radisson red studioAustralia’s hotels continue to grow, with increases in both room numbers and occupancy over 2014- 15, meaning that there is plenty of scope for international brands such as Carlson Rezidor to expand here. Guy Dundas investigates.

Admitting its presence in the Australasia market needs propping up, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is poised to introduce three new brands in the region as part of an earmarked growth strategy.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s portfolio of hotels is vast. Segmented across seven brands means the group caters for virtually all markets. In the luxury field is the relatively new Quorvus Collection with two properties in Europe, one in Kuwait and another opening soon in Oman. In the upper upscale tier is Radisson Blu with 393 hotels (and the bulk of rooms) in operation or under development. Within the upscale status is Radisson (191), Park Plaza (54) and the ‘select service’ Radisson Red, projected to span 60 hotels by 2020.

Dropping down an echelon and within the upper midscale band is Park Inn by Radisson (197 in operation or under development) and the ‘limited service’ Country Inn & Suites brand where Carlson Rezidor has its greatest span – 515 properties in operation and under development primarily in North America and India.

Headquartered in Brussels and with regional offices in Singapore, Delhi, Jakarta and Shanghai, the hotel group has over 1,370 properties, with 220,000 rooms in 110 countries and territories. However current room inventory in Australia is limited – extremely limited. There’s Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel and Radisson Hotel & Suites in Sydney and Radisson on Flagstaff Gardens in Melbourne – but that’s it, for now.

Speaking exclusively to travelBulletin recently, Carlson Rezidor’s President for Asia Pacific, Thorsten Kirschke says the low tally in Australia is a concern and is a key focus going forward.

“Clearly, the low count is what makes me say we have huge potential. We are very committed to Australia. We have been here for 17 years and at one point in time we almost had 10 properties in operation. For reasons I don’t know, there wasn’t the same intensity around exploring the potential for Australia in previous years.

“I only took office 18 months ago, so we are now looking at it with a fresh pair of eyes and we have put together and assembled a whole new development team. We are now putting boots on the ground and establishing a development office in Sydney, so as one thing comes to another, I think we’ll see the pieces come together.”

Those ‘pieces’ include the potential introduction of the Radisson Red brand in Brisbane and Melbourne where “advanced deal discussions” are underway. Sydney is also on the radar, with Kirschke telling travelBulletin: “We are currently evaluating another opportunity with an existing owner here in Sydney and our primary choice would have been Red. For other reasons, I don’t think it would become a Red, but I absolutely see Sydney as a fantastic market for Radisson Red.

“Rolling out Radisson Red is front and centre of our strategy, in addition to expanding our anchor properties, Radisson Blu. And then we are looking at a third angle of how to exploit the growth potential we see in regional cities – secondary tier markets along the coastlines of both west and east Australia, but probably mostly on the eastbound side.

“So that could be good potential for a brand such as Country Inn & Suites, which is very niche in the United States and India already. I think Australia is a suitable market for the brand.”

Kirschke said the mid-scale Country Inn & Suites brand would suit locations outside major city hubs along the coastline and into some hinterland regions. “I see development of tourism driving the exploration of the country further and embracing more than just the beaches.” He named Rockhampton and Bundaberg in Queensland as potential locations.

The family friendly brand typically offers between 50-150 rooms per property in the US and 80-100 in India. “I think for Australia we would also target the ‘sweet spot’ of around 100 units.”

Questioned if five to ten years was a reasonable time to expect Country Inn & Suites to launch here, Kirschke said “we are not going to wait five years”.

“I think the story is good and the business case is strong enough so that we don’t have to wait five years. In five years if you ask me, I will hope that we have north of 100 hotels of Country Inn & Suites across all of Australia. The potential is certainly there.”

Outside Australia, but still in Australasia, Kirschke revealed Carlson Rezidor has “good leads” and is eyeing “several opportunities” in New Zealand, where the group currently has no representation across any of its seven brands. Although unable to divulge specific details, he said there are two promising leads, possibly for Radisson Blu in Auckland and Christchurch.

A third new hotel brand for this zone – joining Radisson Red and Country Inn & Suites – is Park Inn by Radisson. Through a partnership with iTaukei Trust Fund, Carlson Rezidor has confirmed it will debut the midscale brand in Fiji, with the Next-Gen Park Inn by Radisson Fiji, Suva to open in February of 2018.

Quizzed by travelBulletin if the upscale Radisson brand could adopt a similar colour themed name to its other brands – such as those that distinguish sister hotels Radisson Red and Radisson Blu – Kirschke said “watch this space”. Pressed, he hinted the green ‘shadow’ beneath the existing Radisson branding could be of significance.

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