Profiles Interviews

Why flexibility is key to travel industry recovery

As 2020 comes to an end, hoteliers and the wider hospitality sector seem to be at a loss as to how to prepare for whatever lies ahead next year. One thing does remain certain: flexibility will be key to the industry’s survival and eventual return to form in the coming months.

Hotel Owner sat down with Tom Flanagan, area senior vice president for Northern and Western Europe at the Radisson Hotel Group, to discuss how the group is offering hotel owners flexibility while maintaining their brand’s  individual identity. 

How has your role as part of Radisson Hotel Group evolved during the pandemic?

Over the last 9 months it has been imperative to work closely with our internal and external stakeholders, including team members, owners and investors, to keep an open line of communication and be ready to adapt or respond quickly to the challenges that we’ve faced. My focuses have been to monitor individual hotel performances and act accordingly, liaise with owners and ensure my team is supported as well as remind them the adversity will not last forever and there will be an end to this crisis. 

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How have Radisson Hotels managed to remain flexible despite dealing with Covid-19 restrictions?

We have maintained a flexible booking and cancellation policy for guests, to help them at the time of making a reservation and provide confidence that they can cancel should they need to with changed plans or travel restrictions. Additionally, Radisson Hotel Group has shown our commitment to innovation through the launch of Hybrid Rooms and Hybrid Meetings solutions. These solutions were already in development, and the roll out was accelerated to respond to the needs of our guests and partners, created by the lack of business travel. 

Hybrid Rooms combines state-of-the art office features in our superior guest rooms, e.g. fast and reliable Wi-Fi, printing services and high-quality video conferencing facilities in a dedicated, quiet work space as well as unlimited tea and coffee and access to hotel facilities. Meanwhile, Hybrid Meetings offers all the hardware and software requirements for efficient virtual meetings, such as high-quality sound and image through Zoom video conferencing, reliable connections and dual screen displays. This solution suits travellers looking for a professional environment where they can meet in small, socially distanced groups to have face-to-face meetings while also connecting with colleagues elsewhere virtually.

In what way does hotel owner ‘flexibility’ affect the guest experience?

Displaying flexibility leads to increased consumer confidence and offers peace of mind for guests. At the moment and in the future, health and safety is the most important deciding factor for travellers, which needs to be front of mind for hotel operations. 

Earlier this year we partnered with SGS, the world’s leading inspection and certification company, to implement the Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, which includes 20 safety measures and an additional 10 measures specifically for meetings and events. These guidelines include hand sanitizing stations at all entrances, the use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and protective screens, enhanced cleaning frequency, and comprehensive staff training. All Radisson Hotel Group properties have incorporated these protocols to ensure the safety of all our guests, partners and team members. Furthermore, we played a leading role in the development of the World Travel and Tourism (WTTC) “Safe Travels”, a global, uniformed guideline for the entire travel and tourism industry.

What exactly is the new Radisson Individuals brand?

Radisson Individuals is a new brand joining the Radisson Hotel Group portfolio that offers independent hotels the chance to be part of a global group while maintaining their individual identity and celebrating their uniqueness. It is aimed at individual hotels with strong service scores who wish to remain independent, or may be considering transitioning to one of our brands in the future. It also appeals to local or regional hotel brands seeking to explore additional distribution channels or co-branding options. 

How does this initiative best help struggling hotels during the pandemic?

Crucially, the initiative offers hotel owners flexibility which, as we know, is imperative for travel industry recovery. Hoteliers can benefit from global brand membership and explore new distribution channels and revenue opportunities while benefiting from power of scale when it comes to cost management. This can be achieved while hotels retain their uniqueness and control over their commercial approach.

With a vaccine on its way, how do you see the Radisson brand looking in a post-pandemic world?

While many hotel groups have put their development plans on hold, Radisson Hotel Group remains committed to our five-year plan and our mission to be recognised as one of the top three hotel brands in the world and the brand of choice for owners, guests and talent. In 2020, we have confirmed over 40 new hotel signings to date, which affirms our commitment to our owners, employees, guests and partners. We have a very proactive and engaging approach with our partners and investors, and we believe in building long-standing relationships with our owners based on trust and responsibility.

Tom Flanagan is the area senior vice president for Northern and Western Europe at the Radisson Hotel Group.

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