Philadelphia Chosen as 3rd City in America to House International Radisson Blu Brand

Kait Lavinder, for GPA -- Opened in 1926, the iconic Radisson Plaza - Warwick Hotel Philadelphia has been a staple of Rittenhouse Square for over eight decades. While many locals identify with the hotel’s brand, international clientele do not always recognize the Radisson Plaza - Warwick name. That is why Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group announced early this year that the hotel is to be re-branded as a Radisson Blu building. If “Radisson Blu” does not ring a bell to Philadelphia locals, that hardly comes as a surprise. 

The company was founded in Europe and remains one of the most well-known upper upscale hotel groups amongst the international community, especially amongst Europeans and Middle Easterners. However, America has only recently warmed up to the brand. Expansion to North America is part of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group’s growth strategy called Ambition 2015. General Manager of Radisson Blue Warwick Hotel Philadelphia and native Philadelphian Joanne Cunningham says so far the plan has exceeded expectations.

With the successes of the first American Radisson Blu hotel in Chicago in 2011 and the second in the Mall of America in 2013, it was time to search for a third location. Cunningham explains why Philadelphia was an obvious choice: “Philadelphia is a gateway city. Maybe in theory it’s secondary to Washington and New York; but we have found that we already have a nice solid base of international travel to this hotel because of our location in Philadelphia.”

The goal is that the international clientele will increase exponentially after the re-branding. Cunningham continues by outlining the benefits of visiting and living in Philadelphia: it’s affordable, it’s walkable, the restaurant scene is great, and the city is home to multiple high quality educational institutions. In Cunningham’s opinion, she says it is simply about the lifestyle: “In Philadelphia you have the historic component, but you also have this hip lifestyle. And I think that’s what people want to experience when they come to the United States...home-grown America.”

The hotel’s Director of Operations Matt Nelson seconds Cunningham’s statements by commenting, “Philadelphia has a different feel. It has more character. From a personal standpoint, I think it’s a great city to live in.”

Choosing Philadelphia as the third Radisson Blu city in America can be attributed to the city’s historic qualities and contemporary quirky character. But why choose the Radisson Plaza - Warwick Hotel for the rebranding endeavor? Cunningham’s answer: because it is a landmark building, just like Philadelphia is a landmark city. She describes how the original lobby was constructed as an area for networking before the word “networking” was a definable term. It makes sense; the area exudes elegance and beckons business talk, even if over time it has become designated as primarily a waiting space.

When asked if international business has significantly increased in Philadelphia over the past few decades, Cunningham relays a personal story. She admits she left the city and worked in Washington, D.C. for twelve years because of limited opportunities for a career in Philly’s hotel industry. When the Convention Center was built, Cunningham returned to the City of Brotherly Love; she foresaw the city’s international expansion. Now with the Radisson Blu campaign, the future looks even brighter for Philadelphia’s place in the global market.

Supplementing the attempt to attract more international visitors to the city is a grand renovation of the grand lobby. The vision is a hip living room setting - something more like the original “networking” arena. Nelson predicts that the refinished lobby is going to be a great hangout spot and venue for after-work cocktails. All of the hotel’s renovations are scheduled to be completed by October 2013, when the Radisson Blu Warwick Hotel Philadelphia will see its posh renaissance transpire.