With a presence in 60 cities across Tier 1, 2 and 3 markets and nearly 140 hotels, the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is one of the most experienced and successful international operators in India
It is comme il faut that success in any field rests on an infinite number of parts, with innovation, passion and soul inhabiting each part. A successful brand not only presents inspiring options that have set a high benchmark in the market place, but one that knows its business backwards and forwards. And, a logical requisite to this is a leader who can take the million daily battles head-on and smoothen the many challenges that a business is invariably inundated with; someone who can keep his team motivated, committed and crisis-ready.
The Carlson Rezidor Group of Hotels most readily fits into this matrix. With over 75 years of experience in the hospitality business, the Group has grown to become one of the largest hotel companies in the industry with a powerful set of brands that deliver world-class hospitality and exceptional service. It is one of the leading international operators in India and has presence in 60 cities across Tier 1, 2 and 3 markets. At its helm is Raj Rana, CEO, South Asia, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, who most conforms to the dynamics of a successful hotelier.
Speaking with Today’s Traveller, Rana defines Carlson’s raison d’etre, its successes and its philosophy.
“Our success in India is on the strength of our global brands and their recognition around the globe – after all, we have an expanding portfolio of more than 1,440 hotels in operation and under development and a global footprint covering 115 countries and territories,” explains Rana. What is implicit, of course, is the fact that Carlson has well understood that the global brand, without losing its core DNA, has to be adapted to local conditions. “Therefore, localisation has helped us find a firm rooting in the Indian market. The Radisson Blu brand is particularly well recognised and has found the sweet spot, both with the guests as well as the investors,” says Rana.
Another measure of Carlson’s success, shares Rana, is “Our extremely high agreement extension rate with our existing owners. This indicates to us that we have been able to create strong relationships with our owners and have the ability to deliver sustained value for them.”
One significant strategy that Carlson has successfully deployed is continued expansion across the country with new hotel signings in Tier 2 and 3 markets, in addition to its presence in key gateway cities. Though Tier 1 cities are still a priority, Rana says that many Tier 2 and 3 markets are experiencing considerable growth, leading to a demand-supply imbalance. “While metros still hold our interest, we believe that our future growth will be strongly influenced by expansion in prominent Tier 2 and 3 cities where we would be interested in benefitting from first-mover advantage by entering such markets at an early stage,” states Rana.
When it comes to Carlson and the corporate connect, Rana makes it abundantly clear that as one of the fastest growing international chains in India, Carlson’s dominant business is still corporate business, “whether the corporate business is coming through organised meetings and conventions or individual travellers, business is dominantly corporate. This segment is growing exponentially, at an annual rate of 15 to 20 per cent, and we intend to capture this market via a two-pronged approach, namely, RFP (Request For Proposal) and LNR (Local Negotiated Rate) contracting.”
Rana elaborates further and explains how a strong global PCR programme aids in driving business from key global accounts into the Carlson hotels. “Our core strength,” says Rana, “is our GSO network, which contracts key accounts for our hotels annually. This process starts as early as May with the GSO team sharing a strategic road map against each account post reviewing the Travel Click and Hotelligence report, thereby optimising rate and room night potential vis a vis competition.”
On the LNR front, Rana affirms that the Carlson Hotel teams work closely with local key decision makers in corporate houses to negotiate and sign up annual contracts, keeping in mind productivity, additional room night potential and a goal to achieve a higher ADR.
The intrepid CEO also shares that Carlson is fully cognizant of the needs of the female corporate traveller, a distinct segment with a significant share of the market. Whether it is to do with amenities in the bathroom or menu items or enhancing the security system, all these elements are taken into account as value add-ons.
The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s standout feature is its Loyalty Programme and Rana conveys this articulately as he fleshes out details of the programme. Taking off from a popular axiom that says, “If you are competing to win, you need service on your side,” Rana believes that “Service is the foundation of loyalty. You can have guests walk into your door, but to have them walk into your door again and bring others with you – that is where true success is.”
Reflecting on how meaningful loyalty programmes can drive long-term value, Rana relates this to the The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, explaining the yardstick it uses to measure loyalty. Says Rana, “It’s simply a measure of how many guests are truly willing to come back to you and recommend you.”
Rana points out that loyalty programmes have steadily grown in popularity, with many companies using them to gain market capitalisation. However, The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group is committed to providing the best value through its own channels and websites. Though Online Travel Agencies may well have the advantage of numbers, The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has the edge over them in terms of recognising guests’ needs first hand and tailoring them to their specific situations.
Finally, working in the hospitality industry means you are working as a team, and becoming an effective team player is critical for the success of not only the team itself, but also of the business as a whole, believes Rana. Other facets of the company’s teamwork include the Employee Value Proposition — ‘Make Your Mark,’ and initiatives such as W.E.A.R – Week of Employee Appreciation & Recognition, plus making a difference to the community by engaging in Responsible Business activities, such as cleanliness drives and organising meals for the underprivileged, among others.
“Our service philosophy of “Yes I Can!” stresses on significance of collaboration through the culture of empowerment and trust on each other’s ability to do a great job,” signs off Rana.