With a backdrop of exquisite natural surroundings, a design-centric approach to social and economic development and as a hub of emerging creative talents, Cape Town was the ideal location for the Radisson Group to launch Africa’s first RED hotel in 2017.
Rooted in an ethos inspired by music, fashion and art, RED not only reflects the vibrant culture of the city but is infused with the spirit of Africa through decorative artefacts and collaborations with local startups.
Curator and “head honcho” at Radisson RED, Dale Simpson says the way in which he designs is underpinned by a passion for creating meaningful experiences. “You look at the areas in a hotel much like you would a museum — the look and feel is what guests will see which is why they should constantly be changed and updated. Because you constantly want to create new experiences,” he says.
The RED experience presents a playful twist on the conventional. Stemming from a millennial mindset – one that’s encompassed by the notion of going against the grain – RED injects new life into the hospitality sector by merging design, functionality and comfort into a hotel offering that’s laid back and social.
“I think Radisson RED asks the question, ‘Why does it have to be like that?’, ‘Where in the hotel rule book does it say that?’. So, when we approach anything, we just ask the questions, ‘Why is it like that? Is it really still relevant to guests? And what rules are we actually breaking?’”.
Through Dale’s vision and curative expertise, RED harnesses the disruptive trends currently permeating the commercial landscape: Seamless digital integration and environmental sustainability.
With technologically-enhanced processes, guests are able to complete tasks themselves, making them feel a part of the hotel rather than just a visitor. This is evident through the RED App, which facilitates online check-in and allows guests to book tours and concierge facilities, order room service, chat to the team or other visitors and utilise their smartphone as a room key.
RED’s immersive guest experience is not defined by the standard formality and rigid structure usually associated with high-end hotels. Instead, Dale emphasises that imperfection is key. “This may be a weird thing to say but I think people are tired of the consistent ‘branded’ approach. People already have so many rules in their lives that when it comes to travel, it is often a personal choice and provides a sense of control – and within that is the ability to enjoy a little imperfection. In fact, they seek it.”
Dale predicts that such “imperfection” and integration will lead to “over-the-top guest personalisation” as a forthcoming trend in the sector. This could take the form of an app or visuals that can adapt or showcase what clients like. “In the context of a hotel room, this may be their preferred artwork, family photos or just preferential settings,” he says.
When it comes to sustainability, environmentally-conscious thinking is infused into every facet of their operations. “After one year of being open, we were awarded the Green Key Award, which was a great indication of how important [sustainability] is to us. It is just a part of our culture. We do buffets, as this reduces food waste by 35%, we are paperless for the most part and we actually engage with our clients,” he reveals.
In addition, RED prides itself on the way it incorporates a localised South African flavour into its offering. “Local, local, local are three words at the forefront of any curation,” says Dale. The first local is about using local talent – “to aid it, guide it and celebrate it,” he explains.
The second local refers to using local products and the third is about attracting local people. Serving locally brewed beer, exhibiting work by local artists and hosting live music performances are just some of the ways in which this is achieved. “We are a hotel for Cape Town and all areas welcome our local people. I think hotels, in general, have forgotten this in years gone by.”
This strong people-centric approach is reflected in the very source of Dale’s inspiration. “People, their ideas and their creations” are what drives his creative process, and also form the main sentiment of RED’s brand ethos: ‘Be yourself’, he says. “Never fear failure and go for it 100%. When you do that, you really unlock the potential of what can truly be achieved.”
Commenting on new projects on the horizon, Dale notes Chilli Bang Bang – an outdoor spa area located on Radisson RED’s rooftop that set to open this past February. The space offers simple massage treatments and sports graffiti wall characters and spa beds inspired by Indian tuk-tuks. Sights and sounds of the open roof area are reminiscent of a natural urban landscape.
“We’ve almost taken the trend of having secret bars and applied it to a spa concept. That’s what we do at RED, right? It might fail but we won’t fear that either!”
Bold, fearless and out-of-the-box in every sphere, RED’s pioneering concepts and design have cemented them as an industry disruptor to be reckoned with – and we can only guess what their next brainchild may be.