Hotel Brands Spend Big to Retool

Worldwide Property Upgrade for Sheraton and Radisson

Plugged in: Prototype for Sheraton's high-tech [email protected] lobby
Two major hotel chains, Sheraton and Radisson, are in the midst of aggressive repositioning efforts by their parent companies to improve brand image and grow market share in an increasingly crowded hotel landscape.

Part of a multiyear strategy to improve the quality and consistency of its Sheraton brand, White Plains, N.Y.-based Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is investing $1.7 billion in renovations, $400 million in key brand initiatives and $2 billion in new hotel openings worldwide, an effort begun last year.

According to Hoyt Harper II, senior vice president, Sheraton Brand Group, the plan includes upgrading 86 hotels in the United States, which represent nearly half of the brand's North American product. In addition, 38 properties have been identified as underperforming and will be removed from the Sheraton portfolio. Starwood expects all renovations to be completed by year-end 2009.

A major component of the new Sheraton design, said Harper, is the introduction of [email protected], a signature lobby, which will feature complimentary Wi-Fi, computer stations with high-speed Internet access, oversize chairs and a communal table at its center. "It is designed to allow guests to work, relax and remain connected to family and friends while they travel," said Harper.

According to Minneapolis-based Carlson Hotels World­wide, the strategy for repositioning Radisson Hotels & Resorts is two-pronged: strategic development in key urban, suburban and leisure markets, and a move toward more company-owned and -managed hotels as means to control brand standards.

Paul Kirwin, president of Carlson Hotels Worldwide, said the current effort to reinvigorate the brand began in March, when Hubert Joly took over as chief executive officer of Carlson Companies.

With a portfolio that includes 400 hotels and resorts in 60 countries, some of them franchised, Radisson has begun adding signature restaurants and luxury spas at several properties, such as the Radisson Plaza Warwick in Philadelphia. Efforts to attract business travelers include offering free Internet access, complimentary breakfast, flexible check-in times and enhanced reward programs.

For groups, Radisson has focused on upgrading meeting rooms with the latest high-tech accoutrements, such as video- and webconferencing capability. The objective, said Kirwin, "is for the client to have access to the key equipment they would have in their own office meeting rooms."