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Breaking Travel News interview: Federico González-Tejera, chief executive, Radisson Hospitality AB

Breaking Travel News interview: Federico González-Tejera, chief executive, Radisson Hospitality AB

It has been a whirlwind few months for Federico González-Tejera.

Just over a year ago he announced Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group would become Radisson Hotel Group, uniting eight brands under a global umbrella for the first time.

Reborn, the company was promptly snapped up by Chinese rival Jinjiang International, to create the second largest hotel company in the world.

It has been quite a rise.

But as chief executive, González sees tremendous potential ahead.

Speaking to Breaking Travel News in London, he explains: “Radisson Hotel Group currently has around 1,200 properties under operation and another 300 in development – making it the eleventh largest group in the world.

“We offer 222,000 rooms worldwide.

“Jinjiang has acquired full ownership of the group from HNA Group and I think it is important to highlight what this means.

“They have 7,000 hotels in the world, which a lot of people are not aware of – around 700,000 rooms.

“If you add Radisson to this, Jinjiang will become the second largest hotel company in the world.

“This gives us a huge opportunity to expand in China, significantly.

“Here in Europe we think in terms of one, two or three hotels per city, but in China, some of the cities are larger than European countries, so there is tremendous potential there.”

While Jinjiang is obviously the larger partner in the deal, it is not a one-way relationship, González continues.

The Chinese company is buying into a strong collection of Radisson brands, assets it will be able to exploit as it seeks to grow in Europe.

As González adds: “We are working on, and will be announcing soon, co-branded hotels with Jinjiang – there will be two pilot hotels here in Europe.

“Even if they are still Radisson Blu or Radisson Collection, in Chinese letters, we will add Jinjiang.

“This will add a very good hook for Chinese consumers when they arrive in the region – it will link the Radisson brand to Jinjiang.

“Within the hotels we are also redefining the experience, in order to ensure we are ‘China ready’ – what Chinese guests expect in the room is different to other markets.

“We are preparing a protocol for Chinese guests, and our partnership with Jinjiang gives us an advantage here against our competitors.”

Growth from here could also be exponential, González adds with tongue only slight in cheek: “Radisson Hotel Group signed 40 hotels last year, a new record, although, with Jinjiang, this might increase to 400 or 500.”

Some of the most exciting growth has come from Radisson Collection.

Designed as a premium collection of exceptional hotels in landmark locations, the new brand is driven by consumer demand for individuality and more personalised experiences.

It brings together the finest hotels in the Radisson Hotel Group portfolio, with properties in London and Moscow recently joining.

González continues: “With Radisson Collection we are concerned about the purity of the brand, we do not want contamination.

“There is not a desire to have as many as possible, we need to manage the portfolio in a way that is true to its values.

“We will consider every market, if there is space for two Collection properties, so be it.

“But we want to take care of Collection in a way that means it is a collection – as many exceptional properties as we can find, then they will join.

“With Radisson Collection every hotel must be exceptional.

“We had ambitions to welcome 20 hotels to the portfolio by the end of 2022, but we are up to 30 already.

“Perhaps we can now get to around 50 – it has been successful.”

Of course, exceptional properties are attractive to all hotel groups, not just Radisson, but González argues his organisation is ideally placed to welcome the world leaders.

Speaking at the May Fair in London, he adds: “There are three things that separate Radisson Hotel Group from our competitors – the first is that we have worked hard to really define the brands.

“In our industry, a lot of brands arrive, not because the have a unique essence, but in stead to satisfy the needs of owners.

“The investment Radisson has made in its brand architecture, and the purity we have there, sets us apart.

“Secondly, we are extremely focused – with only have a limited number of brands.

“Other companies may have 30 or more brands, even if they are larger, with more guests, they are still splitting that demand, and competing against themselves.

“This focus is very significant.

“Thirdly, I would say the culture of the company, how we operate and execute, is very important.

“We own or lease around 20 per cent of out hotels, while we have around 50 under management, so we are aware of the needs of our owners.

“We truly understand what drives the business, from a revenue point of view, from a management point of view and a cost management point of view.”

With consolidation gathering pace in the hospitality industry, there is an awareness further deals could be just around the corner.

However, González argues there is much work to do inside Radisson before further expansion can be considered.

“I am happy with our portfolio,” he explains.

“We have so much to do in remaining focused on delivering, and exceeding, on the expectations of our shareholders and employees – not to mention our investors!

“We have one brand in each segment, eight in total.

“Maybe in the future, when we have 10,000 hotels, we will consider further brands,” González jokes.

Turning his attention to the United States, the chief executive explains there is still a great deal of work to be done as the company embarks on its five-year plan in the region.

“In the United States our priority is to grow Country Inn & Suites, where we are making investments.

“Our second ambition in that market is to fix Radisson, not all the properties in the portfolio in the United States are at the level we would want them to be at.

“There is a need for a clean-up.

“Beyond that, we will look to grow Blu – the brand is already the largest upper-upscale operator in Europe, it has a great presence, but in the United States, this is not the case.

“We have been signing many new Blu properties, full business and convention hotels, as we try and change this.”

He concludes: “We have a concrete plan to ensure all the properties that should exit, exit.

“There are some it will not be possible to recover, and they will have to leave.

“But others, we have spoken to the owners and we will work with them to ensure they come up to standard.

“There is a dialogue and we provide the owners with tools, be that financing, advice, whatever they need.

“Over the next five years we have a defined plan on which properties should leave and which should remain – we don’t want the good ones to leave!”

More Information

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 around the world.

Radisson Hotel Group portfolio includes Radisson Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson Red, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson.

Find out more on the official website.

Chris O’Toole