Carlson Hotels Inc. has started to put some distance between the global hospitality company and the Minnesota family that started it and ran it for decades.
The changes — which include new leadership hires, restructuring and an upcoming name change that drops the Carlson name — are part of new owner HNA Tourism Group’s ambitious plans to grow the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, the “go-to-market” combination of Minnetonka-based Carlson Hotels and its European sister company Rezidor Hotel Group.
It’s been a year since Chinese conglomerate HNA closed on the deal to purchase Carlson Hotels, whose portfolio includes Country Inns & Suites and three different Radisson brands.
But the company, despite some new faces, is still located in the twin Carlson Towers. A mini Carlson museum, complete with a statue of patriarch and company founder Curt Carlson, sits off the building’s lobby. The main company website still lists the “Carlson Credo.”
While the company is committed to keeping the hotel group headquartered in the Twin Cities, it is exploring options for a new location.
Hoffman, a Minnesota native, was brought into the company early in the year as a consultant to help with the transition and later to help hire staff and executives.
Also new is Federico González Tejera, who led Spanish hotelier NH Hotel Group and was brought in as chief executive of Carlson Hotels in February but moved in May to the top position at Rezidor. He was replaced at Carlson Hotels by John Kidd, the former president and chief operating officer of HNA Hospitality Group.
The company also appointed a new chief development officer, global chief of branding and chief financial officer, plus several other senior staff members.
Greene, who was made president of the Americas for Carlson Rezidor this past summer after a career with Delta Hotels and Resorts and Wyndham Worldwide, said the Carlson family “did a wonderful job of building some great brands and building a wonderful organization.”
Carlson Hotels — focusing on the Americas and Asia — and Carlson Rezidor — focusing on Europe, the Middle East and Africa — will still function as two entities, led by a global steering committee. The hope is to streamline more of the business so that workers aren’t as siloed by region or brand, the company said.
A five-year plan includes investments in public-facing websites and other digital platforms for booking, loyalty programs and the internal systems used by the hotels. The rebranding also is part of the plan. Carlson Rezidor will be dropping the family name from the organization. Carlson Hotels will be renamed next year.
Kirby Payne, president of HVS Hotel Management, said that he thinks investments in the hotels and a rebranding would help Carlson Rezidor.
Last year, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group opened 77 hotels worldwide, the most since 2009, and signed 122 new properties. However, revenue was USD 7.2 billion in 2016, down from USD 7.3 billion in 2015. As of the third quarter of this year, it has close to 1,200 hotels in operation with about 300 under development.
As part of the restructuring of Carlson Hotels, about 20 percent of the corporate positions in the United States and Asia have or are in the process of being cut, Hoffman said. Most of those employees served in support functions such as human resources, communications, finance and accounting. Rezidor is making similar changes to its workforce.
Carlson Hotels also wants to grow the Country Inns & Suites portfolio to three to four times its current size.
At the same time, Greene also foresees having to reduce the number of core Radisson hotels by about 10 percent in the next three to six months as the company evaluates its quality and other factors.
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