Q&A: New leadership at Radisson

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Radisson Hotel Group is one of the world’s largest hotel groups with seven distinctive hotel brands, and more than 1,400 hotels in operation and under development in 120 countries. Its signature service philosophy is Every Moment Matters. Business Traveller Africa caught up with Ramsay Rankoussi who leads the group’s strategic growth across the Middle East, Turkey and Africa with a team based in Dubai and Cape Town. He recently expanded his role as the Head of Development for Africa, further demonstrating the commitment of the company across the continent. Tasked with increasing the group’s hotel portfolio and footprint in his assigned markets, the group’s largest geographical area, he is an expert dealmaker, leading transactions from sourcing through to execution.

Q: What is your new role at Radisson Hotel Group and how has it differed to your previous position?

A: I have been in the group for over six years now with similar functions but with a different mandate. Prior to expanding my responsibility across the entire African continent, I was overseeing our strategic growth across the Middle East, Turkey and French Speaking Africa. The recent expansion as the new Head of Development for Africa further demonstrates a strong focus and commitment across the continent for Radisson Hotel Group.

Q: What is unique about Radisson Hotel Group’s development team for Africa?

A: Our development team is at the heart of our growth strategy and they all are individually and collectively translating it to execution. We have created a dual approach regarding our growth strategy for Africa. One part concentrates on focus countries while the other centres around creating clusters; both resulting in critical mass and a scale strategy.

Each member of our development team leads through this approach with both the proximity of their geographical zone as well as, and very importantly, their cultural and language understanding, reinforcing our alignment with each focus market – North Africa, Francophone and Anglophone Africa.

Another significant factor which drives our ability to succeed in establishing long-term partnerships with our investment community, is our responsiveness, always quick to provide answers and support; our pragmatic design approach; our transparency throughout the process in combination with our continuous guidance throughout each phase including construction and financing.

Q: What does the Radisson Hotel Group’s African portfolio consist of to date?

A: From a single property 20 years ago, the group now has 45 hotels in operation and around 30 hotels under construction. We have also set an ambition to have over 100 hotels by 2022 across the continent. Radisson Hotel Group also has the largest representation across the continent, with a brand presence in over 32 countries.

Radisson Blu remains our largest core brand with most of the existing presence and is also the largest and fastest growing hotel brand across the continent. We are also pleased to have established each of our brands in the region, from our midscale Park Inn by Radisson to our luxury Radisson Collection, as well as our newly launched upscale Radisson brand and lifestyle Radisson RED.

Q: What are some of Radisson Hotel Group’s most notable achievements in Africa since opening its first hotel in Africa, 20 years ago?

A: As briefly mentioned, we have set an ambition to reach 100 hotels by 2022 and we are pleased to witness the rapid and positive growth we have maintained over the last few years across the continent.

We were the first hotel group to establish a dedicated financial vehicle in the past to support our growth and we are still as committed to support our journey in Africa to further materialize openings and accelerate growth.

We hold the record across the continent with the fastest construction timeline achieved with the recently opened Radisson Blu Hotel & Conference Centre, Niamey; Radisson RED Cape Town or Radisson Blu Hotel & Convention Center, Kigali among others, further demonstrating our ability to provide relevant brands and open each hotel in the shortest time.

Q: What is Radisson Hotel Group’s expansion strategy and priorities for Africa?

A: We believe in creating a critical mass and city scale development strategy with a focus on key countries and surrounding markets.

Our focus countries which represents the largest individual scale are Morocco, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa.

In addition to those key countries, we have implemented a cluster approach in both development and operations to ensure synergies among neighbouring countries and further create value for our hotels. The targeted clusters where we focus on growing in priority are the Maghreb; West Africa with Senegal and Ivory Coast; Central Africa with Cameroon and Republic of Congo; East Africa with Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania; and finally specific countries within the Southern African Development Community such as Angola, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia.

We also want to remain relevant to our owners and that is through all our offerings, in particular our brands and their related development cost. Our technical team has produced comprehensive brand guidelines allowing us to further accelerate the speed of construction, minimize overall time to build, and we have also considerably reduced the cost of development of each brand, making us one of the most competitive companies with relevant resources adding value to our investors.

Q: Going forward, what are some of the key African markets for Radisson Hotel Group?

A: As translated in our strategy and priorities, we are now focusing on creating the right scale across all our brands in our four key focus countries while further expanding in each of the sub-clusters in order to provide sufficient efficiencies and economies of scale.

We have put forward the creation of local support offices in Nigeria, Morocco, Kenya and South Africa to further ensure our ability to respond to local needs and provide proximity and responsiveness.

Q: What difference will Radisson Hotel Group’s new shareholder, Jin Jiang, bring to the Group, specifically for Africa?

A: Now being part of Jin Jiang International, the second largest hotel group in the world in terms of number of rooms, brings us immense opportunities to access the growing Chinese demand but also secure a new source of capital and resources relevant to Africa.

Our new shareholder has brought further synergies and economies of scale and we certainly look at working closer and establish how we can unlock more value.

Furthermore, our development strategy interlinks itself closely to the wider Silk & Belt road markets established by China and we believe this can certainly accelerate our growth journey across Africa as well as provide key solutions for our partners and investment community.

Q: What difference do you envision to bring to Radisson Hotel Group as the new head of development for Africa?

A: I think the success of the group has always been on its ability to nurture relationships and provide relevant tools and resources to the investment community. We will continue to leverage on the legacy already established across the continent and continue to provide our owners and future partners with the right guidance across each phase from development to operations, but also on recycling their capital.

Relevance is key and our priority is to ensure not only a clean brand architecture from midscale to luxury, new hotel development solutions such as serviced apartments, compact hotels or resort concepts but also in creating the necessary tools to optimize our performance, maximize returns and grow the value of their assets over time.