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edition 5 (220)
May 2017

Turning from Blu to Red

Interviewer: Anna Pakulniewicz

Turning from Blu to Red
Valerie Schuermans, senior director for business development at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group

Apart from Kraków, and Vilnius, where in the CEE region are you planning to open the next Radisson Red?

Valerie Schuermans, senior director for business development at Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group: In 2016 we announced that the Radisson Red Vilnius would be opening – the project is in the planning phase and is expected to open at the turn of 2019 and 2020. We are committed to development across central Europe and across the whole EMEA region.

So what are your plans for the CEE region?

The development strategy for Radisson Red is clearly defined for Poland: it was important to launch the brand in a premier market, such as Warsaw or Kraków. Kraków is a dynamic market full of energy and cannot be compared to any other market in Poland: it has more legends and myths, and a strong sense of the arts and entertainment. We have also identified Warsaw, Wrocław and Gdańsk as other cities suitable for adding Radisson Red to their hotel offer. Within the CEE region we are mainly going to focus on establishing our presence in key primary cities, such as Prague, Budapest and Bucharest.

What will be the next location after Kraków in Poland?

When pursuing an asset-light or asset-right development strategy and finding a strong partner – or owner in this case – it is equally important to develop in the right location. As soon as all the components of the deal complement one another, we will pursue a project in that particular city. We don’t want to restrict ourselves to a preferred order for development, but rather create hotels and partnerships that can deliver exceptional products and results.

Can you compare the brand to Moxy? Is it a response to Moxy?

As both brands were launched within a few months of each other, they cannot be a response to one another. The key differences between Radisson Red and Moxy are the segmentation and the operational philosophy we have introduced to Radisson Red. Radisson Red focuses on the lifestyle, upscale select segment, whereas Moxy targets the lifestyle economy segment; such a difference mainly translates into larger rooms and public facilities. We want to be big on the guest experience. Additionally, our operational philosophy allows for the brand to stand on its own and to differentiate itself from the competition.

In what kind of buildings and locations can you open a Radisson Red hotel?

We pursue both new-build and conversion projects, such as former office buildings converted into hotels. SINCE we have tailored the brand for the construction sectors of mature markets, there is a strong focus on optimising the back and the front house – allowing for higher development margins and a leaner construction process. If we are converting existing hotels with a more traditional layout, a Radisson Red might not benefit from the full value of the brand. With respect to locations – we look at city centres and urban locations as well as airport sites.

For the hotel in Kraków, you have had to change the architectural design of the building, as it was planned as an office building.

The change of use has only affected the internal layout; we have not altered the façade or the external dimensions.

Why did you not choose the Unity Tower for the hotel?

We want to create value for our owner, and the value proposition for an office tower is more attractive. The Tower will attract high-end office tenants. Additionally, the proposed hotel building caters most effectively for hotel use: it has good visibility towards the main street, it is walking distance from the central station, and it has access to the corporate courtyard and university yard – facilitating the further integration of the Unity Centre with its immediate surroundings. Our public facilities will welcome students, business people, commuters, hotel guests… it’s all about integration.

What have you changed in this project?

It will be an exceptional hotel – our partners at Treimorfa Project have done a tremendous job: 230 spacious rooms, a lobby bar and a restaurant with the Oui Bar + Ktchn concept, meeting facilities and a gym. The restaurant and bar on the ground floor will also feature a terrace within the Unity Centre courtyard.

So where are the future hotels of this brand going to be?

We opened the Radisson Red in Brussels in April 2016, and the next openings for the EMEA region are going to be in Cape Town, Glasgow, Dubai, Kraków, Jeddah, Vilnius and Tbilisi… and hopefully there will be more to come. It is a young brand – we only launched it two years ago, and the key to fuel its further growth is the leverage of the Radisson name and focusing its development on key primary and secondary markets. We have identified Poland as one of our focus countries for growth and are proud that the Central European launch of the brand will be in Kraków. It is all about the combination of location, product and the right business partner.

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