Top 10 awards: Radisson’s Wildes sees post-COVID opportunities

Will Wildes, senior director of Design & Technical Services for Radisson Hotel Group Americas is one of the driving forces behind the development of the company’s urban “bleisure” brand, Radisson Red.

With diverse experiences in creative product development that included stops with Hyatt and Marriott, Wildes has been recognized for coalescing diverse international teams, building, and cultivating relationships with brands, ownership groups, operators, designers, architects, engineers, contractors, and external vendors for 100’s of new construction and renovation projects.

Named one of HOTELS Top 10 Emerging Brand leaders, Wildes talked about his biggest challenges and opportunities of the moment, as well as some of his inspirations and goals.

HOTELS: What is your biggest challenge for growth right now?

Will Wildes: Our biggest challenge right now is identifying where emerging markets are beginning to form post-COVID. We want to get our hotels into those emerging markets and establish our brand footprint ahead of the competition. During the past 18 months, our high-traffic urban hotels have been much more dramatically impacted than our suburban hotels. It is very apparent that where people want to visit and relocate their lives looks much different in 2021 than it did in 2019. That could continue to change as we head into 2022.

H: What is your biggest opportunity to increase market share?

WW: One of our biggest opportunities to increase market share is through our relationships with our owners, developers and hotel teams… We want our owners to know that we believe in their success. As we build these relationships, it allows us to grow 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 in Ecuador. We plan to continue this momentum with more exciting hotel openings and signings.

H: Where do you look for and find inspiration today?

WW: I find a lot of inspiration from travel. Although travel has been difficult over the past year and half, visiting new places, staying at hotels, and watching the way people respond and interact in hotels is where I find inspiration. You only get one first impression when a guest walks through a hotel’s front doors. While traveling and staying at hotels, I’ll conceptualize designs while watching guests respond to their surroundings. The layout of the lobby and placement of the front desk is critical. A guest 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 a hotel’s design through the lens of a guest can inspire a lot of great ideas.

H: What has been your biggest learns during COVID, and how you are applying it?

WW: Throughout this pandemic, I have really learned how to adapt in many ways, but I have certainly learned how to adapt when it comes to hotel design. Trends and designs are constantly evolving as our lifestyles change, and our lifestyles have seen significant changes during this pandemic. For example, we were previously very focused on hotel communal spaces. However, now that more people than ever are working remotely, we are focused on providing a guest home office experience in each room. This includes ensuring there is plenty of space for the guest’s office equipment, a comfortable desk and chair, along with good lighting and a nice background for virtual calls. People are now working from anywhere and we need to be able to accommodate their needs.

H: What are you reading today?

WW: I must confess, being a visual person who looks at thousands of images, documents and plans daily, podcast’s truly feed my thirst for knowledge much more than a book. I listen to a variety of podcasts as I have a passion for learning and listening to different perspectives. Allowing myself to escape through active listening has many times helped inspired my creativity.

H: How are you further differentiating from your bigger competitors?

WW: At Radisson Hotel Group Americas, we are differentiating ourselves by truly collaborating with our owners and developers. There is no one-size-fits-all for hotel design. We are instead providing a concierge service approach to project solutions. It is important to look at the needs of both the consumer and the owner when filtering design trends. We are not limiting answers based solely on brand standards and brand documents. As our team builds relationships with owners and developers, I spend time asking about their hotel operations, the guest demographic, and other exploratory questions so I can provide a custom solution that best fits the individual hotel needs while also meeting the brand values.

H: How has COVID changed you as a professional, changed your management style?

WW: It has been very eye-opening during this pandemic to see how resilient people are and how we have successfully transitioned to working from home. I have learned that working remotely can be productive, stimulating and projects can move along without delays caused by key decision makers being in different locations. There was a learning curve moving from a business office to a home office, but I think we have all discovered how to leverage technology to be productive while working from home. It forced all of us to make great lemonade from whatever lemons life handed 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 post-COVID future travelers.

Lifestyles have significantly changed during the pandemic and that means we must change how we design hotels and the amenities we provide. Leisure travel is booming, and people are working from everywhere. The business and leisure traveler are overlapping.

I would like to be at the forefront of designing a brand catering to the evolving needs of our future travelers as we leverage technology and provide unique amenities, while still offering personalized service. I’m excited for the future of Radisson Hotel Group Americas and I believe there is a lot of potential to create new and unique experiences for our guests.