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by Leo Jakobson | April 28, 2016
Carlson today announced it has reached an agreement to sell its Carlson Hotel Group, which has more than 1,400 hotels in 110 countries around the world including the Radisson brands, to China's HNA Tourism Group.

The sale comes on the heels of a growing wave of consolidation in the hospitality industry, including Marriott's deal to purchase Starwood; France's Accor Hotels' acquisition of FRHI, the owner of Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissotel; InterContiental Hotel Group's acquisition of Kimpton Hotels; and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts' acquisition of Dolce Hotels. That has put pressure upon independent hoteliers -- even large ones like Carlson Hotel Group -- to invest heavily in new properties.

That pressure, it seems, played a part in the privately owned company's decision to sell. According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Diana Nelson, Carlson board chairwoman, told employees, "Our hotels business has been performing very well, and we are very proud of it. But in hospitality the larger economics of the industry are changing by the day." In a public statement, Nelson added, "We strongly believe that selling our hotel business to HNA Tourism Group, a company that fully recognizes its value and heritage, is the best way for us to position it for success."

The Carlson Hotel Group has a majority stake in Brussels-based Rezidor Hotel Group, which owns the Quorvus Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Plaza, Park Inn by Radisson, and Country Inns & Suites By Carlson. For several years, the company has been investing in its Radisson Blu brand in part to bring the mid-tier U.S. Radisson brand up to the higher level it has in Europe and other parts of the world.

"Carlson Hotels' global success and strong, sustainable growth potential is a testament to their world-class brands, continuous innovation, excellent management, and unique employee-focused culture, all of which we will build upon as part of this combination to establish our presence in the U.S. market and expand our footprint in hospitality internationally," said HNA Hospitality Group Chairman and CEO Haibo Bai. "We look forward to [accelerating] growth by investing substantially in the business."

China has been investing heavily in the global hotel business, a trend exemplified most recently by Anbang Insurance Group's unsuccessful $14 billion bid for Starwood. Last year, HNA Group bought a 15 percent stake in U.S.-based Lion Hotels Corp, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Based in Minnetonka, MN, Carlson also owns Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a leader in business travel management and meetings and events. Until 2009, it was the owner of Carlson Marketing (now Aimia), a pioneering incentive and loyalty provider.