Till Wyndham Come Reviewed by Momizat on . Post its spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, Ignace Bauwens, regional VP, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts explains how th Post its spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, Ignace Bauwens, regional VP, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts explains how th Rating: 0
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Till Wyndham Come

Post its spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, Ignace Bauwens, regional VP, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts explains how the company will build upon its asset-light and fee-based business model

By Vinita Bhatia

The recent introduction of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Inc. as an independent, pure-play hotel company reaffirms the company’s underlying mission – to make hotel travel possible for people all over the world. With its portfolio of nearly 9,000 hotels globally across 20 brands, which range from upper-upscale to economy, no matter where people go, there will be a Wyndham brand there to welcome them.
To be able to do this, Ignace Bauwens, who was recently promoted as regional VP, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, tells Vinita Bhatia how the company will provide its franchised hotels with virtual and hands-on support including hotel management tools, revenue management, service culture training, access to global sales offices and accounts, strategic sourcing opportunities, on-going operational support and marketing services.

How will Wyndham Hotels and Resorts balance scale and quality this year, post the acquisition of two new brands?
To further unify our family of brands under our new company name, we have decided to endorse our signature economy and midscale brands with the ‘by Wyndham’ hallmark. 12 Wyndham Hotels & Resorts brands – including iconic names such as Super 8, Days Inn and Ramada – are adding the powerful ‘by Wyndham’ endorsement to their names. Very importantly, this also strengthens each brand’s connection to our award-winning loyalty programme, Wyndham Rewards, and ultimately gives all of our brands greater recognition worldwide.
To ensure we deliver great experiences to all our guests, our operations teams work very closely with all our hotels to maintain high quality standards. We provide our franchised hotels with virtual and hands-on support including hotel management tools, revenue management, service culture training, access to global sales offices and accounts, strategic sourcing opportunities, on-going operational support and marketing services. Our operations team conducts regular review calls with the hotels to apprise them about the latest tools and initiatives that they can apply at their properties, as well as address any challenges they may have.

Now that Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has completed its spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide Corporation, will this have any bearing on any of the operational hotels?
As the world’s largest hotel franchisor, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts post its spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide Corporation will continue to build upon its powerful asset-light and fee-based business model comprising of an exceptional portfolio of market-leading economy and midscale brands. From an operational standpoint the spin-off will have no impact on the day-to-day running of the hotels.

What are some of the growth highlights for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in the upcoming quarters in India, especially?
As part of our development strategy in India, we are looking to expand our footprint beyond metros into secondary and tertiary cities, as well as potential leisure destinations. 2018 has been a good year for us so far with four new hotel signings in India at locations like Jaipur, Aligarh, Kapurthala and Bengaluru. There are some exciting projects under discussion and we hope to be adding to our existing strong pipeline of hotels under development in this region.
Our upcoming openings in the next two to three years will see us expanding our footprint in leisure locations such as Goa, Kasauli and Lonavala, as well as in pilgrim destinations like Dwarka (Gujarat) and secondary business locations like Ghaziabad, Trivandrum, Gandhidham and Kapurthala amongst others.

At its 2018 Global Brand Conference company representatives spoke about the shared strategy that included being first-movers in new and sometimes secondary and tertiary markets. How this will have any bearing in India?
Our growth and development strategy at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is bold yet simple. We work with local partners to bring quality accommodation to diverse locations. We believe in being present in all markets where there is demand for quality accommodation and thus, are open to being first-movers in new destinations. Many of these locations may not have current demand to justify big inventory hotels – i.e. 150–200 plus rooms so we go for hotels will smaller inventory in the range of 80–120 rooms.
In India, most of the secondary and tertiary cities have substantial demand for F&B and banquet facility, and we provide flexibility to our hotels for this offering. We work with owners based on their individual needs, market of operation and what makes sense for the partnerships. We believe that the next wave of growth in India will come from secondary and tertiary markets, and hence want to position ourselves as a hotel company, which understands the nuances of these markets and addresses the needs of hotel owners with our unique franchise model.

How will you ensure you have a first-mover advantage in India, which has the presence of many hospitality companies already?
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is a hospitality powerhouse with 20 brands that span from upper-upscale to economy, meaning we are uniquely positioned to provide more travel choices than anyone else. India is a huge market with room for every hotel segment. Having said that, we have been first-movers in destinations such as Kumbhalgarh where we were the first branded hotel to open in 2016, followed by Ramada Darjeeling Gandhi Road that opened in 2017 being the first international branded hotel in the hill town. Additional openings within the next two years will include Kasauli, Aligarh, as well as Gandhidham, where we will be among the first three internationally branded hotels to open.

What are the advantages of being the first-movers in tertiary cities and towns? How do you ensure that you have a higher success ratio in these markets?
We are constantly exploring development opportunities in upcoming secondary and tertiary markets. The prime advantage being that many of these markets currently have limited demand and therefore, the first mover or the first few movers have the opportunity to take a larger chunk of market share, attract the best of talent and manpower in the region, create brand recognition and loyalty, and establish itself firmly by the time the market fully matures to its potential.
At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, we look to provide global connectivity and brand recognition to our hotels. We offer Wyndham Rewards, which has revolutionised the loyalty landscape, offering members an easy-to-use, generous points earning structure along with a flat, free night redemption rate – the first of its kind for a major rewards programme. In addition, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has a strong sales network who contribute inbound business to our hotels across regions. We also have a robust referral programme that encourages cross selling of hotels. With a strong online presence and distribution capabilities, we run several business promotions throughout the year with the objective of driving incremental business to our hotels.

What are the criteria for selecting which brands to bring to a region like India?
India’s hospitality industry is experiencing an upcycle and the next spurt of growth is expected to come from the mid-market segment. The market has witnessed an uptick in domestic travel that includes, leisure and corporate travellers, more Foreign Tourist Arrivals as well as a booming airline industry supported by government-led initiatives. The Indian market is also extremely cost sensitive, offering an excellent opportunity for mid-market hotel brands such as Ramada by Wyndham, which is well established in the country along with our other existing brands like Howard Johnson by Wyndham and Days Hotel by Wyndham. At the same time, we also feel that the Indian market is ready to welcome more of our iconic brands and there is potential for Wyndham Grand, Wyndham and Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in the future.

How will the acquisition of more brands help Wyndham drive down distribution costs?
The ability to book hotels online gives companies an edge in the fiercely competitive environment. The more hotels and brands we have the more competitive we are. At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, we are in the midst of a global technology transformation aimed at migrating our entire portfolio of hotels onto a best-in-class cloud-based central reservation system. Having more brands helps in scaling up operations and optimising distribution costs. Moreover, the notion of ‘democratisation of travel’ is all about making travel accessible to every type of traveller, regardless of background or budget. Therefore, with wide diversity of brands ranging from economy to upper-upscale, we like to think that we have a hotel that can appeal to every type of guest imaginable.

What is Wyndham’s portfolio in India currently? What is its expected pipeline by 2019?
Our growing portfolio in India comprises 35 operational hotels and 3,258 rooms across 26 destinations, including metros, tier 2 and 3 cities as well as leisure destinations. Our presence includes hotels under the Ramada by Wyndham, Ramada Encore by Wyndham, Howard Johnson by Wyndham and Days Hotel by Wyndham brands. In 2017 we added seven new hotels and 588 new rooms to our hotel portfolio in India and also expanded our development pipeline, including an agreement with Nebula Infraspace LLP to develop at least 20 hotels under the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham brand over the next 10 years. We have an interesting pipeline of hotels to open by the end of 2019 including locations like Jaipur, Kasauli, Trivandrum, Ghaziabad and Kathmandu in Nepal. Ramada Encore Kathmandu Thamel will be our first hotel in Nepal. We aim to have 75 operational hotels in India by the end of 2020 to meet the demand of India’s growing travel sector.

When it comes to growth, which are the biggest opportunities for growth in India?
Global hospitality chains are expanding in the mid-market segment in India and this space has become increasingly competitive in the last few years. This only reiterates the potential of the market. Tourism in India is growing rapidly. According to IBEF, the industry’s total contribution to the country’s GDP is expected to increase from US$ 136.3 billion in 2015 to US$ 275.2 billion in 2025. In 2016, India also ranked 3rd among 184 countries in terms of travel and tourism’s total contribution to GDP.
Despite high capital costs, long development time and a price sensitive audience, we foresee an increasing demand for stay options that meet international standard but which still offer great value. We believe the mid-scale space will continue to experience strong growth with the upscale segment following closely behind. Our growing and diverse portfolio of brands is strongly positioned to cater to this increasing demand in the market.

Though Wyndham has been present in the country for a while, its presence in the midscale segment, which is its core segment, is still limited. Why?
Our growing presence in India includes 35 operational hotels. Our portfolio of brands include Ramada by Wyndham, Ramada Encore by Wyndham and Howard Johnson by Wyndham brands which all operate in the mid-market segment. Last year we expanded our footprint in India and neighbouring countries with 11 new hotels. Two-thirds of the new hotel openings were in India thus re-enforcing our presence in the country’s rapidly growing mid-market hospitality segment.
Within the wider Middle East, Eurasia & Africa region, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has a portfolio of 96 operational hotels across a broad range of brands, in addition to a solid pipeline of approximately 70 hotels.

How are you convincing more hotel owners to join the Wyndham brand family by emphasising on your commitment to quality standards?
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is a franchisor of hotel brands but in many markets we also have a large hotel management business. In India, we have largely grown through the franchise model, which has worked particularly well for us, growing our presence from just 8 hotels in 2010 to 35 operational hotels to date. This model provides hotel owners with an option to affiliate with a strong international brand with access to a wide array of high quality services – global distribution channels, brand standards, operational training, sales and marketing and, very importantly, loyalty schemes – whilst retaining the ability to manage and operate the hotel.
We work closely with every new hotel owner to introduce them to the brand’s philosophy by defining basic brand standards so that the general look and feel of the brand is maintained. To ensure we deliver great experiences to all our guests, our dedicated Operations teams work with all our hotels to maintain high quality standards of the brand at all times. We have received positive feedback from hotel owners and seen continued interest over the years. In 2017, we had 15 franchise agreements signed with over 1,800 rooms in Eurasia and are confident to keep up this positive momentum in the coming years.

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