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President’s Perspective

Radisson’s Greene Weighs In On Key Issues During Exclusive BITAC® Interview

Wednesday, October 09, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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BITAC® Symposium commenced earlier this week with an exclusive one-on-one interview with Radisson Hotel Group’s Ken Greene who weighed in on a number of topics such as the company’s new ownership, brand proliferation throughout the industry and economic conditions going forward.

Hotel Interactive® Editor-in-Chief Dennis Nessler interviewed Greene—who is President, The Americas, for Radisson Hotel Group—to kick off the event, which took place at the InterContinental Times Square in New York City. (The following Q&A represents just a portion of Greene’s responses.)

DN: Radisson Hotel Group has gone through a lot of transition in the past few years from an ownership perspective with current owner Jin Jiang International taking over earlier this year, how have you helped navigate the company through these changes?

KG: It’s been challenging but very rewarding, I think the best way we’ve navigated through the transaction and really the transition is just making sure we understand all the stakeholders and what they expect. What does our owner expect? What does our board expect? And making sure there is alignment throughout the organization.

We went from being sort of a stand-alone entity, Radisson Hotel Group, to now being part of this very large global organization. Jin Jiang has five other hotel platforms throughout the world and now we’re part of that. So what does that mean for us? What’s the vision for our owner and how do we play our role in that?

DN: As a Chinese company, does Jin Jiang bring a different perspective on hospitality to Radisson Hotel Group?

KG: They have a very global view. They don’t want to be a Chinese company that has expanded internationally they truly want to be a global company that is very respected. What’s interesting is the footprint that they have. For example, just this year with one hotel platform they’ll executive 1,500 signed deals for new hotels.

What we’re all trying to figure out is how do we leverage the strength of that footprint but also as the Asian customer starts to come to this part of the world how do we tap into that.

DN: Who are some mentors or people that have influenced you the most in your hospitality career in your more than 20 years in hospitality?

KG: I think you learn from everybody every single day. I’d like to think that I’ve learned some great things from many different people. Sometimes I think you learn more of what not to do from people.

I had a great mentor right out of grad school. I went into the financial services business and we took a company public. We had retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Warren Aut and he taught me more in about 10 minutes than most people taught me in a decade. He said in your personal life and your business life do three things and you’ll be very successful and they’re all common sense. The first is to be a sponge and never stop learning. The second thing was all the things that you don’t like to do, do them with as much passion as the things you like to do. If you don’t want to do them most likely other people don’t want to do them either, but if you do them with that same passion that will open up windows of opportunities maybe you never even thought existed and that probably has served me the most.

The third was never forget your roots. Never forget where you came from and the people that helped you along the way and if you ever get into the position of being able to help people like you were helped make sure you do it. Check your ego at the door, be humble and give back. These are wonderful values that he gave me and what he really installed in me was “The Art of War,” which is a famous military book.

DN: There have been a myriad of brands introduced over the past several years in the lodging business, what is your view of these intros and the current brand landscape?

KG: We should always be innovating. Great companies innovate all the time. New brands all always necessary, but I do think we’re not a consumer product, most of the brand companies are fee-for-service businesses. The folks that are actually putting their hard-earned capital into properties are entrepreneurs, institutional investors, REITs, but the brand is not the owners of those assets.

At the end of the day, if I’m an owner in a marketplace in a certain segment with a brand family and 10 years ago or 20 years ago I only competed with myself in that segment within the family of brands and today I’m competing with four or fix or six [hotels] I’m losing share and I think that’s where it’s problematic.

DN: We’ve seen some softening within the lodging industry in recent months, what are your thoughts on economy going forward?

KG: Things are softening a little bit, but there have certainly been worse times in the industry than today and even next year. It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen…I personally don’t think we’re going to see the deep drop and if there is one I don’t think it’s going to be very sustained. It usually washes out so I’m very hopeful we’ll just slow down and we won’t see a huge amount of pain. The only thing that’s absolutely known in our business is that there will be unknowns.

I think great companies are prepared. They do everything they can to prepare for every scenario possible and they react quick to whatever the environment throws at you. In a down time in the fee-for-service business, franchise business, and managed business, you never want to get there, but it’s an opportunity for us to build share to get more properties to come into our brand family because maybe they need us more than they ever did.
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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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