IHIF Q&A: Wyndham's Dimitris Manikis on recovery in EMEA

Dimitris Manikis

Dimitris Manikis is President, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA), at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Ahead of his participation to the International Hospitality Investment Forum in Berlin in September, he shares his positive outlook on hospitality: “what we offer is still centred on making sure people enjoy life when they are ready to reclaim their time to travel”.

Hospitality Insights: How has Wyndham adapted to the new market conditions brought by the pandemic?

Dimitris Manikis: Despite the uncertainty, we have seen that people want to travel again. People want to go see their relatives, their friends, their loved ones. When markets were able to reopen last year, we saw demand especially at a domestic level, and we expect to see this trend to continue as markets gradually reopen, at a different pace. We also conducted a number of surveys to look at traveller’s demand, through our loyalty programme Wyndham Rewards. Our members have clearly highlighted this desire to come back to travel, planning domestic and short haul leisure trips to start with, whereas long haul trips are expected to follow more gradually.

We have launched a range of promotions in recognition that traditional bookings patterns are changing. For example, we have recently launched a ‘Stay Longer and Save’ promotion for our Wyndham Rewards members to help drive long stay bookings as we recognise extended stays may replace the previously popular short weekend getaways with travellers looking to take longer trips and blend their holiday with remote working. Such promotions aim to support our hotel partners and reinforce our value proposition ahead of markets gradually reopening.

Overall, we recognise that travellers’ habits are changing in response to the pandemic and will continue to evolve but as history has shown in many occasions, the hospitality industry is notoriously resilient and we remain confident that it will eventually rebound even if this means we are travelling differently to how we did prior to the pandemic for some time.

We should never forget that while business is business, what we offer is still centred on making sure people enjoy life when they are ready to reclaim their time to travel.

Hospitality Insights:  Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is expanding in EMEA in 2021: what makes it an attractive region to drive recovery?

Manikis: The Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa region is extremely diverse and offers many destinations that are appealing to domestic as well as international travellers. While there is still some uncertainty surrounding international travel, we are seeing that people are keen to discover their own country. Our range of destinations lends itself very well to this type of trend.  If we look at Turkey for instance, where we are the largest international hotel chain, we offer hotels and various brands from key cities, seaside resorts, but also up-and-coming destinations and various culinary hotspots. Domestic tourism is gaining popularity in Turkey with increasingly more people choosing to explore their homeland in recent years. We are also expanding in off-the-beaten-path destinations that we think will be attractive as we gradually emerge out of the pandemic for travellers seeking an alternative to crowded tourist hotspots. This includes Romania for example, where we are looking forward to expanding the Ramada by Wyndham brand with additional openings in Targu Jiu and Slatina later this year.

As the vaccination programme continues to make some progress in the region, with some difference in pace of course, and countries start to re-open to international visitors, we are confident that domestic markets will be the first to rebound followed by a gradual influx of visitors from nearby countries.

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has launched a series of recent openings and we are looking forward to welcoming various exciting hotels this year. Our ability to continue to grow despite the impact of Covid on the industry demonstrates the strength of what we bring to our hotel partners as they prepare to rebuild demand.

Hospitality Insights:  The corporate segment is expected to come back later than leisure. How are you managing the recovery of your brands that were targeting this segment?

Manikis: We have launched new initiatives to support our brands and hotel partners that target the corporate travel segment as we recognise the pandemic has resulted in changes in demand particularly from the business travel perspective. For instance, we launched Wyndham Easy Book, a new programme aimed at simplifying and promoting corporate bookings from small to mid-size businesses. We recognised these travellers can be the first to be back on the road as their businesses are more agile and adaptable.

We also recognised that the world of meetings and events needed to adapt in line with ongoing restrictions and so last year we launched a hybrid meeting solution at a selection of hotels in EMEA. We launched a new solution to enable in-person meetings combined with elements of virtual engagement with attendees in other locations until face-to-face meetings are allowed again. This enables the best of both worlds while maintaining a Covid safe environment until we are allowed to reinstate in-person meetings more broadly. 

Hospitality Insights:  How has it been possible to remain close to owners during the pandemic?

Manikis: Supporting our partners has always been our key focus and priority, and it has become even more important in this challenging time. Our teams have come together to provide our hotel partners with extra direction and guidance every step of the way. We have taken a number of proactive measures across all areas, from operations guidelines, commercial best practices and initiatives, regular webinars and constant communications. We continue to closely monitor the situation and adapt our support as needed to keep partners closely updated.

The value proposition and the owner-first mentality we have always had at Wyndham will be a decisive factor in the way the franchise model will change and evolve. For us, a brand is far more than a sign on a wall and standards, it is the people, the DNA of the partnership and the values that you bring along to the relationship. Our duty of care will govern the way business relationships will be shaped in the future.

Hospitality Insights:  The leisure segment is hailed to be driving hospitality recovery. What are the keys to succeed in this market?

Manikis: Flexible booking procedures and adapting hotel’s proposition in line with changes to demand and booking behaviours will help reinforce consumer loyalty and drive the recovery of the leisure market. We have recognised this and throughout the last year we have offered our guests generous promotions and increased flexibility through our Wyndham Rewards loyalty programme.

Technology will also play a key role in driving its recovery. As hygiene and safety remain top of mind for all guests as they get ready to travel again, technology and contactless solutions are going to be key in restoring their confidence and supporting partners as they welcome back guests. We have recently rolled out our new Wyndham mobile app, which has enhanced the guest experience with low-contact in-stay functionality. The new app simplifies the hotel booking process whilst also offering travellers a more personalised experience based on where they are and what they want to do. The app has been designed with the guest in mind, based on what travellers expect today but at the same time a focus on the future.

Hospitality Insights:  What are you looking forward to with regards to your participation to IHIF?

Manikis: I am looking forward to reconnecting with industry colleagues, building new friendships and hearing fresh insights and emerging trends, whilst coming together to admire and give recognition to the incredible resilience the hospitality industry has shown throughout the pandemic. The theme of the event is ‘Reframe Hospitality’ and that captures exactly what I am looking forward to.

Dimitris Manikis will be participating in IHIF in Berlin on 1-3 September. Find out me about the programme here.