Radisson’s Move Into The Luxury Hotel Space Is Complicated

When relationships are too cumbersome to explain, partners will often describe their status as, “It’s complicated.” Welcome to Radisson Collection, what the brand’s website calls “a unique collection of iconic properties, reflecting an authentic local influence, living design and vibrant social scene.”

While that may sound like any of the dozens of luxury lifestyle hotel brands, there’s lots to unpack.

To begin, you probably think Radisson isn’t a luxury hotel. If you are based in the United States, you may think of them as sitting somewhere between a Crowne Plaza and your run-of-the-mill Sheraton or Marriott.

That would be very much an American point of view but something executives of the Brussels-based group believe they can overcome.

Outside North America, the Radisson Blu flag has long been considered in the upper upscale segment, and its hotels have consistently garnered various awards.

However, in 2018 Radisson Hotel Group decided to create a separate and higher tier from Blu under the Radisson Collection mark.

The idea of a true luxury lifestyle brand for the company dates to the 2014 launch of the Quorvus Collection, initially presented as a soft brand like Marriott’s Autograph Collection or The Unbound Collection from Hyatt.

A soft brand means the hotel markets itself under its own name, although guests can earn and burn loyalty points across other corporate brands. Hotel owners get access to corporate and group sales and leverage the scale of the global behemoths for purchasing.

However, the 2018 change meant the 14 Quorvus properties would now carry the Radisson label in one of two ways.

Hotels in Stockholm, Venice, Moscow, Sochi, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Warsaw, Lagos and Agra were branded by the mother name first. In other words, Radisson Collection Strand Stockholm or Radisson Collection Warsaw.

Others added the brand as an endorsement, for example, The May Fair London, a Radisson Collection Hotel.

The move also coincided with the sale of the group to a consortium led by Jin Jiang International Holdings, a leading player in the Chinese hospitality market.

Speaking during ILTM North America being held this week in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Heather Nelson, Head of International Sales for Radisson Hotel Group, says the 32 Radisson Collection properties open today represent a mix of up-and-coming destinations (think Manchester, Tallinn, Belgrade) and new tourism areas in the places you already love (such as Milan, Rome, Berlin).

Radisson Collections promises you will find “authentic touches such as artwork by regional artists as well as locally-inspired food and beverage options.”

Like most luxury lifestyle brands today, this one wants to be measured by more than thread counts. If you are trying to calibrate where it fits in, Nelson says think Marriott’s Edition, Sofitel in Europe or Hyatt’s Andaz.

For its focus on foodies, the group tapped noted chefs Anthony Bonnet and Eneko Atxa. Bonnet, whose grandparents were farmers, worked in the kitchens of Jean Brouilly, a Michelin-starred chef in Tarare, and then Philippe Gauvreau, a double-starred chef at La Rotonde in the Lyon before returning to the family establishment Les Loges where he was voted Young Talented Chef by Gault & Millau d’Or and awarded a Michelin star. During his tenure at Azurmendi, Atxa received two Michelin stars and has since launched new restaurants in Brussels, Seville and Bilbao as part of his work with Radisson Collection.

The hotels themselves, in many cases, are in historically significant buildings and each offer high-brow architecture and design. Many are under 100 keys. For example, Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice, is just 52 rooms and suites while Radisson Collection Hotel, Bodrum, is 80 keys.

Even the larger properties are unique. The Grand Hotel Savoia Cortina d’Ampezzo, A Radisson Collection Hotel with 132 rooms and suites, channels an Italian lake palace and counts Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Winston Churchill, Tolstoy and Franklin Roosevelt as past guests.

With 19 more expected to open in the next two years and plans to reach the century market, you will likely be hearing more about Radisson Collection in the future.

Founder and Managing Partner Julie Danziger of New York-based luxury travel agency EmbarkBeyond recently joined the hotel’s advisory board. She tells Forbes, “Prior to the meeting, I knew very little about these properties and they were not top of mind. After I was impressed, so I sent a client to Venice on a last-minute booking, and they called me thrilled with the value, location, and service.”

However, the story is not just as simple as another hotel company spinning out another new brand. Earlier this year, Jin Jiang sold all of the Radisson’s properties in the Americas to Choice Hotels International for $675 million. While the play was more to cement the new owner’s girth along highways and in college towns with hundreds of Country Inn & Suites locations, it creates an odd divide.

There is currently no commercial relationship. If you stay in a Radisson property in the Americas, you are earning points into the Choice loyalty program, and there are no redemption options with the luxurious Radisson Collection hotels and resorts. At the same time, if you play in Radisson Rewards, the frequent guest program attached to Radisson Collection, there are no options to earn or burn in the Americas.

Put another way; there is no connection between anything with the Radisson name in the Americas and Radisson in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

A revamp of Radisson’s program is expected to be announced in October, but the future could be even more complex. Choice has the rights to open Radisson Collection properties in the Americas.

It’s a bit of a throwback to the days when Hilton Hotels Corporation and Hilton International were separate companies. They combined in 2005.

Nelson is open about the challenges. She told a media gathering at ILTM, “The elephant in the room is Radisson, but we are really trying to set ourselves apart.”

In a world where options for luxury travelers are overflowing, Danziger sums up selling a high-end brand with the Radisson label this way. “(Radisson) does not have a luxury reputation with the advisor community nor with clients. It does not have the cache or sexy appeal to it that some of the other brands do (so I am) curious to see how they work to focus on reinventing the brand. It can go either way, but only time will tell.”

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