How Radisson Hotel Group plans to become one of the top hotel companies in the world

How Radisson Hotel Group plans to become one of the top hotel companies in the world

It’s been a little over a year since Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group rebranded as Radisson Hotel Group – but that’s not the only big transformation the company is making. In fact, in many ways it could be argued that Radisson Hotel Group is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance, pulling out all the stops to ensure that, as its signature promises, ‘Every Moment Matters.’

Radisson Hotel Group is already flying high in the hospitality industry: today it stands as one of the largest hotel groups in the world, with more than 1,400 hotels in operation or under development. Its new go-to-market name, Radisson Hotel Group, capitalises on the strong partnership between Radisson Hospitality, Inc. (formerly Carlson Hotels, Inc.) and Radisson Hospitality AB (formerly Rezidor Hotel Group AB) who has master franchise agreements to develop and operate several brands across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

As innovation keeps up its blistering pace in the hospitality sector, the group was keen to energise and reinvent itself. The first step? Creating ‘Destination 2022’, a meticulous five-year plan spearheaded by the Global Steering Committee of Radisson Hotel Group, with representatives from both Radisson Hospitality Inc. and Radisson Hospitality AB’s Executive Committees.

Working his way up the ranks in the hospitality sector, Chema Basterrechea, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO), has an innate understanding of the intricacies of the market. He believes this latest strategy will take the hotel firm to new heights. “This plan will enable us to become one of the top three hotel companies in the world, not in terms of size, but in terms of being top of mind for our consumers, our stakeholders (especially our hotel owners) and our talented people,” he enthuses. With over 25 initiatives in the pipeline, this is no ‘quick win’ strategy. Instead, Radisson Hotel Group is zeroing in on fundamental pillars such as Brand and Products, Marketing, Sales and Revenue Management, Organisation Talent and Responsible Business, Best Systems, Scale, Portfolio Management and more.

Sitting down in the company’s bustling European headquarters in Brussels, Gonzalo Carpintero, Vice President Operations for EMEA, asserts that the “aggressive yet challenging” business plan will “transform the way the firm operates its hotels”. Indeed, Radisson Hotel Group already has a resilient business model, with leased, managed and franchised hotels under its wing. “In my opinion, this gives us a very big competitive advantage,” Carpintero asserts. “Why? Because it encourages us to significantly better our property operations to deliver better profitability. For that reason, unlike other international hotel companies, we have a big opportunity to demonstrate to our portfolio that all the strategies we believe in – all the models, tools and technology that we want to implement – are working.” It’s a matter of setting an example.

Now in the second year of its strategic plan, Radisson Hotel Group is already reaping the fruits of its labour. “Last year, we had outstanding results – they were in fact the best results in the history of Radisson Hospitality AB – but we were able to do something very important: we were able to not only maintain the quality levels but also slightly increase them compared to our competitors.”

The secret behind this operational success? It might be down to the company’s unwavering commitment to quality, or it may partly lie in the group’s dynamic use of technology. “We are trying to support best practice operations with technology,” Carpintero explains, noting how the firm is using digital tools to promote productivity and automate day-to-day operations. “For instance, we’ve implemented a productivity tool that allows us to forecast the amount of staff we need and we are also trying to simplify day-to-day operations like handovers for housekeeping and repairs.” Carpintero is keen to add that technology isn’t diminishing the role of the people at Radisson Hotel Group. If anything, it’s making their roles more important than ever before. “We want to help our people avoid non-value-added tasks and focus on what is important: our guests,” he adds.

As part of its five-year plan, Radisson Hotel Group has also shed some of its legacy technology platforms in favour of a soon-to-be-launched unified system, ‘EMMA’ (Every Moment Matters), which is programmed to help with tasks like reservations, guest loyalty programmes, sales, property management and much more. “EMMA is a new, totally integrated end-to-end platform,” explains Basterrechea, noting how the platform aims to drive operational efficiencies. In fact, with the use of EMMA, employees are able to access guest profiles which offer valuable data about guests’ previous purchases and past stays that will help employees create personalised, unforgettable guest experiences. “With a cloud-based platform, we're able to significantly decrease the cost of our maintenance and initial investment,” Basterrechea adds. “It’s also a single system which is a key advantage because up until now, most hotel companies have used multiple devices and multiple applications. It will provide a clear cost advantage to the owners of our hotels and it will enable us to maximise our guest satisfaction.”

A multi-million-dollar technology investment, however, is just one part of Radisson Hotel Group’s five-year plan. ‘The customer is everything’ may be a well-versed platitude in the hospitality sector, but its importance rings true. With this in mind, Radisson Hotel Group has underlined its customers’ top must-haves (so-called ‘Brilliant Basics’), such as breakfasts, showers, bedding and more, which are vital to get right every time. “It is so important to listen to the customer,” says Carpintero, noting how last year the firm received more than one million reviews online for the first time in its history. “We’ve invested €12mn in our 55 leased properties in EMEA to enhance our Brilliant Basics. We’re learning from our guests and bringing fresh new ideas to improve the customer experience.”

From the mouth-watering food on its menus to the crisp linens on its beds, ensuring these Brilliant Basics are delivered is a task that’s fallen partly into the capable hands of the group’s Procurement team. “Procurement forms a critical backbone to Radisson Hotel Group,” asserts Adrian Oyekanmi, Senior Vice President of Global Strategic Sourcing. “We’re leveraging the power of Radisson Hospitality, Inc. and Radisson Hospitality AB whilst never losing sight of the local aspect of our role. We're leveraging our size and sourcing muscle like never before and we see ourselves very much entwined within the fabric of operations.”

One of the most pressing challenges for any procurement team is the delicate balancing act between getting value for money and maintaining quality. Radisson Hotel Group has deftly tackled the challenge, with Oyekanmi noting that, more than anything, procurement is about creating value. “Getting the best deal is about more than just getting the cheapest price; it’s about creating value for our owners and our brands and protecting that value without forgetting the sustainability focus that reflects where we are as a group,” he says. Any professional will tell you that behind any strong procurement team, or indeed any successful hotel company, there is also a passionate team. “The team is everything: they’re what makes you as a company,” enthuses Oyekanmi. In the group’s EMEA headquarters in Brussels, you’ll find that a range of accents – from Spanish and German to English and American – are always within earshot. Oyekanmi argues that this multiculturalism is a key asset. “I often pinch myself that I’m in this role because I think one of the exciting things about working for Radisson Hotel Group is the global nature of the business. We have folks working in so many different countries, from so many different backgrounds. Everyone brings a different perspective which, for sourcing especially, can be a really big advantage.” With offices spanning from Cape Town and New Delhi to Oslo and Frankfurt, Radisson Hotel Group is a business which is ‘global’ in every sense of the word. Just as the firm’s international team has been a key enabler of its five-year plan, Oyekanmi outlines how strong partnerships are pivotal in today’s ever-global market. “Ensuring that we are partnering with the right vendors who share our vision and ideals, who are coming to the table with innovative ideas, who are able to pivot as we're pivoting, is critical,” he affirms.

Now, in the second year of its five-year plan, Oyekanmi outlines how the firm is “firing on all cylinders” to ensure that it delivers a truly meaningful stay to its guests. “I can tell you that the future has never been more exciting and brighter for the Radisson Hotel Group,” he adds. “We're delivering record-breaking value to our company, which is really exciting to see, but we've only just started to scratch the surface. I think one of the really interesting changes we’ve seen is that we're now part of the Jin Jiang International family – that's a family of over 8,000 hotels globally. We're already exploring how to best leverage being part of the second largest hotel company in the world and deliver eye-popping competitive advantage to our owners and hotels. So, stay tuned.”