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Tourism consultant: Radisson brand to boost competition in Port-of-Spain
The Radisson brand, which will be established soon in T&T, may just create that competitive push the hotel industry requires.
T&T-based Allied Hotels and Resorts announced through a press statement in February that Issa Nicholas, chairman of Allied Hotels and Resorts, reached an agreement with the Carlson Rezidor Group to transform its Port-of-Spain hotel, formerly called Crowne Plaza, into a Radisson brand.
The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group, one of the world’s largest hotel groups, plans to develop five hotel properties in the Caribbean, among them is Radisson Port-of-Spain Trinidad. The statement said this new urban property would cater to both business and leisure travellers seeking a well-positioned hotel with modern luxuries.
The hotel will comprise 243 rooms and offer more than 15,000 square feet of convention space for professionals, and an outdoor pool and a Caribbean-inspired restaurant for leisure guests.
John Bell, past president of the Caribbean Hotels Association who served for 28 years, said he welcomed the Radisson brand, even though it will not be the first time it had a presence in T&T.
Recounting the history of the hotel’s presence, Bell said, “The Radisson brand was around a long in T&T. It was the Radisson Crown Reef in Trinidad in the early ‘70s until about 1981, which proceeded Coco Reef; the sister hotel in Store Bay, Tobago.
Following this, the Radisson Crown Reef was replaced by Crowne Plaza.
These different brands, which all fall under the Radisson Group, was operated from many years by the Carlson Group out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States.
“They owned and operated it, but my guess this time is that this new arrangement would be a franchise agreement.”
Hotels need competition
“Competition is what T&T hotel industry needs right now,” Bell said.
“In having more hotels that are well-branded and structured would shape the nature of that destination in the minds of the travelling public.”
For example, he said, a destination is defined by its hotels, just like Las Vegas is defined by the Bellagio, Bahamas by Atlantis and St Kitts and Nevis by the Four Seasons.
“He said Radisson is a good four-star hotel, so what T&T needs, moreso Tobago, is a five-star hotel.”
Bell explained there are four leading Radisson brands: at the top is Radisson Blu, then Radisson Park followed by Radisson Inn and Country Inn.
He said one way of boosting tourism and attracting new markets is by establishing a five-star hotel, which would bring its own customers and marketing machinery.
Asked if this makes sense as T&T already has the Hyatt Regency Trinidad, Marriott Courtyard Port-of-Spain Hotel, the Hilton Trinidad and Carlton Savannah, in a tight competition for market share.
He said, “Yes, it makes sense because none of them are five-star hotels. Most of them are four-star hotels. A five-star would be very good for the branding of the country.”
“I agree that another branded hotel would be highly competitive, but this is what is required.”
Justifying his position, he drew on the history of the Hilton Trinidad hotel.
He said the Government took money out of the Hilton, which it has owned since the 1960s, but did not put any back.
“When the Hyatt was opened, the Hilton looked terrible. In about 50 years, the Government did not reinvest in Hilton, but interestingly, the opening of the Hyatt caused the rehabilitation of Hilton.
“The same thing would happen if a five-star hotel comes.”
Bell said the other hotels would improve and lift their standards to remain competitive.
Bell said the great thing about a brand is it determines the quality of the operation.
CAL used for Grenada tourism
On the issue of Grenada and T&T trying to strengthen the airlift between the two countries, Bell said Grenada would benefit more from the relationship than T&T.
Just a few days after being elected in February as Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell met with Caribbean Airline’s (CAL) chairman Rabindra Moonan where they began discussions on Grenada to have a stronger link with T&T’s airlift.
Moonan took the opportunity to raise the issue of CAL being the flagship carrier for Grenada.
Bell said while he was a believer in regional air transportation, which CAL is trying to accomplish, its approach is wrong. He said it would be a great idea if CAL uses the airline to strengthen T&T’s tourism industry, but using it only for flagship purposes makes no sense.
Bell explained that CAL marketing strategy is solely geared towards attracting the diaspora back home.
“This strategy may bring in high yields, but is not a wise approach to boost tourism.”
Bell said when Gordon “Butch” Stewart bought out Air Jamaica in 1998, he did so for the Air Jamaica Vacations, the tour company, the conduit through which all the traffic came globally and the money factory that brought businesses to the hotels. Gordon owns several Sandals resorts in Jamaica, Antigua and St Lucia.
Bell said Air Jamaica Vacations was the marketing arm, and CAL needs a similar arrangement.
CAL does not have the marketing capacity to attract tourists because it requires a tour company to help build tourism business for travellers to stay in hotels and experience the products the country offers, he said.
“CAL must have a tour operator capacity within the airline or contracted with one of the major corporations, like Travel Impressions or GOGo Vacations, etc, to create attractive packages to lure people to T&T for vacation, not for them to stay with their friends and family.
“I do not see that this is going to be the salvation for CAL having extra seats going into Grenada.
“It would be great for Grenada because one way or the other, the hotels in Grenada would go to their tour operators and online agencies, such as the Expedia, Travelocity, and they would bring businesses down.
“These operators would use CAL as a conduit to boost their tourist arrivals. I don’t think the airline would be generating much more business, just providing the facility that brings the seats.”
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