Blu – a calm hotel experience with a creative twist


REZIDOR'S Radisson SAS hotel brand was renamed Radisson Blu in February in a €3 million ($4.07 million) investment scheme after its partnership with SAS International Hotels came to an end. Radisson SAS was created in 1994 when SAS International Hotels joined forces with the Radisson brand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. TTN spoke to Yigit Sezgin, regional director of sales and marketing, The Rezidor Hotel Group.

What does ‘Blu’ represent?
It is a name with a creative twist and represents a cool, calm and collected hotel experience.  It also stands for one of the world’s fastest growing, most exciting, modern, contemporary and relevant hotel brands.
Blu actually started life as the project’s working title but it soon became apparent that it was the most natural of choices. It’s simple, it’s short, it’s relevant and we’ve applied it in a way that adds a certain modernity to the identity without taking it too far.
Most importantly, it also promotes our specific brand heritage by preserving the graphic ‘blue box’ which has become the recognised symbol of the Radisson brand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. 

What does the re-branding now mean to the existing Radisson SAS properties in the region?
The product ‘Radisson’ and its services will not change. The brand values, people and culture are the same. This is a subtle name change rather than a complete re-branding exercise. All Radisson hotels in EMEA are involved in the change and will be rebranded.  Similarly, all Radisson hotels that are currently under development will open as Radisson BLU hotels.

How long will the transition from SAS to Blu take and what can we expect to see? All Radisson SAS hotels in the EMEA region will change signage in a phased process with the goal of achieving total transformation by the end of 2009. Following the strategy that this change is an “evolution, not revolution” the transition is expected to be a gradual but smooth one which will see subtle changes over time, starting with the signage.

What are the new projects planned for the region?
Despite the current downturn, 2009 will be a record year for us in terms of the number of new hotels we have opening in the Middle East. We will be adding two new brands to our portfolio, with the launch our mid market brand Park Inn, which recently opened in Al Khobar and Muscat, and will be launching our first Missoni hotel in Kuwait in the middle of the year. 
In addition, we will be rebranding Radisson SAS to Radisson Blu and opening hotels in key Middle East destinations such as Cairo, Alexandria, Abu Dhabi and Libya. Rezidor will continue to focus its rapid growth within the Middle East market and plans to announce further openings in new destinations within Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as new projects in Qatar.

Will the re-branding bring changes in design for the new properties?
The design of our properties is something that has evolved over a period of time, creating more contemporary flagship properties with iconic architecture and bold design solutions, and we expect this to continue. ‘Blu’ is modern in its outlook, European in its approach, design conscious and focused on the detail.

What impact has the global economic downturn had on the company?
As a result of the global downturn, Rezidor has implemented a cost saving programme with a target of 30 MEUR company wide.  We are also continuing our growth strategy which includes; focusing on profitable pipeline, focusing on young and dynamic emerging markets, further development of the asset light business model and, focusing on management and franchise contracts with limited or no risk.

Have occupancy levels in your Middle East properties been affected? What are the trends here?
Within this region, Dubai has felt the most impact while we are still managing to maintain our occupancy levels, there has been a notable difference in Rev-Par compared with last year. 

What challenges do the Middle Eastern markets pose?
At this point, by lowering rates we have managed to generate interest from certain markets but we are expecting the summer period to be a major challenge and perhaps it’s a case that only the fittest will survive.  With the launch of several new hotels in Dubai, the additional supply created, coupled with the falling demand, will certainly create challenging operating conditions in July, August and Ramadan period.