Radisson’s move into the luxury hotel space is complicated

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When relationships are too much 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 authentic local influence, lively design and a vibrant social scene.”

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

To begin with, you probably think that Radisson is not a luxury hotel. If you’re based in the US, you can think of them as sitting somewhere between a Crowne Plaza and your regular Sheraton or Marriott.

It would be a very American point of view, but something that the leaders of the Brussels-based group believe they can overcome.

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

However, in 2018, Radisson Hotel Group decided to create a separate, 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 pitched 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 through other corporate brands. Hotel owners have access to corporate and group sales and leverage the scale of global giants for purchasing.

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

Hotels in Stockholm, Venice, Moscow, Sochi, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Warsaw, Lagos and Agra were first named after their mother. In other words, Radisson-Collection Strand Stockholm or Radisson-Collection Warsaw.

Others have added the mark 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 China’s hospitality market.

Speaking at ILTM North America being held this week in Riviera Maya, Mexico, Heather Nelson, international sales manager for Radisson Hotel Group, said the 32 Radisson Collection properties opening today represent a mix of up-and-coming destinations (think Manchester, Tallinn, Belgrade) and new tourist areas in places you already love (like Milan, Rome, Berlin).

Radisson Collection promises you’ll find “authentic touches such as artwork from regional artists as well as locally inspired food and drink options.”

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 in, Nelson says to think Marriott’s Edition, Sofitel in Europe, or Hyatt’s Andaz.

To focus on foodies, the group brought in renowned chefs Anthony Bonnet and Eneko Atxa. Bonnet, whose grandparents were farmers, worked in the kitchens of Jean Brouilly, starred chef in Tarare, then of Philippe Gauvreau, two-starred chef at La Rotonde in Lyon before returning to the family establishment Les Loges where he was elected Young Talented Chef by the 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 buildings of historical significance and each offers high-level architecture and design. Many have less than 100 keys. For example, the Radisson Collection Hotel, Palazzo Nani Venice has only 52 rooms and suites, while the Radisson Collection Hotel, Bodrum has 80 keys.

Even the largest 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 openings scheduled in the next two years and plans to hit the market of the century, you’ll likely 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 says Forbes“Before the meeting, I knew very little about these properties and they were not prioritized. After being impressed, I sent a client to Venice for a last minute booking, and they called me delighted with the value- price, location and service.”

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

Currently, there is only a limited business relationship. A redesign of Radisson’s loyalty program is expected to be announced in October. But the future could be even more complex. Choice has the right to open Radisson Collection properties in the Americas.

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

Nelson is open to challenges. She told an ILTM press briefing, “The elephant in the room is Radisson, but we’re really trying to stand out.”

In a world where options for luxury travelers are overflowing, Danziger sums up selling a premium brand with the Radisson label. “(Radisson) doesn’t have a luxury reputation with the advisor community or with customers. It doesn’t have the cachet or the sexy appeal that some of the other brands have (so I’m) curious to see how they are working to focus on reinventing the brand. It can go either way, but only time will tell.

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