Middle East hotel trends, opportunities and challenges with Radisson Hotel Group’s Elie Younes

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Radisson works with property owners for leasing, franchising and so on and your business models are adjusted for different markets. Is being nimble a quality that you think has become more important for businesses as a whole in recent years?

Our focus overtime has always been to remain relevant to our partners. As the macro-economic climate evolves, we adjust our strategy in a way that is compatible with our business landscape. We shift from asset-light to asset-right.

Geographically, Middle East and Africa have always been a fee-based business model and we believe this will still continue as we benefit now from critical mass in most markets, allowing us to create value through efficiencies, economies of scale and other commercial synergies which then further translate value creation to our partners as we grow together.

Our investors in the region usually bring the expertise in building the hotels while we operate them.

More and more relevant to our investment partners is our brand offering.

We have reviewed and created a clean and simple brand architecture from economy to luxury, and from resorts to business hotels while also offering serviced apartments solutions.

Our technical team has produced comprehensive brand guidelines allowing us to further accelerate the speed of construction, minimise overall time to build but 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.

We foresee the biggest opportunities to be conversions and takeovers across the region.

Historically, our group has been known for repositioning existing hotels under one of our brands and we believe we can continue to replicate the same success as existing hotel owners look at ways of improving their returns and Radisson has always established itself as a solid partner.

The group has undergone a process of rebranding and repositioning; in today’s market what are the key challenges in changing perceptions about a brand, both internally and to customers?

The rebranding exercise was a natural evolution of the company but also the result of leveraging on our core name “Radisson”.

Naming our company “Radisson Hotel Group” became a simpler approach to create an umbrella brand which everybody could recognise due to the established awareness but also reflected the change of ownership the company went through and the new vision we had adopted as a group in our pursuit in becoming one of the top three hotel companies in the world.

All our guests have always referred us to Radisson, they have now access to all the Radisson brands, can gain loyalty through Radisson Rewards but can also discover a newly launched website radissonhotels.com unifying all our hotels and details into one platform, further leveraging our core identity.

On the development side, we have had record year on year since the transformation, demonstrating the recognition the company has had in the market but also showing that our partners had themselves recognised the efforts and positive evolution our group had embarked on and which they wanted to be part of.

How did Radisson approach its rebranding in terms of deciding what to focus on – what factors come into play when looking at rebranding a global business with diverse brands?

We have two customers: our guests and our hotel owners.

The priority was for us to translate and create values for both and ensure that those who stay at our hotel benefit of all our changes and efforts but equally that those who invest and build hotels with us benefit of stronger returns and lasting relationships.

The customer journey was simplified from the booking process, to the arrival, to the experience, the brand signature elements, the memories with a statement applicable to the company and all the brands: “every moment matters”.

This philosophy had ensured that every touch point from the customer journey is responded with a positive impact so that we convert all our guests into loyal members.

For the owners, as expressed before, relevance is key and our priority was to ensure not only a clean brand architecture with the introduction of new brands or new hotel development solutions but also in creating the necessary tools to optimise our performance, maximise returns and grow the value of their assets over time.

This region is particularly diverse, with consumers from a variety of mature and emerging markets. How can a global brand hope to be all things to all people – what lessons are there to be learned in effectively connecting with a broad customer base?

We provide our owners with the right business model for the right project in the right location.

Our clear and complementing brand architecture provides opportunities to our investors in all segments. We have also launched our serviced apartment offering which generates additional investment options to our partners.

We are committed to becoming increasingly relevant and we will continue to transform the behaviour of our organisation so that everything that we do creates a compelling value proposition to our owners.

From branding, revenue, cost, engagement and transaction simplicity – we will continue to make a difference. Speed, agility, responsiveness and a pragmatic mindset continue to make us stand out from the crowd.

Elie Younes is the executive vice president and chief development officer of Radisson Hotel Group

How is Radisson encouraging more women into senior leadership roles?

We have established a programme, “Women in Leadership” launched few years back ahead of the global initiative as we had always committed in gender equality but also in growing our talents.

We have not only successfully appointed female general managers across the region, but we were often the first ones to do so.

Equally, we have many women in senior roles in our office support functions globally demonstrating a balanced management but also an open organisation with opportunities for everyone based on merit and without differences.

What defines a successful hotel business?

I think it comes from different elements which once combined can create a successful business. Like any real estate investment, a hotel venture has three main phases: 1) development 2) operation and 3) exit/recycling capital.

Radisson Hotel Group is here to support our owners every step of the way, from concept planning until the opening/operation and even throughout the exit phase (if any).

We aim to be the best partner during each phase of the investment and that comes from best technical and development solutions, relevant brands, lower cost of development, dedicated management teams, daily support, strong commercial platforms and a robust network within the investment community.

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