Ramsay Rankoussi discusses how Radisson has dealt with COVID-19

The vice president, Middle East, Turkey & Africa on the group’s pipeline and more

Ramsay Rankoussi
Alex Jeffries
Ramsay Rankoussi

As the hospitality industry continues to implement new operational initiatives, Ramsay Rankoussi details the changes in operator/owner agreements that have been brought about by COVID-19.

How has the current situation affected your day to day working routine?
The biggest impact is the travel restriction. The recent lockdown and border controls in many countries have forced us to work from home and adapt to virtual meetings. Because our jobs are focused on the future, we are lucky to still witness momentum as people try to look beyond the current circumstances but obviously things take more time and there is much more diligence and scrutiny in the viability and feasibility of projects.

Have you made any amendments to existing HMA’s?
All our agreements remain in place and without any amendments. We have witnessed in the negotiations of new deals some extended language in the definition of Force Majeure (FM) and termination rights in case of project delays.

Naturally, those elements reflect the assurance some investors want to obtain in case the situation does not improve sufficiently or that the future would question again their ability to complete a project on time given the numerous obstacles out of their control such as logistics, supplies, site mobilisation and government restrictions.

Will HMAs evolve to include more detailed FM clauses?
There might be more clarity or added qualifications in the definition of Force Majeure but eventually what the industry will learn from this event are rather the actions and various activities taken in such an event as COVID-19.

Often the FM only defines a suspension prior a potential termination but the pragmatic priorities of all – owners and operators – have been the safeguarding of the business, the management of cash flows and the overall survival of the hotel so that we can continue to run the operations or temporarily close but with the aim of continuity and not to end the relationship.

Has Radisson’s pipeline been affected?
We have witnessed delays on sites due to the lack of movement of goods but also of people. Some countries have had more restrictions than others but overall, we have seen most of our pipeline in line with schedule with delays not expected to exceed six to nine months.

A natural decision is to reassess the timing of opening as while a property could be completed on time, it is also important to ensure its opening in a positive commercial environment so that liquidity is ensured to our owners.

Have any positives come out of the current situation?
It has forced us to take the time to realise priorities and the importance on the health and safety of our family, friends, employees and guests. We used to live in a fast-paced environment where most of our daily habits were taken for granted and we all have discovered how life can be turned around and how critical is to cherish those simple moments.

On a business level, there have been opportunities with the acceleration of technology; relevance of our brands and commercial engine; the reinvention of the industry and some fundamentals which while today may represent a difficulty, tomorrow will represent a new norm and an evolution.

What do you think some of the long-term effects will be on the regional hospitality industry?
We will certainly revisit overall design of a hotel, relevant service procedures as well as more stringent hygiene protocol. Radisson Hotel Group announced Radisson Hotels Safety Protocol, a new programme of in-depth cleanliness and disinfection procedures, in partnership with SGS, one of the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification companies.

We expect to complete all the necessary operational details of this programme over the next few weeks. The industry is here to stay but every event in history has always translated a paradigm shift or has introduced disruptors and now we are all living a moment of change.

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