Carlson sells hotel empire to Chinese conglomerate

Update: 19:28 | Posted: 5:03 PM

Minnetonka-based Carlson Companies said on Wednesday it was selling its iconic global hotel businesses to Beijing’s HNA Tourism Group Co. – a stunning turning point for one of the legendary giants of the Twin Cities.

Carlson, one of the world’s largest privately-owned companies, operates 1,400 hotels around the world. It also controls Carlson Wagonlit Travel, a travel management company with operations in over 150 countries.

“Carlson Hotels have a strong set of global brands and this historic agreement offers tremendous growth opportunities,” David P. Berg, CEO of Carlson Hospitality Group, said in a press release announcement of the agreement.

Terms of the contract are not disclosed. But it includes Carlson’s well-known hotel brands, including the Radisson chains.

David Loeb, senior hotel analyst at Baird, said the industry is seeing greater consolidation in order to compete with major industry players like Marriott and Hilton.

“Strong brands like Country Inn and Suites struggle to attract new owners or new owners for new developments when those owners can turn to Hilton or Marriott. volume of customers because they are part of a Marriott system, ”he said.

Loeb says online travel agencies like Travelocity and Priceline have a big presence in the market. By consolidating, hotel groups can get more, have more pricing power at these sites, and attract customers through larger rewards programs.

The companies have said Carlson Hotels will remain based in Minnetonka.

Loeb said the Minnesota headquarters could actually grow with the sale.

“If HNA continues with its plans to become a bigger and bigger player, there might be more opportunities to make these brand groups really stronger and bigger,” he said. “And that could make HNA’s US headquarters even more important.”

HNA Tourism Group is a unit of HNA Group Co., Ltd., a company operating in aviation, tourism, hospitality, finance, online services and other sectors, according to the joint statement.

As a member of the HNA Tourism Group, “Carlson Hotels will have the opportunity to advance our commitment to providing guests with hospitality around the world,” added Berg.

“Hospitality is in our hearts which made this decision difficult,” said Diana Nelson, chairman of the Carlson board of directors and granddaughter of Curt Carlson, who founded the family business in 1938.

“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 and be true to my legacy. long-term grandfather, ”she said. added.

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