Carlson’s 2011 Sales Strong After Tough Past Few Years

In its 2011 earnings report, the first one made public in four years, Carlson said it experienced 13 percent year-over-year growth in system-wide revenues-but the recession appears to have taken a toll on the company.

Minnetonka-based hospitality and travel giant Carlson saw strong revenue growth in 2011, but the company also experienced some challenging years amid the recession.

System-wide revenues-which include sales reported by the company's franchisees-rose 13 percent during the year to $38 billion. Consolidated revenues-revenues that actually came back to Carlson-rose 8 percent from 2010 to $4.5 billion.

Despite its growth in 2011, Carlson seems to have experienced some difficulty in the preceding years amid the recession. In 2007, the last year the company released financial figures, system-wide revenue totaled $39.8 billion, 4.5 percent more than last year.

Carlson President and CEO Hubert Joly told the Star Tribune that 2008 and 2009 marked a “very brutal” period for the company, but Carlson experienced a “year of strategic progress” in 2011 and its prospects for 2012 look favorable.

In addition, the company said that it is on track to meet its goals under its “Ambition 2015” plan. The five-year plan, announced in March 2010, calls for the company to expand its hotel portfolio by 50 percent by 2015 and invest up to $1.5 billion in reinventing its Radisson hotels in North America.

Carlson has three subsidiaries, each of which reported strong sales last year.

Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), the company's travel management business, reported a 15 percent increase in system-wide sales to $28 billion and a 12 percent increase in company revenues to $1.9 billion. Carlson said CWT experienced a strong client retention rate (96 percent) during the year, which contributed to its revenue growth. CWT also introduced a range of new products in 2011, including a central hotel reservation system and several travel-related mobile apps.

Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group-which includes hotel brands such as Radisson, Country Inns & Suites, Park Inn, Park Plaza, and Hotel Missoni-reported system-wide 2011 revenues of $7 billion, a 7 percent increase from 2010; its consolidated revenue grew 12 percent to $1.5 billion. Carlson said that during the year, the group opened 63 new hotels and now has 1,319 hotels in operation and under development. Previously known as Carlson Hotels, the group rebranded itself earlier this year to market itself under the same name as its European partner, The Rezidor Group.

Meanwhile, T.G.I. Friday's, Carlson's chain of restaurants, increased its system-wide revenues by nearly 4 percent to $2.6 billion and reported $1.2 billion in company revenues. The chain opened 52 new restaurants during the year, 41 of which were outside of the country, bringing its total number to 924 at the end of 2011.

Carlson said that its hotel group made positive strides towards its Ambition 2015 goals. In November, the company opened its first U.S. upscale Radisson hotel, or Radisson Blu, in Chicago. A second Radisson Blu is under construction at the Mall of America in Bloomington and is slated for a spring 2013 opening. The group expects to open more than 30 Radisson Blu hotels in 2012, Carlson said.

The Star Tribune reported that in the past, Carlson's annual earnings releases have contained only the overall system-wide sales figures. However, the company's current board of directors, led by Chairwoman Marilyn Carlson Nelson, reportedly decided to also release consolidated revenues this year to provide more transparency.

Carlson is among the state's five-largest private companies based on revenue and operates in more than 150 countries.