Rezidor openings to benefit EM travellers

1 May 2008 by Mark Caswell

Rezidor Hotel Group, owner of the Regent, Radisson SAS and Park Inn brands, is set to continue its emerging markets expansion with a slew of openings and signings in Russia, the CIS and Africa.

Speaking exclusively to Business Traveller at the official opening of the Radisson SAS Royal in Dublin, president and CEO Kurt Ritter said the expansion in Russia/CIS was a natural development for Rezidor. “Historically, it was natural for Scandinavia to do business with Russia. The first hotel branded with a foreign name in the country was a Radisson, the one at Kiev station in Moscow, and for quite a while it remained the only one.”

The group now has 14 properties in the region, and last year became the first international chain to open a full branch office in Moscow. Many of the new properties will be in cities which currently have no international chain hotels, which Ritter sees as offering unique opportunities to Rezidor.

He said: “We’ve made a list of the 50 biggest cities in Russia, and they all have 400,000 inhabitants or more. If you look at cities in Europe with the same population, they all have at least a Hilton, a Sheraton, a Marriott and a Radisson, but in Russia there is practically nothing at the moment. Of course they have local hotels, but when it comes to cleanliness, reliability and quality of food and service, you want a brand name.”

Russia/CIS pipeline

Rezidor is already well on the way to achieving its goals. In the past month, the group has launched the 81-room Radisson SAS Don Hotel in Rostov-on-Don and forthcoming openings include the Park Inn Sadu Moscow and a 134-room Park Inn in Voronezh. Further out, the pipeline for Russia in 2009-10 includes three new Radissons in Moscow, with a total of 828 rooms and extensive conference facilities, as well as Radisson properties in Kaliningrad, Tyumen and Chelyabinsk.

The Park Inn brand is also due to expand, with the opening in 2009 of a third St Petersburg property and of an extensive complex in Ryazan, which will include eight conference rooms, two restaurants, a swimming pool and wellness centre. Other recent signings for the brand include Kazan and Irkutsk, both due to open in 2011, while the two existing St Petersburg hotels are due for extensive refurbishment.

In the CIS, Rezidor has just opened a Radisson Resort in the Crimean town of Alushta, and next year will see the addition of Radisson properties in Tbilisi, Almaty and Kiev (an airport hotel with conference and wellness facilities), while openings in Minsk and the Black Sea resorts of Yalta and Batumi are scheduled for 2010.

African development

Looking ahead, Ritter identified Africa as the next major growth area for Rezidor. He said: “There are two factors. One is that nothing has happened for many years: the existing hotels, the Hiltons and Sheratons, are all very, very old, and because there has always been relatively high occupancy and high prices, people haven’t really bothered to do renovations. Secondly, countries like Nigeria and Angola have changed drastically over the past few years, both politically and commercially. They’ve opened up and are much more user-friendly.”

This year’s openings on the continent will include a 180-room Radisson SAS on the waterfront in Dakar, to be followed by a Park Inn in the downtown area, and Radissons in Bamako (Mali), Lagos, Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. Next year will see the opening of Radisson properties in Nairobi and Alexandria (a 251-room hotel with an 18-hole golf course), and negotiations are in progress for sites in Luanda and Addis Ababa.

Ritter also stressed that Rezidor’s current rapid pace of growth is likely to continue. He said: “For me, standing still would be going backwards. We said we’d add 20,000 rooms in three years [2007-09], and I want to make sure we get there. Last year we opened 50 new hotels, and if we can do that then 60 or 65 properties in a year wouldn’t be so big a difference.”

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Report by Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker

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