Carlson lays big plans for India

Park Plaza Noida has announced its rebranding as Radisson Noida, the first Radisson hotel to be inaugurated in Delhi-NCR. On this occasion, we speak to Raj Rana, Chief Executive Officer, South Asia, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, about this rebranding, Radisson Red, and much more!

Tell us about the rebranded hotel, Radisson Noida.
Spread over 42,000 sq ft, Radisson Noida features 88 contemporary rooms with modern amenities. The revitalised rooms are bright and modern, complemented with LED TVs, loungers, and new upholstered furnishing. Business Class, a new room category, has been introduced for corporate travellers who can enjoy benefits such as complimentary drinks in the lounge bar. The first Radisson hotel to be inaugurated in Delhi-NCR, the property offers an array of dining options including an all-day-dining restaurant, The Creative Kitchen, a relaxed dining venue located on the lobby level serving international cuisine. The Great Kabab Factory, an award-winning specialty restaurant, is located on the rooftop delighting guests with authentic mouth-watering kebabs, prepared in various styles. NI-hao features a culinary journey through Southeast Asia where chefs prepare pan-Asian cuisines using authentic spices and ingredients specially brought in from different regions of Asia. Ethyl, located on the lobby level, offers an array of international spirits and wines, the perfect venue to unwind and enjoy a drink or two. The hotel’s pastry shop, Cakewalk, offers a wide selection of home-made cakes, pastries, and chocolates.

What does the hotel have to offer in terms of recreational and MICE facilities?
The Sky Spa & Salon at Radisson Noida promises an exclusive and reinvigorating experience with a range of massages and herbal treatments to revitalise your body, mind, and soul. Its facilities also feature couple therapy rooms, a salon, steam rooms, a sauna, and two single therapy rooms. A fully-equipped fitness centre at the rooftop features high-tech equipment and changing facilities with steam and sauna rooms.
Radisson Noida boasts of over 4,360 sq ft of flexible meetings and events space that can be split into four separate ballrooms for smaller events or combined into one large space for functions. With this repositioning, we think the hotel is better placed for success, particularly in the corporate segment. The hotel is located in a corporate hub and we are hoping that this new brand will bring in more business as it rightfully deserves after the renovation and rebranding.

What was the rationale behind the rebranding?
We felt that being in such a strong corporate market, the demand for upscale hotels is higher and Radisson is strongly positioned in this upscale segment. It is a popular brand that people are already aware of.

Do elaborate on the group’s expansion plans.
India remains one of the strongest markets for Carlson where we have 84 hotels in operation and 140 hotels in the pipeline. We are opening a new hotel every six weeks on an average and we sign a hotel every four weeks, which is a good run-rate. With this run-rate, we will easily hit 170 hotels by 2020, in India. The India growth story remains very strong as the cost of connectivity continues to decline. This creates more demand in secondary tertiary markets where Park Inn by Radisson and Country Inn and Suites are two strong mid-scale brands, positioned to capture more market share and provide good facilities to travellers.

When will India get its Radisson Red?
Radisson Red is the newest addition to our portfolio. The first flagship is under construction in Mohali, Punjab. It’s a beautiful hotel that we expect will open in the first quarter of 2018. We are exploring good deals all across the country and we do believe that it will be a very successful brand because the cost of investment in building a Radisson Red is less than that of a typical upscale hotel. Another reason is that the hotel has been planned in such a way that the cost of operating it is comparatively lesser. For instance, F&B services are all on a single plate and the concept of multi-kitchens does not exist. A lot of planning has been done to ensure ease of operations, thereby resulting in better margins for investors and success for us.

The year has so far been quite challenging for the industry. What do you see as the way forward?
If I look at India where I have been for some time, I see Carlson as a long-term player in the region. In every country, there are always some blips and some road bumps along the way and India is no different in that sense. The initiatives are, of course, commendable. There is inconvenience in the short-run but nothing that can’t be overcome. If you now look at the effects of demonetisation, they’re passé. Today, nobody is even thinking about it. On the contrary, it has contributed more to transparency of transactions and increased confidence in the Indian market for the purpose of real estate investments.

As far as liquor ban is concerned, there has definitely been an impact. Almost 30 per cent of our hotels are on the highway within the 500-metre range. We have had to look at other ways to increase our displaced revenues. We are steadfast in honouring the orders of the honourable Supreme Court but on the other hand, we do hope that clarity will come, maybe through industry forums because the intent may not have been to impact licenced justifiable businesses that were on highways or that have been built on highways. For no fault of their own, they have been impacted. Also, it affects the livelihood of those employees who serve beverages at hotels, something that we must monitor. On our part, we are seeing how best we can place those employees in other areas of operation so that their livelihood is not impacted.

It is also important to address the social issue that revolves around the liquor ban. We must review the impact that drunken driving has on the image of the country as a progressive nation wanting to compete for international conventions and businesses. If we want more corporate investments to come to India, more FDI to come to India, responsible drinking and driving is not something that is out of the ordinary.