Hozpitality Interview: - Count on Us, we are here to deliver great experiences, says Dimitris Manikis
Despite the challenges of Covid-19, in 2020, Wyndham achieved 38 new hotel signings in EMEA and a host of significant openings in the Middle East.
Coronavirus devastation has sabotaged the entire world, but the rumbling and tremors are profound for the hospitality industry. If there was something that had the world cruising, it was Hope and Faith in humanity. Dimitrisis one of the optimistic commanders who maximized the potential in his organization and accredited the passion of his talented team and incessantly galvanized every single one of them throughout the pandemic, frequently discovering opportunities to eliminate all stumbling blocks. In today's discussion on Hozpitality Interview Section, we addressed Dimitris Manikis, President EMEA, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, to study the brand practices, advancement and how they figured out to pivot during the pandemic. Wyndham Hotels Resorts succeeded in signing 38 new hotels across Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa despite the dread of Covid in the Year 2020 and have managed to retain the talent in their organization.
Wyndham Hotels Resorts is the world's colossal and most diverse hotel companies with 8900 hotels across nearly 95 countries. Wyndham Hotels Resorts offers luxury, economy, and midscale hotels for a wide range of customers through 20 brands under their umbrella. The first Wyndham Hotel opened its doors with a 33-story building in the Dubai Marina in Dubai in 2013, and since then, there is no looking back; Wyndham now successfully runs 20 hotels in the UAE and 60 in total in the Middle East and has many more in the pipeline. The Company's award-winning Wyndham Rewards loyalty program offers 87 million enlisted members the opportunity to redeem points at thousands of hotels, vacation club resorts, and vacation rentals globally. Wyndham's unparalleled portfolio of iconic hotel brands delivers the experiences everyday travellers want; however, they choose to travel in every part of the world.
Hozpitality:- After a difficult time, are you excited and optimistic about re-opening the hospitality industry?
Dimitris Manikis: As many places around the world are still experiencing the devastating effects of COVID-19, we remain focused on the health, safety, and well-being of our guests, team members, and partners. History has shown, the hospitality industry is notoriously resilient, and we feel confident that it will eventually rebound and we look forward to welcoming back guests to our properties across Europe, Middle East, Eurasia, and Africa (EMEA) when the time and circumstances are right. I am excited about the prospect of the industry re-opening, and I am optimistic that this will happen sooner rather than later.
Hozpitality:- Everyone is talking about Revenge Travel once restrictions are eased. Do you believe people will be confident and go for it as soon as the travel opens?
Dimitris Manikis:-We have seen this trend first-hand with our recent booking trends. When restrictions recently eased in the UK and the green list of countries was announced, we saw a 163% increase in reservations in Portugal from the week prior to the announcement. Late last year, we conducted a traveler sentiment survey with our Wyndham Rewards members, which highlighted there is pent-up demand for travel, and we strongly feel that travelers are looking for brands they can trust to provide them with safe and memorable experiences.
At Wyndham Hotels Resorts, we implemented our Count on Us programme, part of our long-term efforts to build confidence among guests and to support Wyndham hotel partners as they prepare to welcome back guests. The initiative focuses on further enhancing our broad range of health and safety protocols across properties in the EMEA region.
Hozpitality:- When do you think everything will be normal again? Are you positive that the recovery will be faster?
Dimitris Manikis:-It is difficult to say when we will see global recovery as each country and region is and has been on a different trajectory since the beginning of the pandemic. The rollout of vaccinations in certain markets has provided us with cautious optimism, and as history has shown, the hospitality industry is notoriously resilient, and we feel confident that it will eventually rebound. Having said that, we all need to make sure that we remember the lessons we learned and define what "normal" will look like.
Hozpitality:- What did you do to sustain and retain your teams during this period? Do you think there would be a talent war once the industry opens?
Dimitris Manikis:-We took a people-first approach, and as an organization, focused on our existing property owners rather than profits and policies. We devised ways to support them by building proactive campaigns and strategies that could help them sustain their business and provided guidance on creating a safe environment for guests and team members.
An organization's mission and values are the foundations for real, tangible business growth. At Wyndham Hotels Resorts, our signature Count on Me service culture encourages each team member to be responsive, be respectful, and deliver great experiences to our guests, partners, and communities.
Over the past year, we have increased support levels for our team members and partners and have found innovative ways to connect and build on our values-driven culture.
As a result of our strong corporate culture, which encourages personal growth and thrives on collaboration, we are able to attract and retain highly skilled and experienced individuals. Our Wyndham Hotels Resorts family has been incremental to overcoming the challenges of Covid-19 and continues to demonstrate resilience, comradery, and optimism.
Hozpitality:- How did the Government of UAE and other EMEA countries support you during the pandemic?
Dimitris Manikis:-Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have closely followed all government and healthcare official guidelines and regulations across EMEA to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of our guests, team members, and partners.
The UAE implemented a number of proactive measures, which saw enhanced hygiene and safety protocols being implemented in public spaces while also leading the way with its successful vaccination rollout and high immunization rate. The government also provided ad-hoc local financial support to hotel owners and employees. We are optimistic that such high vaccination rates will support the UAE's tourism sector to recover earlier than anticipated.
We continue to closely monitor the situation at hand and adapt and follow all government guidelines and regulations being implemented or encouraged across the region.
Hozpitality:- Since a lot of Wyndham properties are franchised, are the owners supporting your decisions?
Dimitris Manikis:-We work closely with our partners to implement initiatives that will add value and drive revenue to their hotels. We have taken a number of proactive measures from providing operations guidelines, commercial best practices, and initiatives. We have hosted numerous webinars with detailed guidelines for enhancing hygiene and operational standards and shared various hotel communications and checklists to support the recovery process. We continue to monitor the situation and adapt our policies accordingly closely.
In a recent survey amongst partners, we received positive feedback regarding our Count on Us hygiene programme, which is part of our long-term efforts to rebuild guest confidence and support our hotel partners as they prepare to welcome back guests. We encouraged hotel partners to nominate a Hygiene Hero to champion the protocols at the hotel level, which was well received and adopted by many.
Wyndham Rewards also launched several promotions and campaigns to build confidence and inspire travelers to book a Wyndham Hotels Resorts stay. We currently have a promotion, 'Stay 3 Nights Earn a Free Night', which was introduced to encourage and support longer-stay trips. Our partners can benefit from our award-winning Wyndham Rewards loyalty programme, which has 87 million enrolled members globally and helps hotels to retain and attract guests.
Our owners know that we are a brand partner that they can rely upon and trust. For us, our relationship with our hotels, owners, and their teams is not just about the brand name; it's also about the culture, trust, and commitment and above all the people.
Hozpitality:- You have many new hotel openings coming up in the Middle East; could you tell us more about them?
Dimitris Manikis:-Despite the challenges of Covid-19, in 2020, Wyndham achieved 38 new hotel signings in EMEA and a host of significant openings in the Middle East. We debuted the Super 8 by Wyndham brand in the UAE and the opening of the upscale Wyndham Dubai Deira. We recently opened the first La Quinta and Howard Johnson Plaza by Wyndham brands, furthering our commitment to providing accommodation options for every type of traveler.
Our development plan reaffirms our commitment to delivering strong growth in key destinations, and we are looking forward to bringing 22 additional hotels and over 3,400 rooms to the Middle East and Africa.
We are focused on growing our portfolio where we know travelers want to be. When we think about our opportunities for growth, our highest potential markets are a mixture of places where we already have an established and strong presence and up-and-coming destinations where there is a need for internationally recognized brands.
As part of our strategic effort to meet travelers' growing demand for accommodation at varying price points across the region, we are looking forward to welcoming our first Days Inn Hotel in the UAE as part of the exciting development in Deira later this year. With more than 1,600 locations around the world, the brand is one of the largest, most well-recognized economy hotel brands in the world, with a keen focus on the little but important things. We will also be welcoming a new Wyndham Grand hotel in Doha, Qatar, as well as the Ramada by Wyndham Riyadh King Fahd Road in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Pakistan is another key market for us with an already robust portfolio of 5 hotels in the country; this market continues to show incredibly high potential for growth, so much so that we are aiming to increase our presence with 7 additional properties slated in our development pipeline.
Our vision is to make hotel travel possible for all, and we look forward to continuing to make this vision a reality with furthered expansion and growth, not only in the Middle East but globally as well.
Hozpitality:- What are your preferred channels for bookings? Do you still rely on larger booking engines?
Dimitris Manikis:-Direct bookings and bookings made through our new Wyndham mobile app are our preferred channels as this type allows us to personalize guest experiences, build relationships, drive brand loyalty as well as drive revenue. We encourage direct bookings through various promotions and our award-winning Wyndham Rewards Loyalty programme, where guests can earn and redeem points and save on future stays.
The newWyndham mobile appalso enables guests to search and book the nearest Wyndham property in as few as 3 taps through the 'Lightning Book' functionality. The app was designed to provide travelers with a reimagined user experience that enables contactless in-stay functionality and anticipates real-time guest needs. Arriving at a critical time, the Wyndham mobile app offers a contactless, technological solution and a simplified booking method.
While direct channels enable valuable guest engagement features, we also recognize the importance of 3rd party booking channels that extend brand visibility and audience reach. Throughout the pandemic, we have partnered with global Travel Management Companies (TMC), Online Travel Agencies (OTAs), and Wholesalers to ensure our mutual customers are well informed of our hygiene initiatives and guest offerings and to capture revenue for our hotels wherever travelers wish to book.
At Wyndham Hotels Resorts, we pride ourselves on our strong partnerships and provide our guests with an experience best suited to them, starting from the booking process.
Hozpitality:- What is your advice to young hospitality professionals globally?
Dimitris Manikis:-The advice I would share with young hospitality professionals globally would be that you must love people, as this is the essence of our industry, be patient and never stop learning, and above all be curious about everything!
We need optimism in the workplace to take a paradigm shift in organizations. A study has revealed that optimism can increase engagement and happiness resulting in better productivity. We surely need pioneers like Dimitris Manikis who motivate their team to accomplish their objectives.