CARLSON MOUNTS INCREMENTAL CONFERENCE

Carlson Hotels Worldwide met at EuroDisney in early May in the Marne-la-Vallee, France area east of Paris to show how global the privately held U.S. brand is becoming. Although the news that came out of this get-together was meager, the presence of various executives from Carlson's 950 properties in 65 countries strongly indicated that change is in the wind. That may be why the conference, which drew about 1,600, was billed as “Changing the Game.”

The news included Carlson's announcement that it will eliminate the use of shortening containing trans fats in food preparation at most of its hotels by year's end; that its sophisticated European arm, the Rezidor Hotel Group, has allied with The CarbonNeutral Company to offer Rezidor guests the opportunity to offset greenhouse gas emissions caused by their travels and hotel stay; and that Radisson has launched www.radissonguestboutique.com, a website where guests can order Radisson products like the Sleep Number bed and ASiRA amenities.

In addition, Carlson executives touted the late-April opening of the Regent Beijing, along with new Radisson and Park Plaza hotels in China and India.

The conference itself was problematic. Most key events took place at a EuroDisney hotel, but most of the Carlson executives (and the media) stayed at the 250-room Radisson SAS Hotel Disneyland Paris, 20 minutes, by undependable shuttle, from the action. In addition, the general sessions took place in Ventury, a semi-permanent tent subject to buffeting by high winds and rain.

At the same time, that Radisson SAS hotel provided clues to the new direction Carlson might take when it unveils its new Radisson prototype. That hotel was modern, airy and light-filled. It featured excellent (and complimentary) high-speed Internet access, several sophisticated restaurants and an easily flowing lobby area.

That property, along with the presence of so many non-domestic hotel executives, suggests that a “Rezidorization” of Radisson is in the works.

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