Q&A: Radisson – Aiming for the stars

Africa is seen as the last emerging continent on the planet, offering many, albeit scattered, opportunities for growth. It remains a key continent for Radisson Hotel Group’s growth. Elie Younes, Radisson’s Chief Development Officer, sheds light on the group, hotel trends and African hotspots.

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Q: How many brands do you have operating in Africa, and which have been the most well-received by the public?

A: Radisson Hotel Group historically only operated with two brands in Africa – Radisson Blu in the upper upscale segment and Park Inn by Radisson within the midscale segment. Today, we have five brands available to develop across Africa, with Radisson Blu as the fastest growing and leading upper upscale brand. The remaining brands are Radisson Collection, Radisson RED, Radisson and Park Inn by Radisson. Our priority brand for the future in Africa will be Radisson, expecting 60% of our new signings to be under the Radisson brand. We launched the brand in Africa in 2018 and already have 13 hotels opened and under development.

Q: Are you planning to introduce any new hotel brands to Africa in the near future?

A: Not currently as we have five brands well positioned between midscale and luxury and the focus will be to continue to create depth in the marketplace with each brand.

Q: Where do you believe the next African hotel development hot spots will be?

A: We have identified key focus markets which offer scalability and where we believe the biggest of the growth will originate from: Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa, but also Egypt as the market recovers. In addition to those key countries, we have implemented a cluster approach in both development and operation to ensure synergies among neighbouring countries and further create value for our hotels. The targeted clusters where we focus on growing aggressively are Maghreb; West Africa with Senegal and Ivory Coast; Central Africa with Cameroon, DRC and Republic of Congo; East Africa with Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania and some key countries from the Southern African Development Community such as Angola, Mauritius, Mozambique and Zambia.

Q: In which segment do you see the most opportunity in Africa? Luxury, uppermidscale, mid-market etc?

A: The maturity of the different markets in Africa require a different type of hotel product. To generalise however, the Radisson Hotel Group believes the gap with the most potential is in the upscale segment. More mature markets like South Africa will have more opportunities in the midscale, and luxury is not a segment where any brand or hotel group can grow in scale.

Q: Have you picked up on any global hotel trends that you feel are worth mentioning?

A: Travel and leisure are becoming increasingly mixed and it is important to cater to all customer needs. The new generation of travellers have more diverse interests than before and we see digital technology, challenging modern design, incorporating fashion and music and, of course, sustainability as key to shaping hotel trends. This is integral to the hotel experience and are all hallmarks of the Radisson RED brand, which is aimed at guests who are becoming more focused on experiences. Well-being has become a trend that influences buying habits with those more likely to purchase a product or service that enhances their sense of emotional wellbeing. Another key trend is doing business responsibly. In my view this is not only related to business but should also impact our lifestyle in general as we are responsible for what we leave behind us for the next generation.

Q: Where does technology sit in the Radisson Hotel Group strategy and offering?

A: Technology development is becoming more relevant to our industry and is an integral part of our five-year operating plan. In July 2019, we launched RadissonHotels.com and the Radisson Hotels App, our first multi-brand and mobile-first global website giving guests and loyalty members access to more than 1,100 hotels worldwide. We are currently developing a multi-million-dollar technology investment system named EMMA which unifies the customer and business journey in one single platform.

Q: What do you think the modern-day business traveller is looking for from a hotel?

A: Location is always a top priority for all travellers. Then consistency of delivering on the essentials, our so-called ‘brilliant basics’ such as breakfasts, showers, bedding and a fast, free and reliable internet. The appetite for experiences, sustainability, eco-consciousness and personalisation are a few of the other trends that are influencing our overall development plan and guest experience.

Q: Where would you like to see Radisson Hotel Group in the next 10 years?

A: In 10 years – my vision is that we become the top hotel company for owners, guests and talents.