Top 10 Rewards: Radisson’s Wildes Sees Post-COVID Opportunities
Will Wildes, Senior Director of Design and Technical Services for Radisson Hotel Group Americas, is a driving force behind the development of the company’s urban bleisure brand, Radisson Red.
With diverse backgrounds in creative product development that include stops with Hyatt and Marriott, Wildes has been recognized for merging various international teams, building and nurturing relationships with brands, property groups, operators, designers, architects, engineers, contractors and external suppliers for Hundreds of new construction and renovation projects.
Named one of the 10 leaders of emerging HOTELS brands, Wildes spoke about his biggest challenges and opportunities of the moment, as well as some of his inspirations and goals.
HOTELS: What is your biggest growth challenge right now?
Will Wildes: Our biggest challenge right now is to identify where emerging markets are starting to form after COVID. We want to bring our hotels to these emerging markets and establish our brand footprint ahead of the competition. Over the past 18 months, our high-traffic city hotels have been hit much harder than our suburban hotels. It is very evident that where people want to visit and relocate with their lives is very different in 2021 than it was in 2019. That could continue to change as we approach 2022.
H: What is your biggest opportunity to increase your market share?
WW: One of our greatest opportunities to increase our market share is in our relationships with our owners, developers and hotel teamsâ¦ We want our owners to know that we believe in their success. As we build these relationships, it allows us to increase our market share in return.
When it comes to looking at a specific region to increase market share, we see a lot of potential in Latin America and the Caribbean. There is strength and opportunity for our Radisson Red and Radisson Blu brands in this region. Recently, we opened Radisson Blu Punta Cana and Radisson Blu Aruba, and signed Radisson Blu Hotel & Residences, Punta Blanca, Ecuador. We plan to continue this momentum with more interesting hotel openings and signings.
H: Where do you look and find inspiration today?
WW: I find a lot of inspiration in travel. Although travel has been difficult over the past year and a half, visiting new places, staying in hotels, and observing the way people react and interact in hotels is where I find inspiration. You only get a first impression when a customer walks through the doors of a hotel. While traveling and staying in hotels, I will conceptualize designs while observing customers react to their surroundings. The layout of the lobby and the location of the reception are essential. A customer wants to walk into a hotel and feel comfortable and be able to quickly understand the lay of the land, without feeling lost or not knowing where to find something. Looking at the design of a hotel through a client’s lens can inspire a lot of good ideas.
H: What was your biggest learning during COVID, and how are you applying it?
WW: Throughout this pandemic, I have really learned to adapt in many ways, but I have certainly learned to adapt when it comes to hotel design. Trends and designs are constantly evolving as our lifestyles change, and our lifestyles have undergone significant changes during this pandemic. For example, we used to be very focused on the common areas of hotels. However, now that more people than ever are working remotely, our focus is on providing a home office experience for guests in every room. This includes making sure there is enough space for clients’ office equipment, a comfortable desk and chair, as well as good lighting and a nice background for virtual calls. People are now working from anywhere and we have to be able to meet their needs.
H: What are you reading today?
WW: I have to admit that being a visual person who looks at thousands of images, documents and maps daily, podcasts really fuel my thirst for knowledge much more than a book. I listen to a variety of podcasts because I have a passion for learning and listening to different perspectives. Allowing myself to escape through active listening has repeatedly helped inspire my creativity.
H: How do you differentiate yourself more from your bigger competitors?
WW: At Radisson Hotel Group Americas, we differentiate ourselves by truly collaborating with our owners and developers. There is no single model for hotel design. Rather, we offer a concierge service approach to project solutions. It is important to consider the needs of the consumer and the homeowner when filtering out design trends. We do not limit responses based solely on brand standards and brand documents. As our team builds relationships with owners and developers, I spend time asking questions about their hotel operations, guest demographics, and other probing questions so that I can deliver a personalized solution that fits. best suited to the individual needs of the hotel while respecting the values ââof the brand.
H: How has COVID changed you as a professional, changed your management style?
WW: During this pandemic, it has been very revealing how resilient people are and how we have successfully made the transition to working from home. I have learned that working remotely can be productive, stimulating and that projects can move forward without delays caused by key decision makers in different locations. There has been a learning curve to going from a business office to a home office, but I think we’ve all figured out how to leverage technology to be productive while working from home. It forced us all to make great lemonade from the lemons that life had given us.
H: What do you want to accomplish not yet done (new goals)?
WW: One of my dreams is to lead the conceptual design for the launch of a new hotel brand for our future post-COVID travelers.
Lifestyles have changed dramatically during the pandemic and that means we need to change the way we design the hotels and the amenities we offer. Leisure travel is booming and people are working from all over the place. Business and leisure travelers overlap.
I would love to be at the forefront of designing a brand to meet the evolving needs of our future travelers as we leverage technology and deliver unique amenities, while delivering personalized service. I am excited about the future of Radisson Hotel Group Americas and believe there is great potential to create new and unique experiences for our guests.