With extensive chief executive leadership experience in global hospitality, leisure and fast-moving consumer goods, Federico J. González CEO of Radisson Hotel Group believes that a true leader is one who serves. We took time out with the hotelier to discuss the market and some of the key trends shaping it.
How is the regional travel and hospitality investment industry faring compared to other markets?
According to industry standards such as STR and many hotel groups, the travel industry is expected to recover by the second half of 2023. We are cautiously optimistic that our recovery will happen faster and may start as early as Q2 2023. Some of our markets, such as Riyadh and Qatar, have already exceeded pre-pandemic numbers due to events like the World Cup, while the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait and other areas are taking longer to recover. One of the biggest post-pandemic challenges has been the labor shortage. We have been addressing it by focusing on increasing the quality of jobs as well as creating more opportunities for growth within the hospitality industry. Forbes ranked Radisson Hotel Group as the fourth-best global employer in Tourism & Travel.
In terms of opportunities, we are looking to attract more year-round arrivals to the region and become less seasonally dependent. Dubai is an excellent case study for this, as we have a strong presence in the city.
How are you catering to the needs of modern-day travelers?
At Radisson Hotel Group, we understand that sustainable travel and tourism are becoming increasingly important to travelers worldwide. Recent surveys by Expedia show that over 70 percent of global consumers seek sustainable options while traveling. To address this growing need, we launched the Hotel Sustainability Basics (HSB) in collaboration with other brands, associations and destinations. HSB is an initiative that aims to drive responsible and sustainable travel globally and will be implemented across RHG’s full portfolio by the end of 2023.
As part of our ongoing transformation strategy, we have been increasing our personalized guest experience with the launch of Radisson+, which allows guests to manage their hotel stay in an effortless way with online and self-check-in/out, instant messaging and digital room service.
We have also been tapping into more of the bleisure market, which we expect to grow further in 2023. We are working on a new proposition that is in line with consumers’ travel habits, to increase the average length of stays from one or two nights to a minimum of three nights.
During the pandemic, we created and launched our Hybrid Rooms offering, combining state-of-the-art office amenities with the comforts of a superior hotel room to create a productive, dedicated and quiet workspace for the business traveler and local day guest alike.
How are you considering the wellness narrative?
The importance of wellness within the hospitality industry is growing. Resorts make up over 12 percent of our portfolio, which consists of approximately 130 properties that are both operational and being developed. We are currently developing an updated resort value proposition that focuses on beach, mountain and urban destinations.
Guests are increasingly seeking properties that offer dedicated spa and yoga classes, among other wellness amenities we offer at our resorts, namely: Nofa Riyadh, a Radisson Collection Resort, Marina Resort Port Ghalib, a member of Radisson Individuals, Park Inn by Radisson Makkah Aziziyah and Park Inn by Radisson Abu Dhabi.
What can you tell us about some of the most promising ideas and projects you are currently working on?
KSA has been the focus of our group’s expansion. We recently opened an office in Riyadh and are focusing on training Saudi nationals to take up key roles, with initiatives like our “Concierge Navigation to Success program” and the “A Brilliant Journey of Advance Development Program” (ABJAD). These programs target employees within the kingdom to develop their leadership profile and help them progress in their roles.
In addition to our focus on KSA, we are also committed to promoting sustainability in the hospitality industry on a global scale. We are rolling out the Hotel Sustainability Basics (HSB), which is already verified at 10 Radisson Hotel Group hotels in KSA, making it easy for guests to identify and choose hotels that prioritize sustainability.
Which markets are you most interested in breaking into right now and why?
We have ambitious growth plans to double our size in terms of the number of rooms in APAC, focused on China, Thailand, Vietnam, Australia, India and New Zealand. In line with Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing markets in the region, and we are on a steady path to becoming one of the biggest operators in the Kingdom. Last year, we opened Radisson Hotel Riyadh Airport as the first Radisson-branded property in the capital, as well as the opening of Mansard Riyadh, A Radisson Collection Hotel, which is the luxury lifestyle brand’s second hotel in the city, enhancing its collection of city and leisure hotels across Riyadh further. Last week, we opened our eighth hotel in Riyadh, Radisson Blu Hotel, Riyadh Convention & Exhibition Center. We are also expanding in the UAE, with beach properties in Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and Ras Al Khaimah, and we recently opened our first beach resort in Dubai, Radisson Beach Resort Palm Jumeirah.