The art of expansion18 July 2023
Radisson Hotel Group has added another gem to its portfolio in PPHE’s art’otel brand. Jim Banks speaks to Elie Younes, Radisson Hotel Group’s executive vice-president and global chief development officer, about how the brand fits into its stable and the relationship being a win-win for guests, hotel managers and the group as a whole.
When it comes to creating a unique experience, the concept behind art’otel can’t be faulted. The brand’s one-of-a-kind properties are each designed by a globally-renowned local artist, so the atmosphere is unique, made by a visionary creative. The result is a contemporary collection of premium lifestyle hotels, each bearing the fingerprints of a signature artist to create cultural, gastronomic and social hubs in Europe’s most dynamic cities.
Take, for example, art’otel Amsterdam, designed by Atelier Van Lieshout, the creation of one of the mostrecognised Dutch artists, Joep Van Lieshout. One of his best-known themes is the course of life, from which 120 pieces of art located in the public areas and bedrooms in art’otel Amsterdam take inspiration.
At art’otel London Battersea Power Station, Jaime Hayon is the featured artist and he has infused the iconic property with a bold, colourful and playful aesthetic – inspired by the Power Station’s history and its future as a central cultural hub in London – that runs through the rooms and the public areas, including the Art Gallery.
“The brand offers a timeless lifestyle experience because art is more timeless than fashion,” says Elie Younes, executive vice-president and global chief development officer at Radisson Hotel Group (RHG). “It blends art, including the experiential element, with lifestyle, which not only makes the product more timeless but also gives a sense of meaning to the guest experience. It is also rooted in the local environment.”
Younes has just handled the integration of art’otel into the RHG, so appreciates the value proposition behind the brand as well as the fact that its properties do not need ongoing investment to be timeless.
“It brings more opportunities to the owners and more possibilities to the guests,” he adds. “It helps RHG expand fully from the luxury lifestyle segment to mid-scale and the deal is the fruit of a very successful relationship between RHG and PPHE Hotel Group – a relationship that has already lasted more than 20 years and has now become even closer.”
Parts form a whole
Including art’otel in the RHG’s portfolio of ten distinct brands is like putting the final piece into a jigsaw. Across the brand spectrum, the Group offers inspiration through travel by delivering authentic and engaging cultural experiences, and the art’otel experience enables guests to truly feel part of the local art and design community in each destination.
At the top end of the RHG portfolio sits Radisson Collection, the luxury lifestyle collection of iconic properties in unique locations that have a strong focus on art through its artist collaborations. The character of each hotel is closely tied to its location and features bespoke designs for contemporary living, dining, fitness and wellness.
As a premium upper upscale lifestyle brand, art’otel sits on the next level, just above Radisson Blu, which is the largest upper upscale brand in Europe. Radisson Blu Hotel at Porsche Design Tower Stuttgart is the next property under the brand and is scheduled to open in late 2023. Radisson RED is the group’s upscale lifestyle brand, offering informal services where anything goes, a vibrant social scene, and stylish public spaces with standout design, art and music. Finally, prizeotel fills the midscale urban design segment.
“The integration of RHG and PPHE extends a mutually beneficial relationship,” remarks Younes. “With art’otel, we have found something that fits into a gap in the spectrum of guest experiences that we offer. Unlike some of our competitors, we don’t want to get carried away with brand proliferation. We only want brands that add value to guests and shareholders. So, we now have ten brands that fit very well together.”
“There is a clear position for art’otel in our brand portfolio,” he adds. “Above it we have the Radisson Collection, which is all about hotels with personality. Then below it we have Radisson Blu, our upper upscale brand. So far, the reaction from the market has been very supportive, very positive. Owners are calling us to ask about the brand, and there is a lot of interest.”
Using a local artist as the starting point to create a property that is integrated with the locality and local culture opens up a huge range of opportunities for expansion, as any destination will result in a property that is unique and inspirational. With art’otel, RHG has brought in a meaningful brand that provides a unique guest experience and a compelling value proposition for the owner.
Maintaining those value-added qualities is vital in the partnership between PPHE and RHG, which is why the deal has been carefully structured and falls short of complete integration.
A relationship built on synergy
Although art’otel is now part of the RHG brand portfolio, the move is not taking the form of an official takeover and there will not be full integration into the group. Areas such as IT infrastructure, for example, will remain independent, as will the plans for expansion and investment in new properties.
The reason behind this is a desire to create a winwin scenario that benefits guests and owners as much as possible, without introducing any unnecessarily costly and cumbersome integration issues.
“RHG and PPHE have a wisely restructured business relationship,” Younes explains. “We will not fully integrate art’otel into our systems, but will instead integrate only certain elements, which will allow us to keep the day-to-day maintenance of the brand with PPHE. Our key strengths are commercial – adding revenue – so we will drive the brand forward using our distribution systems, which is where we can really add value.”
“We will also integrate it with our rewards programme as well as our operation and development platforms, which offer more access to guests as well as to capital markets and investors,” he adds. “PPHE will handle the brand engineering and local management through its local teams. The local general manager and the team on the ground will be responsible for running each property, empowered by the brands behind them.”
Even with limited integration, the process of bringing a brand into the RHG family is challenging, but the close relationship with PPHE over many years is a great help in smoothing the road ahead.
“Integrating companies is always a challenge because there are different people, and cultural and operational issues to consider,” says Younes. “We are lucky in that we don’t have to go through a full integration process, so we can avoid many of the challenges. Selective integration means we can focus on where we add value, which is from the commercial and development perspective only. We are not bringing together operations, HR or IT systems.”
“We can also bring our rewards programme into the equations,” he adds. “It is a powerful tool that is relevant to guests. It provides relevant services and privileges, just as many other programmes do, but we have very positive feedback from it about how it performs and how much guests like it.”
As the relationship between PPHE and RHG drives art’otel forward, we should expect the brand to continue expanding into new and exciting properties. In fact, art’otel London Hoxton is already at an advanced stage. English multimedia street artist D*Face – who uses spray paint, stickers, posters, and stencils for his vivid and subversive pop-art style – is taking the reins as its artist.
Further expansion is planned in Rome and Zagreb, where properties under construction are expected to open in 2024, as part of the €400m art’otel pipeline of new projects.
All in all, the partnership that brings art’otel into the RHG family is blurring the line between art and hospitality, and it will no doubt enthrall a whole new audience.