‘We op­er­ate with lead­er­ship, in­tegrity and hav­ing a car­ing spirit’

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - HK | BUSINESS - By SO­PHIE HE in Hong Kong so­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com Con­tact the writer at so­phiehe@chi­nadai­lyhk.com

The takeover of its ho­tel group by a Chi­nese main­land con­glom­er­ate ear­lier this year has given Carlson Hos­pi­tal­ity Group’s ex­pan­sion into China — es­pe­cially gate­way cities to meet ris­ing de­mand — a much-needed boost, says Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer David Berg.

T h e c o m p a n y ’s C a r l s o n Ho­tels Inc cur­rently has about 1,400 ho­tels across 120 coun­tries and re­gions world­wide, which in­cludes the Radis­son brand, Berg told China Daily.

Carlson has been in the ho­tels busi­ness for about 50 years, in­clud­ing op­er­at­ing in the Asia-Pa­cific for about 25 years with its pri­mary fo­cus in In­dia where it has 77 ho­tels. The com­pany’s port­fo­lio in the re­gion now num­bers more than 100 ho­tels — in­clud­ing 13 ho­tels on the main­land, two in Aus­tralia and a few in South­east Asia — with an­other 15 in pipe­line, Berg says.

Un­der the new own­er­ship of HNA Tourism Group, Berg says Carlson is ex­cited about op­por­tu­ni­ties to ex­plore other gate­way cities in China, and is not afraid of en­ter­ing sec­on­dor third-tier cities.

HNA Tourism Group Co L t d , a d i v i s i o n o f Ha i n a n prov­ince-based con­glom­er­ate HNA Group Co Ltd which owns Hainan Air­lines, agreed to buy Carlson Ho­tels Inc in April in a deal re­port­edly worth $2 bil­lion, Bloomberg re­ported.

Carlson op­er­ates seven brands from mid-scale up to lux­ury, he ex­plains, which are Quorvus Col­lec­tion, Radis­son Blu, Radis­son, Radis­son RED, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radis­son and Coun­try Inns & Suites brands.

Ag­gres­sive ex­pan­sion

Berg says while the com­pany will con­tinue to fo­cus on Shang­hai and Chongqing, the takeover by HNA means there may be bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties in Hainan prov­ince.

“We are very ex­cited about the Chi­nese mar­ket in par- tic ular. We are e xpand­ing our brands and his­tor­i­cally it has been Radis­son Blu and Park Plaza. In Chongqing and Shang­hai we have four ho­tels, and then we (will) ex­pand around those two cities,” Berg says.

“This year, we are in­tro­duc­ing the Park Inn and Radis­son brand of our ho­tels into Chi­nese mar­ket.”

Berg says that Carlson is work­ing very close with HNA to de­velop its next strat­egy.

“The ex­cit­ing thing about the new part­ner­ship with HNA is they are com­mit­ted to put in the right cap­i­tal, the right re­sources to Carlson’s port­fo­lio and the man­age­ment team to grow the busi­ness to be a top global ho­tel com­pany. The ex­act roadmap is what we are work­ing on right now.”

Berg stresses the strength of the Chi­nese econ­omy, with a real GDP growth of around 6.5 per­cent, the mid­dle-class will con­tinue to grow so many op­por­tu­ni­ties re­main in China.

He says one of the strengths of the com­pany is the di­ver­sity of its brands, so it can tai­lor to China’s many cities and its dif­fer­ent types of cus­tomers.

Chang­ing trends

He says the Radis­son RED brand tar­gets mil­len­ni­als who love fash­ion, art and mu­sic, and who are look­ing for a hip ex­pe­ri­ence. The more tra­di­tional Radis­son ho­tels are more up­scale, but also pro­vide good value.

“We are see­ing more in­traChina and in­tra-Asia travel from the Chi­nese travelers. We have our new­est brand called Radis­son RED, from our life­style selec­tive cat­e­gory, which is a heavy bent on tech­nol­ogy … so it is very at­trac­tive for our de­vel­op­ers to build,” he says.

“We think with the grow­ing mil­len­nial base in China, while con­sumers have that ex­tra money to spend, it will be a very good of­fer­ing from us.”

A Radis­son RED will soon open in Shen­zhen, fol­low­ing launches in Shenyang and Guangzhou, and Berg says the com­pany is ex­cited about the op­por­tu­nity for that brand.

He says there are also less c us­tomers look­ing for full service ho­tels, with the trend mov­ing to­wards peo­ple that

Orig­i­nally a lawyer, Carlson Hos­pi­tal­ity Group Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer David Berg only made the jump to hos­pi­tal­ity and travel when he joined in early 2014.

Af­ter grad­u­at­ing with an eco­nom­ics de­gree from Emory Univer­sity, he also com­pleted his law de­gree from the Univer­sity of Florida Col­lege Of Law.

“I made the move from be­ing a lawyer to international busi­ness when I joined a fitness com­pany,” Berg says.

“I wanted to find new ways to gen­er­ate rev­enue so we put a busi­ness plan to­gether and started an international busi­ness for that.”

He also has a back­ground in re­tail in­dus­try, where he as the ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent of Best Buy International, lead­ing the $13 bil­lion in­ter- don’t need 24-hour service — they don’t even need a front desk. In­stead, they want to be tech­nol­ogy-en­abled, which means not only great Wi-Fi but “wow fac­tor” when it comes to ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy.

“They want to see some cut-

CAP­I­TAL IDEAS: PETER LIANG

na­tional divi­sion. He was also for­merly the chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of GNC.

Pre­vi­ously, he worked as ex­ec­u­tive vice-pres­i­dent and pres­i­dent of Out­back Steak­house International, re­spon­si­ble for more than 200 restau­rants in 20 coun­tries and re­gions.

Lead­er­ship qual­i­ties

Berg now leads Carlson’s cor­po­rate cen­ter, and also heads and man­ages the global ho­tel busi­ness with the Carlson Rezi­dor Ho­tel Group’s global ex­ec­u­tive team re­port­ing to him.

“As a leader, I would like to think of my­self as a coach and it is my job to make it clear to the team about what we are try­ing to ac­com­plish, and then let the team go and get it done,” he says.

“My job is to help re­move ob­sta­cles for my peo­ple so that they can do their best work.” ting-edge things from a tech­nol­ogy stand­point.”

A ho­tel’s lobby and so­cial s p a c e s h av e n o w b e c o m e in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant, he says. Ho­tels are ditch­ing tra­di­tional couches and for­mal set­tings, in­stead pre­fer­ring open ar­eas

One of his main goals at Carlson is invit­ing peo­ple to bring their own unique ca­pa­bil­i­ties to work ev­ery day and not be sti­fled by a uni­form way of com­plet­ing tasks, Berg says. It is this strat­egy that al­lows em­ploy­ees to do things their own way, so they can un­leash and per­form at their best.

“The fam­ily his­tory about Carlson Group and the strong her­itage around our val­ues — be­ing lead­ers, op­er­at­ing with in­tegrity and hav­ing a car­ing spirit. Those are the things that were de­vel­oped 80 years ago, and they are still very much at the fore­front of our busi­ness.”

Start­ing from the bot­tom

Berg says the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try is unique in the sense that young peo­ple can join at the bot­tom of the lad­der, and even­tu­ally grow within an or­ga­ni­za­tion. He has seen young­sters can come in as a front desk clerk, or work­ing at the house­keep­ing de­part­ment, and work their way up to even­tu­ally run the ho­tel.

“I think it is an in­cred­i­ble in­dus­try. It is an in­dus­try that has per­formed re­ally well dur­ing the past six or seven years,” he says.

“It has its cy­cles like any in­dustr y, but peo­ple will al­ways need a place to stay (when they are trav­el­ing) — there will al­ways be a place for ho­tels in the econ­omy.”

As for those who want to en­ter the ho­tel busi­ness, Berg says they must be will­ing to take risks and not be too con­cerned about hav­ing a con­crete plan for the fu­ture.

“You don’t just climb the lad­der. It is more like a jun­gle gym, so be open to change, be open to new op­por­tu­ni­ties, don’t be afraid of tak­ing on dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ences, even if it does not fit into your plan per­fectly.” where cus­tomers can share a com­mu­nal ta­ble.

An­other grow­ing trend is loy­alty pro­grams and re­wards, where peo­ple still value “points” that they can cash in for com­pli­men­tary stays. Berg says mil­len­nial travelers are look­ing for bet­ter cus­tomer service as an elite mem­ber, which could in­clude get­ting an up­grade or a free bot­tle of wine.

PARKER ZHENG / CHINA DAILY

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer David Berg of Carlson Hos­pi­tal­ity Group says the group has moved to lead to­ward pro­mo­tion that tar­gets mil­len­ni­als on the Chi­nese main­land who love fash­ion, art and mu­sic, and who are look­ing for a hip ex­pe­ri­ence. David Berg, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Carlson Hos­pi­tal­ity Group

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