What is the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group?

The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group Global Business Conference 2012 last week in Nassau, Bahamas is the third annual conference I have attended. This is the annual conference bringing together hotel owners, managers and parent company executives for the hotel brands of Radisson, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn and Park Plaza hotels.

The Radisson hotel chain has puzzled me for a decade as I tried to understand the difference between several different Radisson brand names like Radisson in the USA and Radisson SAS, then Radisson Blu in Europe and Radisson Edwardian in London.

The variability in earning points in goldpoints plus depending on whether your hotel stay was in the U.S., Asia, Europe or Africa was another confounding aspect of the hotel loyalty program. Goldpoints plus had the feel of IHG Priority Club and InterContinental Ambassador, another program where hotel brand acquisitions brought together a European/international program with a US based hotel loyalty program and an odd mix results.

This Loyalty Traveler post will attempt to share the basics of the Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group for readers who may have recently joined the Club Carlson program after the 2011 Q-4 Big Night Giveaway for 50,000 points with one hotel stay at a Radisson. This is an overview of the hotel chain and I will follow up with another post describing the Club Carlson loyalty program in detail.

Ambition 2015

In 2010 the Carlson Hotels company launched a five year initiative – Ambition 2015 – to create a stronger global presence as a major hotel company and hotel loyalty program.

Two years ago in Orlando the company executives pledged an investment of 1.5 billion dollars to support the five year improvement plan.

The 2012 conference last week at Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas provided updates to the accomplishments of the past two years.

Ambition 2015


A step back into history

Curtis L. Carlson – one of the founders of loyalty marketing

In 1938 Curtis Carlson founded the Gold Bond Stamp Company in Minneapolis as a way to generate customer loyalty through earning reward stamps for shopping at specific grocery stores, drug stores and gas stations. By the 1950s the Gold Bond Stamp Company was nationally known.

The trading stamp phenomenon peaked in 1968. Trading stamps had value that could be redeemed for merchandise. I remember going with my grandmother as a child in the mid 1960s to a store in Los Angeles where she could redeem her books of Green Stamps for merchandise. Loyalty stamps were the 1960s equivalent of frequent flyer miles and hotel points.

In 1960 Curt Carlson purchased a stake in a Minneapolis hotel called the Radisson Hotel opened in 1909 and he acquired full ownership in 1962. Expanding into the hospitality business with Radisson Hotels grew the company in the 1960s.

This history of Carlson Hotels explains why the name “gold points” has lived on as the loyalty currency of Club Carlson.

1975 – Carlson acquires TGI Fridays restaurants.

1987 – Country Inns & Suites hotel brand launched.

1994 – Carlson Wagonlit Travel formed from alliance of Carlson Travel and Paris based Wagonlit Travel.

1994 – Radisson Hotels and SAS Hotels form partnership for international hotel development.

1997 – goldpoints plus loyalty program launched to take trading stamps electronic.

2000 – Carlson acquires Park Inn and Park Plaza brands.

2002 – Rezidor Hotel Group acquires franchise rights to additional Carlson hotel brands in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

2006 – Rezidor Hotel Group listed on Stockholm Stock Exchange.

2010 – Carlson acquires majority share in Rezidor Hotel Group.

2011 – Club Carlson loyalty program replaces goldpoints plus.

Jan 19, 2012 – Carlson Hotels and Rezidor Hotel Group renames as Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.


Why did Carlson Hotels recently become Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group?

The company structure of Carlson Hotels is a combination of the privately owned Carlson Group which includes Carlson Hotels, TGI Friday’s restaurants and Carlson Wagonlit Travel and the publicly traded company of Rezidor Hotel Group listed on the Stockholm Exchange which franchises and manages hotels in Europe, Middle East and Africa regions.

Hotel companies measure their size by number of rooms. The Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group jumped ahead of Hyatt Hotels to become the #9 hotel chain globally by number of rooms. Source: Hotels Magazine Sep 2011.

  1. InterContinental Hotels Group = 647,000 rooms
  2. Marriott = 618,000
  3. Wyndham = 613,000
  4. Hilton = 605,000
  5. Accor = 507,000
  6. Choice = 495,000
  7. Starwood = 309,000
  8. Best Western = 308,000
  9. Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group = 162,000
  10. Hyatt Hotels = 128,000

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group has seen the removal of more than 15,000 rooms in the past two years as properties have been removed from the system.

Hotel Brands in Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group:

421 Radisson hotels (Blu and green combined). 111 in contracted pipeline.

Radisson Blu – upper upscale market segment, primarily located in Europe where Radisson Blu is the largest upper upscale hotel brand by number of hotels (169) and rooms (38,900). Hilton is a close second (145 hotels) and Marriott (87 hotels) a distant third. Radisson Blu wins awards internationally.

The opening of Radisson Blu Aqua Chicago is the first high end Radisson for the US market. A second property at Mall of America Minneapolis will open Q1 2013. The Radisson Blu logo developed from a simple change to the former Radisson SAS brand which used a blue box for SAS. Radisson Blu website.

One of the major announcements from the global conference last week is the rebranding of 13 Radisson Edwardian hotels in London and Manchester to Radisson Blu.

There are currently 229 Radisson Blu hotels in operation and another 30 expected to open in 2012, including:

  • Radisson Blu Plaza Hotel Chongqing Nan Bin Lu, China
  • Radisson Blu Resort & Spa, Ajaccio Bay, Corsica, France
  • Radisson Blu Nantes, France
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Ludhiana, India
  • Radisson Blu Maputo Mozambique
  • Radisson Blu Hotel Doha, Qatar
  • Radisson Blu Istanbul, Turkey

Radisson (green) – upscale market segment, primarily in the USA. One of the major objectives of Ambition 2015 is to upgrade the Radisson brand in North America. It was stated that about 20% of the hotels were removed from the system reducing the rooms by 50,000 in the brand. Radisson website.

Ambition 2015 has an objective to complete hotel property improvement plans at 100% of the hotels in the Americas by 2015. The past two years have seen 25% completion and the goal is 49% completion by year end 2012 and 100% completion by year end 2014.

Park Plaza – upscale – 43 hotels with 18 in hotel pipeline. This hotel brand is primarily located in Germany, Netherlands, UK and India. Only one property currently in USA in Bloomington, Minnesota. Park Plaza website.

Park Inn – upper midscale – 127 hotels with 65 in the pipeline. This brand is primarily in Europe and just starting to pop up around the USA in seven states and fewer than 15 hotels in North America. I see there is a Park Inn now in Fresno, California. I’ll have to go check that out on my way to the Sierra Nevada mountains this spring. Park Inn website.

Park Inn hotels use vibrant colors and remind of the Starwood Aloft brand.

Park Inn

Country Inns & Suites – midscale brand with 484 hotels, primarily in the USA although brand development in India is taking off. There are only 44 hotels in the pipeline. Country Inns website.

Country Inns offer all guests free internet and free breakfast. One of the features of the hotel brand is non-disposable dining ware. Country Inns is the only major midscale brand in the USA not using disposable dining ware for complimentary morning breakfast.

Country Inns are looking to add a Grab & Go snack program in 2012.

The Club Carlson loyalty program change in 2011 was a huge boost for Country frequent guests when the earn rate changed to 20 points per dollar from the formerly 15 points rate. Country Inn is actually one of the best hotel brands for leveraging low cost stays with high value redemption opportunities. There are far more Country Inns than Four Points by Sheraton or Hyatt Place hotels for midscale travel on a budget. I have not stayed in enough Country Inns to give a real travel comparison to these other brands.

Hotel Missoni – luxury brand. There are only two hotels open in Kuwait and Edinburgh and four more hotels in development. This new brand is less than one year old and not yet incorporated into Club Carlson. I have been told that Hotel Missoni will be included in the Club Carlson loyalty program, possibly within a year, and that it is actually more complicated than you would think to set up the hotel brand with Club Carlson.


Club Carlson Hotel Loyalty Program Membership Growth

  • 2009 = 5.1 million members
  • 2010 = 6.3 million members
  • 2011 = 8.0 million members

Club Carlson US Bank Visa card

Club Carlson US Bank Visa card agreement has been signed and a cobranded credit card is expected to debut Q4-2012.


This post ends here and I will follow up this piece with a post focused on Club Carlson hotel loyalty program. I learned some interesting things about hotel loyalty programs in general from the 2012 conference.

Blogger disclosure: Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group provided complimentary access to the 2012 global conference and paid for 3 nights at Atlantis Resort ($875 value). I covered my airfare and all other expenses associated with travel to Nassau. I was one of about a dozen media attendees.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »



  1. The CRHG CEO was profiled in the SAS in flight mag recently, and it was an impressive read. Seems like an old school hotelier with a mass market worldview.

    He made specual note that internet should be part of the room rate these days… amen!

  2. Are they going to be investing in the London Edwardian hotels? I haven’t personally stayed, but reports on FT are of shabby rooms.

  3. Any insights into how to receive credit for stays in Carlson program that were considered not elegible for loyalty points due to booking through a travel agent. As a new carlson member I did not know that 3rd party bookin is not able to receeve points. I stayed for 10 nights at a London Edwardian property, would have earned significant points. I tried calling but the rep could not post to my account. Any suggestions?

  4. @Carol – Radisson Edwardian Mercer Street had a 15 million GBP revamp. I am not familiar with the other hotels.

    The company recently spent 200 million GBP acquiring properties at Leicester Square and Manchester and Canary Wharf.

  5. @Ali – It is a fairly standard policy that hotel reservations need to be made through the hotel chains own booking channels to receive loyalty points.

    Travel agent bookings are eligible for Club Carlson if made through the correct channels, but sounds like your travel agent used a nondirect channel.

    It comes down to money. The hotel makes more money on direct bookings whereas third party agencies take as much as 25% of the room rate from the hotel.

    Therefore, loyalty benefits are not offered for third party bookings since the hotel is already losing a significant portion of room revenue to a third party.

  6. @Jeff – internet is complimentary for all Club Carlson members staying in North America and at all Radisson hotels worldwide. That still leaves some properties with internet fees, but not too many.

    Internet is a nice benefit just for being a loyalty program member.

  7. @Ric – could you please expand on the “correct booking channels” comment? I understand Priceline and such don’t usually earn points, but I thought travel agent booked trips did. My girlfriend’s work uses Carlson Wagonlit and while they have a variety of problems(e.g. can’t choose your seat on Frontier Airlines when booking) and can be a real pain to deal with, she earns points including, because of status, points on most promotions.

  8. @Charles Clarke – most bookings done through a travel agent should be okay for earning Club Carlson points. They are typically booked using a GDS system and count as a direct hotel booking.

    I do not know what kind of booking channel Ali’s travel agent used, but apparently it was not a standard travel agent booking.

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