Radisson Hotels’ New CEO Looks to Consolidate its Leadership Position

How do you see the Radisson Hotel Group positioned within the industry on this occasion when you take over as its Managing Director and Area Senior Vice President?

To lead a company that has demonstrated remarkable growth and strategic agility is a true honour for me. Radisson Hotel Group has significantly expanded its footprint, with 2023 being a standout year. We signed 2,086 keys, marking a 100% increase compared to the previous year, and added 21 new hotels to our portfolio, strengthening our presence in India. Our diversified portfolio, encompassing nine distinct brands, is well-positioned to meet the increasing demand for travel and personalized experiences. The introduction of Radisson Collection and Park Inn & Suites by Radisson, tailored specifically for the Indian market, showcases our ability to anticipate and respond to evolving consumer preferences. Looking ahead, we expect the highest growth from our upscale brand Radisson, followed closely by Radisson Blu, RED, and Radisson Collection.

The Group’s focus on sustainability, technological innovation, and excellence in customer service aligns perfectly with current industry trends. By integrating advanced digital solutions, we are enhancing guest experiences and operational efficiencies, thereby meeting the expectations of modern travellers. Our commitment to responsible business practices also resonates with the growing consumer demand for eco-friendly and socially responsible travel options. Furthermore, our strategic partnerships and alliances strengthen our market position, enabling us to expand our footprint and enhance our service offerings. These collaborations are essential as we continue to drive growth and profitability.

A key factor in our success is our dedicated team and the cultural beliefs that underpin everything we do at Radisson Hotel Group. Our “Yes I Can!” service philosophy empowers our team members to go above and beyond in delivering exceptional experiences to our guests. This culture of positivity, innovation, and proactive service is integral to our operations and helps us maintain high standards across all our properties. It is this team spirit and commitment to excellence that drives our success and positions us strongly within the industry.

As Managing Director & Area Senior Vice President, I am excited to build upon this strong foundation and lead Radisson Hotel Group into a future defined by innovation, sustainability, and exceptional guest experiences.

What are some major industry trends that you see around in hospitality?

Certainly, there are several notable industry trends shaping the hospitality landscape today. One significant trend is the increasing emphasis on sustainability and eco-conscious practices. With growing awareness of environmental issues, travellers are seeking out hotels and resorts that prioritize sustainability initiatives and eco-friendly amenities. This trend aligns well with the rise of experiential travel, where travellers are increasingly seeking authentic and immersive experiences that allow them to connect with the local culture and environment. With the opening of Rakkh Resort, a member of Radisson Individual Retreats, we are capitalizing on this trend by offering tailor-made stays that are authentic, sustainable, and memorable, providing guests with the opportunity to immerse themselves in the destination.

Another important trend is the exploration of untapped destinations. With travellers becoming more adventurous and seeking new experiences, undiscovered locations or hidden gems are gaining popularity. This trend has presented us with an opportunity to expand our footprint into emerging markets and offer unique experiences to guests across India’s hidden gems, including Palampur, Kumbhalgarh, and Gopalpur.

Personalization continues to be a key trend driving the hospitality industry forward. Guests are increasingly seeking customized experiences that cater to their individual preferences and needs. We recognize the importance of personalization and go beyond just the property experience by offering a range of personalized services tailored to individual needs. This ensures that each guest’s stay is not only memorable but also tailored to their unique preferences and needs.

Technology is revolutionizing the guest experience. We are at the forefront of integrating cutting-edge technology to enhance customer interactions and streamline operations. Our Radisson+ platform represents a modern way of digitally engaging with guests, creating a smooth and seamless experience. Features such as instant messaging through “Chat with Us” allow guests to receive speedy responses to any hotel queries and requests, both before and during their stay. We have also rolled out pilot programs such as online check-ins in India, and implemented self-check-in/out points, fast-track key collection, and online check-out options. These technological advancements eliminate the need for queuing at reception, providing a hassle-free experience for our guests.

When do u see your group striking the magical 200 number? Where and when? With which brands in your portfolio?

Our focus remains steadfast on enhancing operational quality and innovating guest experiences. We are strategically positioning ourselves to achieve our expansion goal across India, particularly targeting tier 2 and 3 cities to capitalize on the growing domestic and religious tourism sectors. Upcoming Radisson hotels will be in places such as Saputara in Gujarat, Dhanbad, Nainital, and Jamshedpur. Our recent signings include new hotel deals for Delhi, Bengaluru, Raipur, Sonamarg, Jhansi, Gopalpur, and Vizag. Notably, about 50% of our current portfolio of operating hotels is situated in tier 2/3 locations.

Considering our diverse brand portfolio, including Radisson Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Inn by Radisson, and others, we are confident in achieving our milestone of 200 hotels. While the exact timing and locations may vary based on market conditions, our balanced growth trajectory across multiple brands will help us reach this milestone. Each brand brings its unique value proposition and caters to different market segments, allowing us to capture opportunities in various locations and markets.

Manpower is said to be the biggest challenge while going forward. What is your solution for sustainability in this growth scenario?

Manpower is often cited as the biggest challenge in sustaining growth. We firmly believe that nurturing and training talent is essential to overcoming this challenge. With over 25 years of our ‘Yes I Can’ service ethos, we have cultivated a robust pool of internal talent. This is evident from the fact that nearly 70% of our General Manager vacancies are filled through internal recruitment, ensuring a deep understanding of our company culture and values.

We offer 2,500+ online, live, and virtual training programs through the Radisson Academy, catering to various levels and departments to keep our workforce well-equipped. These programs are localized and culturally relevant, ensuring maximum engagement and effectiveness. By investing in talent development, fostering a culture of continuous learning, soliciting regular feedback, and prioritizing inclusivity and employee well-being, we are confident in our ability to navigate the challenges of manpower and sustain our growth trajectory effectively.

How much is your group looking at inbound, or MICE? And how much are you centred around domestic leisure?

With the Government’s focus on enhancing and promoting the versatile tourism infrastructure of India, the country is rapidly becoming a premier destination for both MICE events and leisure travel. Our strategic emphasis is on establishing a robust presence across various tourism segments in India, including leisure, spiritual, offbeat, and MICE. We boast a diverse portfolio of hotels in prominent leisure destinations such as Lonavala, Pondicherry, Jammu & Kashmir, Dharamshala, Daman, and Assam, catering to domestic travelers seeking enriching leisure experiences.

In terms of MICE, our hotels are strategically situated to meet the substantial demand in major metropolitan areas like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai, and Surat. Additionally, we are expanding our reach to regional destinations such as Odisha and West Bengal to capitalize on large-scale demand for MICE events across the country. All our hotels offer flexible meeting spaces and state-of-the-art technology to ensure successful events. Our goal is to support the growing inbound tourism and capitalize on evolving travel trends, thereby contributing to the dynamic landscape of India’s tourism sector.

Many hotel majors have created ancillary brands in wellness and food, for example. Are you looking at such a diversion as well?

In today’s competitive hospitality industry, ancillary brands are crucial for hotels to diversify offerings, create additional revenue streams, and enhance guest experiences. At Radisson Hotel Group, we have successfully built Meetha by Radisson, a premium offering of curated Indian sweets. Recognized with the prestigious Times Food awards, Meetha by Radisson has been a remarkable success, particularly at our Mumbai hotel where the first retail segment has thrived. We plan to expand Meetha to other cities and Radisson Hotels, further enhancing our offerings and setting a new standard for culinary excellence across the region.

Innovation is at the core of our culinary experience, evident in initiatives like Take Home a Chef, Ghar ka Swad, Signature Dishes, and Undivided India. These successful programs, catering to small parties, corporate offices, and travellers seeking home-style food, inspire us to expand further. Our signature dishes provide authentic local flavours, enriching our guests’ culinary experiences. These concepts significantly impact our strategy, and we remain committed to continuous growth and setting new benchmarks in wellness and food, ensuring exceptional and innovative experiences at every touchpoint.

What is the single biggest opportunity for growth? How are you positioning your group to take advantage?

We believe that one of the biggest opportunities for growth lies in being adaptive to the evolving needs of travellers. Currently, the spiritual landscape is receiving immense interest from travellers both in India and abroad, coupled with the government’s focus on making India a global spiritual travel hub. Radisson Hotel Group has been proactive in catering to this demand with the opening of the first internally branded hotel in Ayodhya. We are further focusing on bringing global hospitality standards to religious towns such as Vrindavan, Ujjain, and Guruvayur. Capturing the luxury hospitality demand, we have also opened Radisson Collection Hotel & Spa, Riverfront Srinagar, the largest hotel in Jammu and Kashmir.

Another significant growth opportunity lies in adopting a pan-national approach and penetrating deeper into the country. Underserved markets beyond Tier 2 regions have the potential to emerge as major tourism destinations as travellers increasingly seek to explore serene, remote regions of India. With a limited presence of quality hospitality brands in these destinations, there is a substantial opportunity to meet the growing demand. At Radisson Hotel Group, we are committed to building hotels in these regions, with a strong pipeline of signings in Gopalpur, Sonipat, Dera Bassi, Kevadia, Jhansi, and Vizag. By combining our strategic focus on emerging destinations and being adapted to consumer demand, we are well-positioned to capitalize on these growth opportunities and set new standards in the hospitality industry.

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