Salt Lake City might not have a so-called convention headquarters hotel yet, so smaller properties such as the 381-room Radisson Hotel downtown remain important when a large gathering comes to town.
Javier Rosenberg, chief operating officer for Radisson, Americas, said the recently renovated Salt Lake hotel knows the importance of Salt Lake hosting major trade shows such as the annual Outdoor Retailer, which opens next week and is expected to draw thousands of people.
"In that market, the [Salt Palace] convention center is vital and critical for us," he said from Minneapolis earlier this week after having to postpone a planned trip to visit with Radisson employees in Salt Lake City. "The hotel also works closely with EnergySolutions Arena. And [Outdoor Retailer is] a significant business for the city, of course. Our hotel always works with that convention. Salt Lake is a great destination."
He said he is aware of preliminary talks about a public-private partnership to build a 1,000-room flagship convention hotel near the Salt Palace.
"Like many other hotel companies, we support any initiative that helps drive business into the city," said Rosenberg. "We are concerned with the public funding of a project of that nature. It creates some unfairness in the marketplace. We are monitoring things and have expressed some concerns in that regard."
Against that backdrop, Radisson is not standing still.
The hotelier has two properties in Salt Lake City, one at 215 W. South Temple and another near Salt Lake International Airport. Both are in the midst extensive renovations as part of parent company Carlson Hotels' Ambition 2015 program. The initiative includes spending $1.5 billion in North America to expand its portfolio to more than 1,500 hotels by 2015, as well as upgrade existing ones.
"We believe this is a great time to invest in the hotel business," said Hubert Joly, president and CEO for Carlson. "With Ambition 2015, we have a comprehensive and compelling strategy to build the business."
Rosenberg said Radisson's downtown Salt Lake City hotel provides a great example of how the program is working. The company is in the process of completing a $6.8 million renovation of rooms, the lobby, corridors and the entry way. It is also been working on improving the lobby, restaurant and rooms at the airport location.
In North America, the company has spent $500 million to improve 80 percent of its existing hotels.
It also introducing its upscale Radisson Blu property to North America. The first opened in Chicago, and a resort has been converted to the brand in St. Maarten. Another opened at the Mall of America in Minnesota March 15.
Rosenberg hopes to visit every North American property and expects to be in Salt Lake City in the next five or six weeks to talk to employees about its "Yes I Can," program and share stories and successes in an effort to re-enforce the company's culture.