Hotels need to communicate to transform, says Radisson boss

Radisson Hotel Group executive vice chair and Louvre Hotels CEO Federico Gonzalez insisted that honesty, good intentions, and intentions to serve are necessary if business transformation is to work.

Speaking at a session entitled Leadership Insight: Managing organisational change at Radisson Hotel Group and Louvre Hotels Group at IHIF EMEA in Berlin he said the key was to: “Define clearly what needs to be done and why.”

And despite working across multiple markets and geographies, he said that while culturally there is little difference in “the what” there is far more in “the how” as he stressed that “communication is always the issue” in getting ideas across effectively.One such example is China, where the business works very professionally, with transparency but where Gonzalez said that there is sometimes a different understanding of a problem but added “once you communicate, often these disappear.”

He insisted that RHG’s strategy has been more than an organisational transformation, having started in 2017 with Radisson emerging from a combination of Rezidor and Carlson, which involved a complete review of everything the brands did, and how the group could transform the to add value to consumers, staff and investors over a five-year plan.

“Since May we are doing the same exercise with Louvre,” he said. “For Radisson we started off with a mission, we wanted to be one of the top three hotel operators if someone wants to work in a hotel, a customer visits a hotel or investor to invest in a hotel.

However, he stressed that this ambition was not about scale or bed numbers, but rather that the Radisson brand would be top of mind among all three groups.

“Once you have the plans, you need to make sure you have the investment confidence in order for them to be financially backed,” Gonzalez added, as he set out the strategy that has helped the company to define its various brands across price and offer. That has led to an approach that is focused on being inclusive rather than segmenting to exclude.“We selected 10 brands across price and defined a very strong selling line for each of them and then looked at how that experience should be different across generations,” he recalled. “And what we found was that 85% of the services we should offer were relevant to any generation. In the end it was more important they [the brands] were inclusive and didn’t exclude anyone. The generations are just as diverse across countries, because the young generation in India is very different from the young generation in the US, which is different for Germany.”

He said that where there were some generational differences was in factors such as room sizes, with older generations looking for bigger rooms while younger people may want smaller rooms because of the assumption that they will often prefer to work in the lobby.

Gonzalez also turned to the focus on attracting staff and said that what is key is to have a clear mission for the business, which also translates into the opportunities for the individual.“In hospitality the career path is not as clear as in, say, banking, so our company is now offering much more transparency about the path and the opportunity to grow within the business and the path of their career,” he said.

Asked about where he saw competition and what impact the rise of Airbnb would have on the hotel sector going forwards, he added: “Airbnb is here to stay, but at the same time hotels continue to grow and I am more concerned about taking room share from my competitors than I am from Airbnb.”