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson Agra in the first quarter of 2018. With the recent opening of Radisson Gwalior, we are on track to open another eight more hotels in India this year.
With a robust performance, ahead of industry average and continued investment in technology and revenue-driving platforms, we are optimistic of meeting our five-year goals. I am delighted that India is leading the way in Asia Pacific with a total of seven global brand offerings, which will further strengthen our business in the region

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