This has certainly been a year of change for Radisson Hotel Group and its president for the Americas, Ken Greene. In February, it rebranded from Carlson Rezidor, and in November, a controlling interest in the company was purchased by Jin Jiang International Holdings Co. Ltd.
“This has probably been the most exciting year,” said Greene. “It has certainly been a demanding year. The rebranding of Carlson to Radisson makes perfect sense. It connects the globe together. We have such great presence in Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and the Radisson name has such great recognition—it was really important.”
Greene is excited for the changes to come after HNA Tourism sold to Jin Jiang. “From our perspective, we are very pleased with the acquisition that Jin Jiang just made,” he said. “We have great people in place, and so we re-tooled the organization with people.”
With the acquisition, Radisson is now part of the fifth largest hotel company in the world. “They understand the business,” he said. “They want to support us. We have a really great strategic plan. Now, it is up to us to execute. We think we really and truly can be one of the growth stories in the industry over the next decade.”
He continued, “It is a complete transformation of the company: new people, new plans, new expectations, new ownership and a new commitment to really focusing on the relationships with our owners—putting the right properties in the right marketplaces, with the right locations, with the right owners. It is a very exciting time for us.”
Greene thinks that the acquisition moves Radisson onto the same level as other major brands. “Quite frankly, I would say competitively, we are a little bit of a different animal,” he said. “What is exciting for us, now being owned by the fifth largest hotel company in the world and a company that has more than 100 million loyalty members, puts us up into the big leagues with all of the other major competitors.”
Something Greene said sets Radisson apart is that it only has one brand per segment. “We have eight brands globally, all of which fit a very specific segment,” he said. “We are laser-focused on making sure that each of our brands fit the segment and are fully differentiated, serving the demographics that they are supposed to serve.”
He continued, “In the Americas today, we go to market with just five brands, and that makes us unique with all of the consolidation that has gone on. If you own a Radisson Blu, for instance, in a major marketplace, you are not competing with three or four or five other brands in that same segment within the same family. That is a very attractive value proposition for an owner.”
To capitalize on the brands’ popularity overseas, the company has focused on opening the Radisson Blu and Radisson Red brands in the Americas. “As Radisson continues to grow and starts to connect the dots across the world, particularly through Radisson Blu and Red, we start to tap into that European and Middle Eastern and Asian traveler; now, with Jin Jiang owning us and 100 million loyalty members over in China and Asia, to start to tap into that is quite powerful,” said Greene. “We are laser-focused on bringing Radisson Blus into the key gateway cities across all of the Americas. We have 320 Radisson Blus across the world, but only three in the U.S. and four in Latin America… By putting up Radisson Blus in key gateway cities in this part of the world, it really connects the globe.”
Even before the acquisition, the company was poised for growth. “I came on board 17-18 months ago, and we today have almost four to five times more properties in our pipeline than we did when I arrived,” he said.
In addition to the new properties, the company is refreshing some of its older brands, including the core Radisson brand. “We have been committed to tightening up the quality of that brand,” said Greene. “We got rid of the bottom 15% of that brand, and we have had some great success on the development front as well.”
The company will also be rolling out a new prototype for Park Inn by Radisson at its brand conference in April 2019. “We are reintroducing that brand to this market,” he said.
Something that Greene is especially excited about is the launch in 2019 of the company’s new tech platform Emma—which stands for Every Moment Matters, the company’s brand promise—which was previewed at the 2018 brand conference. The platform will touch all core functions, including reservations, property management, revenue management, guest loyalty, sales, meetings and events, food and beverage, business intelligence and analytics, among others.
While he is excited about the new technology, he knows that hospitality is a people business. “We are in the business of creating these memorable moments for guests,” he said. “You can have the best property in the world, you can have the most wonderful amenities in the world, but at the end of the day, it comes down to great, passionate people, working really hard to provide the best service, the best memories for guests possible.” HB