Carlson Rezidor group bullish on the mid-segment, says Raj Rana

Carlson Rezidor group’s resolute foray in tier-2 and tier-3 cities will continue with the same momentum with Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and Park Inn by Radisson as the two key mainstays of the expansion strategy, says Raj Rana, CEO, Carlson Rezidor Group in an exclusive interaction. He suggests that it would help in ushering quality and standardization in the mid-segment category – elements necessary to continue the positioning of the mid-segment as a critical driver to the industry’s growth story. Excerpts:

The road ahead in 2018: What is the growth strategy in 2018? In terms of expansion in portfolio, what sort of inventory addition is the group looking at?

Following a highly successful year for Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group in India in 2017, we fully expect to maintain this strong momentum in 2018. We signed 13 new hotels in 2017 covering four of our brands: Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson.

We will continue stepping up our presence in tier II and tier III cities, with special focus on our midscale brands, Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inn & Suites by Radisson. Driven by strong domestic travel, rising affluence and the rapid acceleration of domestic air connectivity, these emerging cities present significant opportunities for our midscale hotel brands that deliver consistent service and quality.

We will also continue to seek opportunities to expand our upscale brands, Radisson and Park Plaza, and our upper-upscale label, Radisson Blu, in state capitals and Tier I destinations. Perhaps the most exciting development will be the launch of our cutting-edge concept, Radisson RED. India’s first Radisson RED is set to open in Mohali in 2018 and we believe it will usher in a new era of hospitality in the country.

Overall, we expect to add 3,000-4,000 rooms in India in the coming five years.

The group had changed the name of Country Inns and Suites by Carlson to Country Inns and Suites by Radisson, eyeing more brand visibility. Is the mid-scale hotel segment going to remain central to the group’s growth story in India?

The name change to Country Inn & Suites by Radisson will offer increased identification with our core brand, Radisson, lending further strength to its brand identity and appeal.

The midscale sector is critical to our expansion plans in India. Country Inn & Suites by Radisson – an upper-midscale hotel brand with over 480 hotels worldwide, is a market leader in India. At present, the brand has over 30 hotels in operation and under development in the country, and has played a significant role in the development of India’s burgeoning midscale sector.

Country Inn & Suites has allowed us to establish first-mover advantage in several emerging cities, including Bareilly, Utter Pradesh, where we recently signed a new-build hotel. Given that this city has been identified as one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “100 Smart Cities”, this is a significant development, demonstrating our commitment to India’s emerging cities, business hubs, pilgrimage destinations and more.

Park Inn by Radisson is another important brand for us. This bright, contemporary midscale concept is now present in seven Indian locations, with more in the pipeline.

Together, these two brands help bring quality and standardisation to India’s midscale segment. With guarantees of comfort, convenience and international amenities, including complimentary Wi-Fi and breakfast, Country Inn & Suites by Radisson and Park Inn by Radisson present a compelling proposition for business travellers, and an attractive and affordable option for families and leisure guests. They also deliver proven returns to owners.

The growth of India’s midscale sector is being driven by the emergence of tier II and III cities, buoyed by infrastructural spending and rising middle class affluence. As such, the future outlook for our midscale brands in India is incredibly bright.

In terms of destinations with potential for business in the imminent future, where are some specific destinations that the group is looking at? Is the growth in business being driven, predominantly, by the domestic leisure segment?

Growth in India is undoubtedly being driven by the domestic market. We take a segmented approach to our expansion strategy as financial viability is critical for us as well as our owners. We are focused on cities which have good connectivity, SEZs and religious destinations. Our leisure segment development is focused on cultural, heritage, resort sites as well as hill stations.

We have a stable of different brands tailored to different sectors of the market, which suit a wide range of Indian destinations. We are present in 60 cities in India.

These include tier I cities such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, tier II hubs like Aligarh, Raipur and Mohali, popular leisure tourism destinations like Goa, Jaipur and Gulmarg, major transport hubs including Delhi, Chennai and Amritsar airports, and pilgrimage sites such as Katra, Haridwar and Varanasi. We have also solidified our presence in heritage locations such as Agra, Udaipur and Mysore, are expanding in Sonmarg, Srinagar and continue to expand footprint in other locations across all our brands.

The domestic market is clearly critical India, as it accounts for such a large proportion of travel. Within this, leisure travel is a hugely important sector, including the large pilgrimage market. But India is also experiencing strong domestic business travel growth, and we are also in a strong position to cater for this huge potential market.

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