After first introducing an extended-stay concept—then known as Project ECHO—in March 2022, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has shared exclusively with Hotel Business the progress it has seen with its ECHO Suites Extended Stay by Wyndham brand, with several hotels under construction and the first openings expected in the coming months.
“We’re really excited because for so long, it’s just been us talking about the pipeline for the brand and one signing after another, and how quickly it’s growing, which we’re really pleased with,” said Krishna Paliwal, head of architecture, design and construction, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “But now, we’re here where the brand is literally coming out of the ground.”
At the end of the third quarter, the company said that the brand had 265 hotels in the pipeline, with 11 under construction. “We have hotels all the way from scratching the dirt to being in the MEP [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] and sheetrock stages, where the hotels are shaping up to get ready to open,” said Paliwal.
Five of the properties currently in the construction phase in Texas are owned by Dallas-based Gulf Coast Hotel Management, which, along with Sandpiper Hospitality, was one of the first developers for ECHO.
“It’s been a great journey,” said Ian McClure, CEO, Gulf Coast Hotel Management. “It’s one of those things that we look back a couple of years, and it was all talk and we saw renderings. Now, you go to sites and see the framing that’s going up and the facades, and the elevations look exactly like [the renderings]. It’s really fascinating to see how that goes from design and architecture and then to actual shovels in the ground and framing going up. It’s one of those issues that in today’s environment, anything coming out of the ground is exciting. And it’s even more exciting to start seeing it how you designed it two years ago.”
Gulf Coast was the first developer to break ground on an ECHO hotel in September 2022 with the ECHO Suites Dallas Plano North, which is scheduled to open in the next few months. The company is also under construction on the ECHO Suites Dallas Plano Gateway. “We have three under construction in the DFW area, two in Houston and one about to go in Austin,” he said. “We have several assets already here in Texas, but we’re also developing in Central Florida and Denver. From our perspective, we wanted to develop in markets where we already had existing assets.”
Paliwal also believes that these markets are perfect for the brand, adding, “There are a lot of demand indexes on this type of product—new-construction, economy extended-stay. These are markets which are growing like crazy, and there is a lot of development.”
The original design of the prototype was built with efficiencies and simplicity in mind, according to Paliwal. “It has an aesthetic to it, but it is simple in construction,” he said. “We have designed the ceiling height to 8 ft. because the studs come at 8 ft. Our room sizes are designed accordingly where you don’t have any waste in the flooring. With what we are building, we are reducing waste. It helps in making ECHO one of the most environmentally friendly development products.”
With any project, there are changes between the original design and when shovels hit the ground—and it was designed to be that way.
“What we did a couple of years ago when we first launched it was to deliver a very efficient product for the guests at a fair price, but also a product that a developer and a brand can develop for a very nice profit for all the stakeholders and shareholders involved in it,” said McClure.
But, he said, what is fascinating about this project is that his company is still looking for those efficiencies. “Every day that same ethos is still coming to the forefront of trying to make the rooms more efficient and the construction quicker and less expensive, but also enhancing the guests benefit that’s not going to cost them more money as well,” said McClure. “Here we are about to open hotels, and we’re still honing it along the way, so it’s getting better even as we build these.”
He and his team found one instance where they were able to lower construction costs. The construction team was able to reduce the number of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) sheets that go behind the backsplashes and kitchens. By cutting them a certain way, three different rooms can use one piece of FRP rather than cutting it a different way for one sheet of FRP per room. “[It] adds up to some significant savings on 124 keys in an entire hotel,” he said. “So there are numerous things we’re seeing to where the second generation that we’re developing and the new developers who are coming into ECHO are going to really benefit from a really streamlined and economical product to construct.”
While these hotels are nearing completion, Paliwal said that in the markets where they are opening, there is a “sales blitz” underway to promote the hotels. “We will be taking pictures and videos of these hotels and going to the market to start knocking on doors,” he said. “Our goal is to get as much booked business at these hotels before they even open their doors. There’s a lot of work which is happening on a global and regional sales perspective, as well as high-level marketing perspective and reaching out to the consumer.”
With all of the Gulf Coast hotels currently in various stages of construction, McClure expects that 2024 will see a flurry of openings. “The first and second ones we see opening will be amazing, but as these are lining up, it is going to be two or three a month starting in 2024, which is fantastic to see how it just explodes all at once.”
“Hopefully, 10 years from now we will look back and we will all be proud of what we created,” said Paliwal.