Radisson’s move into the luxury hotel space is complicated

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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 a vibrant social scene.

While that may sound like one of dozens of luxury lifestyle hotel brands, there’s a lot to unpack.

For starters, you probably think that Radisson is not a luxury hotel. If you’re based in the United States, you might think they’re somewhere between a Crowne Plaza and your run-of-the-mill Sheraton or Marriott.

That would be very much an American stance, but something the executives of the Brussels-based group think they can overcome.

Outside of North America, the Radisson Blu flag has long been considered in the higher-end luxury segment, and its hotels have consistently won several accolades.

However, in 2018, Radisson Hotel Group decided to create a separate and higher level of Blu under the Radisson Collection brand.

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

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

However, the 2018 change meant that the 14 Quorvus properties would now bear the Radisson label in two ways.

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

Others added the brand as endorsement, e.g. 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 at ILTM North America this week in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Heather Nelson, Head of International Sales for Radisson Hotel Group, said the 32 Radisson Collection properties open today represent a mix of emerging destinations (think Manchester , Tallinn , Belgrade) and new tourist areas in the places you already love (like Milan, Rome, Berlin).

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

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

For its focus on gourmet food, the group tapped renowned 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 two-star chef at La Rotonde in Lyon, before returning to the family business Les Loges where he was elected 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 are, in many cases, located in historically significant buildings, each boasting distinctive architecture and design. Many are less than 100 keys. Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice, for example, has only 52 rooms and suites, while Radisson Collection Hotel, Bodrum has 80 keys.

Even the larger homes are unique. The Grand Hotel Savoia Cortina d’Ampezzo, a Radisson Collection Hotel with 132 rooms and suites, has a lakeside Italian palace and has past guests Charlton Heston, Sophia Loren, Winston Churchill, Tolstoy and Franklin Roosevelt.

With 19 more new doors expected over the next two years and plans to hit the centennial market, you’re likely to hear 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 TNZT“Prior to meeting I knew very little about these properties and they were not top of mind. After being impressed, I sent a client to Venice for a last minute booking, and they called me raving about the value, location and service.”

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

There is currently no commercial relationship. When you stay in a Radisson property in America, you earn points towards the Choice loyalty program and there are no redemption options at the luxurious Radisson Collection hotels and resorts. At the same time, when you play in Radisson Rewards, the frequent guest program associated with Radisson Collection, there are no options to earn or burn in America.

In other words; there is no connection between anything called Radisson in America and Radisson in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

A renewal 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 America.

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 meeting at ILTM, “The elephant in the room is Radisson, but we’re really trying to differentiate ourselves.”

In a world where options for luxury travelers are overflowing, Danziger sums up that this is how it sells a high-end brand with the Radisson label. “(Radisson) doesn’t have a luxury reputation with the consultant community nor with clients. It doesn’t have the cache or sexy appeal that some of the other brands have (so I’m curious to see how they work to focus on the brand again invent. It could go either way, but time will tell.”

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