Breaking Travel News investigates: Wyndham Hotel Group
As the first of some 6,000 delegates take their seats in the vast auditorium at Mandalay Bay there is an almost evangelical fervour in the air.
Wyndham Hotels Group chief executive Geoff Ballotti bounds onto the stage ready to deliver his keynote address to the Las Vegas faithful.
Throw in the organic growth of the recently launched Trademark Collection, and the agreements will push Wyndham Hotel Group to the top of the international hospitality pile.
The Parsippany, New Jersey-based company will have as many as 9,100 hotels in its portfolio – stretched across 20 brands – come the summer, making it the largest operator in the world.
This, despite exiling some 80,000 rooms from the group over the past three years for a failure to meet the required standards.
More hotels are also expected to follow, with Ballotti explaining “not all of our brands are where we would love them to be”.
Wyndham recently disposed of its Knights Inn brand, for example, removing more than 300 properties from its offering in a $27 million deal with Red Lion.
Taking properties out of the system creates opportunities for new hotels to join Wyndham in a geographical market, Ballotti explains, driving up overall standards.
For the chief executive, it is all about quality of the product.
He explains: “Quality has never mattered more, it is what we have been talking about for the past three years.
“There has never been a time, in our history, when we have been more focused on quality.
“This is something we talk about all the time with our owners, investors and shareholders.”
Those hotels that do stay within the system are seeing brand standards strictly enforced.
Wyndham is growing the size of its franchise operations force by a fifth in order to enforce the brand-specific criteria.
Wyndham currently offers a portfolio of 20 brands
Wyndham has particular strengths in the economy and mid-scale sectors, where it controls 40 and 30 per cent of the United States market respectively.
“Our growth will continue to come from these sectors,” notes Ballotti.
Its brands, including Super 8, Days Inn, and Ramada are the crown jewels, but they are ably supported by others including Howard Johnson, Travelodge and Baymont Inn & Suites.
Indeed, the empire has grown so wide that Wyndham announced it would add the “…by Wyndham” suffix to all of the brands in its portfolio from this month.
Perhaps with this in mind, Ballotti also rules out further acquisitions, at least in the near-term.
“There are no plans for acquisition at this time,” he tells Breaking Travel News in Las Vegas.
“But we keep an eye on dozens of opportunities at all times; but AmericInn and La Quinta are rare.
“It is tough, when you are a smaller brand, to be able to compete in this market, to offer the loyalty programmes, the distribution and the connectivity.
“We are very selective, and we continue to be so.”
He is also keen to dampen speculation Wyndham Hotels Group will move for a luxury brand in the near future, preferring instead to emphasise the potential of Wyndham Grand in the sector.
Though, with only 41 properties currently operating under the flag, there is certainly room for growth.
Ballotti was in confident mood ahead of the flotation
While it has been growing its portfolio, Wyndham has also been focusing on its technological offering, updating everything from its brand sites and the Wyndham Rewards portal to the all-important central reservations system.
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Better looking websites mean more conversions, Ballotti explains.
“We have moved the majority of our brands onto the Sabre SynXis hotel reservation system, with the rest to be added by June.
“This is the most secure, stable cloud-based system available.
“We now have the most connected central reservation system on the planet; two, maybe three years ahead of the industry.”
The previous systems, which dated from the 1990s, were designed for a simpler environment and were unable to cater to the complex needs of contemporary consumers.
The improved system will allow customers to book when, where and how they want, Ballotti adds, pointing to the growth of mobile booking.
More visibility means more transactions and, most importantly, more revenue for Wyndham, its hotel owners and franchisees.
Wyndham views 2018 as its breakthrough year
As with every hospitality company, Wyndham has great expectations for the Chinese market.
The company already has more than 1,000 properties in the country, but with plans for many more.
“In China one of the best decisions we ever made was to close down our Hong Kong office and grow mainland China – out of Shanghai,” explains Ballotti.
“We had an Asia Pacific region, based in Hong Kong, and we now focus it out of Greater China, led by our president there, Leo Liu.
“We have 80 people there now, on a number of sectors.
“We have become a real force in China in a very short period of time.”
Some 6,000 stakeholders gathered in Las Vegas for the event
A lot of the recent sharpening in focus has been carried out with a view to the upcoming floatation of Wyndham Hotel Group.
Last year parent, Wyndham Worldwide, announced plans to spin off its hotel business, resulting in two separate, publicly traded companies.
Wyndham Hotel Group will become a standalone pure-play hotel organisation.
At the same time, Wyndham Vacation Ownership, with headquarters in Orlando, Florida, will become the largest publicly traded timeshare company.
The latter will be joined with Wyndham Destination Network, home to RCI.
“After a comprehensive review process, the board of directors has determined that a spin-off of the hotel business and the combination of Wyndham Vacation Ownership with RCI is the best structure to unlock shareholder value and enable strong growth across the businesses,” said Stephen Holmes, chairman, Wyndham Worldwide.
He added: “Over the past decade, we have attracted incredible teams of dedicated professionals who have built these businesses and brands into industry leaders which are now connected by the industry’s top-rated loyalty program.
“With this strong platform in place, our businesses are now able to move forward individually, each positioned for a very strong future, based on a shared history and culture and an ongoing affiliation with Wyndham Rewards.”
The decision is seen as a tremendous opportunity by Ballotti, who explains: “We are only 12 years old, at Wyndham Worldwide, and we are very excited to breakthrough and become our own publicly traded company.”
With the deal expected to close in the coming weeks, Wyndham Hotel Group will know soon if all the hard work has paid off.
Wyndham Hotel Group is a hotel industry giant with a presence in 80 countries.
Headquartered in Parsippany, New Jersey, with offices around the globe in London, Shanghai, Buenos Aires, Dubai and other cities, the company employs over 7,500 associates worldwide.
Find out more on the official website.