LAS VEGAS—One aspect of hospitality Wyndham Hotel Group (WHG) has been focusing its efforts on is quality. This has resulted in the increase of properties in its portfolio, a new marketing effort and a new partnership with Wayfair designed to help owners meet standards.
“We have more hotels in our system than Hilton, than InterContinental, than Marriott combined with Starwood,” said Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of the Parsippany, NJ-based company, at the WHG 2018 Global Conference, held in April at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. “We have more hotels in our system than our largest international competitor and our largest domestic competitor. We have 8,400 hotels today.”
After the acquisition of La Quinta is completed, Wyndham’s total property count will increase by 900. (The financial transaction between the two hotel groups is expected to close this quarter.) To put Wyndham’s overall momentum into perspective, the company is adding two properties each and every day, including Saturday and Sunday, according to its top executive.
Wyndham isn’t afraid of parting ways with properties in its portfolio if the hotels don’t meet brand standards. “We are working with hotels to increase and improve their quality, and when we can’t get there, yes, we say goodbye,” Ballotti said. “We said goodbye to 80,000 rooms that have been substandard over the last three years, and we’ll continue to do that to push our quality.”
Wyndham’s focus will continue to be on acquiring quality hotel brands, too. Elaborating on this, Ballotti said, “Brands that speak to consumers, brands thats are meaningful. Since we’ve last met, we’ve acquired five new quality brands.” Those five brands include Fën Hotels, Esplendor, Dazzler, AmericInn and La Quinta.
One major change unveiled at the conference is that Wyndham has added the “by Wyndham” suffix to each of its brands as a way to unite them all under one family name for branding purposes (e.g., Ramada by Wyndham).
Ballotti riled up franchisees with the long-awaited announcement. “You asked, and we delivered,” he said. The updated brand names and logos now appear across the hotel group’s digital placements—including brand websites, mobile sites and third-party listings.
“That’s our big news of the day, ladies and gentlemen. You can all go home,” the CEO joked.
Super 8, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, AmericInn, Baymont, Ramada, Ramada Encore, Dolce, Dazzler, Esplendor and Trademark have all added the “by Wyndham” suffix to their names. Even after Wyndham’s merger with La Quinta is finalized, the brand will not immediately acquire the “by Wyndham” suffix. The company plans to have an open discussion about changes with franchisees.
Wyndham witnessed success firsthand after it added the “by Wyndham” suffix to both Wingate and Microtel Inn & Suites. According to the hospitality group, the former saw an increase in brand awareness; the latter experienced a steady increase in RevPAR performance compared to industry benchmarks.
“Our research proved that over 45% of guests just feel better about an endorsed brand, and when they feel better, they’ll have a more positive connection with our brands and are more likely to stay with us,” said Lisa Checchio, who serves as SVP of global brands at Wyndham.
Of course, the news was accompanied by new signage standards for franchisees, which properties will need to meet by 2023. “We’re not asking you to change the pole,” Ballotti said. “We’re not asking asking you to change the monument. We’re keeping the monument shapes… All we’re asking you to change—in five years—is the face plate.” After a brief moment of silence in response, attendees cheered. The group expects these global updates will be completed by December 2022.
Wyndham is willing to help pay for some of the costs—for a select group of franchisees. “If you are a current Certificate of Excellence Award Winner for TripAdvisor, or if you are a current Best of the Best Award Winner for your brands, or if you become one by 2020, we are are going to help you fund your signs up to $10,000,” Checchio pointed out.
In addition to the new brand identity, Wyndham updated attendees on its strategy in international markets. In the Southeast Asia and Pacific Region, Wyndham oversees more than 40 countries and a population in excess of 1.8 billion people. “Tourism in our region is booming, while infrastructure is rapidly advancing,” said Barry Robinson, president and managing director of Wyndham Hotel Group, Southeast Asia and Pacific Rim. Launched in 2015, the division has grown from a handful of properties to more than 246 hotels in 15 countries.
“We’re really excited about the momentum that we have in Southeast Asia, but we’ve only just scratched the surface,” he said.
In China, Wyndham is operating around 1,400 hotels with nearly 140,000 rooms under nine different brands. The company attributes its growth in the country to the following: continuing to strengthen current brands with innovation; introducing new brands into the market; and expanding into lower-tier cities with high potentials.
Wyndham has more than 500 properties across 40 countries in EMEA. Four teams support this region; they’re based out of Wyndham’s corporate offices in London, Istanbul, Dubai and Delhi. The hospitality company’s key markets in this region include Germany (more than 100 hotels); the U.K. (75 hotels); Turkey (65 hotels); Spain and Portugal (nearly 50 hotels); India (35 hotels); and United Arab Emirates (17 hotels).
Fourteen of Wyndham’s brands are in Latin America and the Caribbean region. In the region, Wyndham had more than 100 hotels in 2016, and more than 300 properties in 2017. The company expects to add 41 hotels in 2018. In the next few years, it will focus on adding properties in midscale and upscale segments in the region.
In other news at the conference, Wyndham and Wayfair have partnered on a new portal designed to ease the burden of meeting brand standards. This private label platform became available first to Howard Johnson by Wyndham franchisees on May 1.
“Through our partnership with Wayfair, we’ll be offering all of our Howard Johnson franchisees the ability to purchase all of that FF&E…on a private label site,” Ballotti said during a media briefing with Niraj Shah, founder and CEO of Wayfair.
Through the portal, which both companies collaborated on for about six months, Howard Johnson franchisees will be able to purchase all brand standard elements for their guestrooms. “This is a whole new experience,” Shah said. “This corporate standards portal and the brand standards—how do we make the shopping convenient and easy? How do we link it up with what Wyndham has for a portal—that’s all custom. This is why we’re so excited about it. It’s meant to be very specific.”
These new guestroom standards for the Howard Johnson brand are part of Wyndham’s Renew design initiative, a nod to the brand’s midcentury modern beginnings.
Another perk for owners—shipping is free. HB
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