Seeing red: Carlson Rezidor talks expansion

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When Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group announced the launch of new ‘lifestyle select’ brand Radisson Red, it promised to deliver today’s customer the experience of tomorrow. Boutique Hotelier caught up with executive VP and chief commercial officer Eric De Neef to find out how it plans to do just that.

Following the termination of the Missoni contract, why did Rezidor decide to launch a lifestyle brand called Red (alongside the luxury brand Quorvus)?

These are two different positionings. Quorvus is much more in the luxury segment, while Red is in the ‘upscale select’ segment as the Americans would call it, although the upscale select segment doesn’t really exist so far in Europe.

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So when we worked on Red, we worked together with Carlson in the head office in Brussels on two surveys. The first was on millennials to understand what their expectations were.

Then we conducted online and offline focus groups in different countries to see if we had the same consistency on these expectations.

Millenials are very techno savvy, very free, they want to master the experience, they want the choice, but they want to be in control. When we looked at the biggest competitors of Red, be it Hyatt Place, Indigo or CitizenM, we said we’re going to work on this segment – upscale select.

Is Radisson Red the evolution of Radisson Blu and if so where does Blu fit?

Red isn’t an evolution, it’s another segment because you still have people wanting more of a classical experience; they won’t all feel at ease in the Red concept. So Blu is clearly positioned in the upper upscale, which isn’t the ambition of Red.

We are working on ‘new blue’, as we call it internally, to include Blu in the new techno-savvy trend we see and evolve and modernise the Blu hotels because you can’t lag behind. We will evolve Blu but it won’t disappear and become Red.

What is the pricepoint of Red?

It’s upscale. So if you have a £100 room as a midmarket price point, then you’re looking at £160 in upper upscale — we’re going to be £130 in the middle — but it’s really an upscale positioning.

The property size we’re targeting will be between 150 and 200 rooms, and the room size will be between 24sqm and 28sqm. And on the meeting and event space we’re restricting to 200-250 so the aim isn’t to have big convention centres as it doesn’t fit.

Why doesn’t the large event side fit with the brand?

The big conventions and conferences are decreasing worldwide, people are working differently. They’re Skyping, they use a lot of technical solutions to avoid travelling and to save costs and save time.

The way the meetings are organised today is different, so we’re rethinking the value proposition of meetings and events space – to find another way to support our guests and the technical side of it will be important.

When you look at occupancy rates of meeting rooms across the industry, I don’t think the figure is above 50%. It means you have a lot of square metres unused. So we are thinking about multipurpose areas, where entertainment areas at the weekend can be transferred into meeting areas during the week. We’re giving a lot of thought to that.

How are you approaching technology to find solutions that will be scalable?

We’re investing a lot in the tech side of things with the app, to give customers access to all of the information and tell them what they need to discover in the city and create a community for them to share experiences with their peers.

We’re working on technology so the phone can be used as a keycard, we’re working on online check-in because we don’t want to have a traditional reception area anymore — the idea is that you could check-in and check-out by yourself, do it online or at a self-check-in kiosk and there’ll be someone there to help you.

We’re also working on an app where you’re integrated completely; your room service delivery, your information on the local sites, when you want your housekeeping. There is a cost attached, but it’s about reinventing the hospitality business model as well.

How will you distinguish the brand in terms of designs?
We have decided to go for a prescriptive product and we want to have a strong signature, with the main colour being red.

The idea now is to have regional variances linked to the size of the rooms, for example, but the design principles will be similar.

They’ll be 80%-85% new-build hotels. We have much more leverage for new builds in emerging markets such as the Middle East, for example, but somewhere like London is more likely to be a conversion.

Meet Eric De Neef

Eric De Neef is responsible for Rezidor’s entire commercial organisation, taking responsibility for the commercial strategy and achievement of its revenue growth objectives.

His role is drive all activities related to sales, marketing, branding, PR, distribution & e-commerce, which involves closely coordinating global deployment and optimization with Rezidor’s strategic partner Carlson.

De Neef, a Belgian national, joined Rezidor in February 2011.

Prior to his time at the company, he spent 23 years with Accor where he held general manager and regional director positions in Belgium and was responsible for the global marketing strategy of the Mercure brand in France.

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