Wyndham clarifies brand direction23 Jun, 2009 By: Chris Crowell Hotel and Motel Management
Rio Grande, Puerto Rico–A transition that’s been slowly evolving since Eric Danziger took the helm as president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group in December reached a moment of clarity at the Wyndham Owners and General Managers’ Conference May 27-30. For this new regime, the emphasis going forward is on defining and positioning each of the 11 brands in the Wyndham portfolio.
“Our brands, to some degree, are adopted,” said Jeff Wagoner, president of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. “So, you take our brands, put the proper clothes on them, educate them appropriately and you end up with clarity—something that makes sense for the future.”
The first level of the strategy involves dividing the Wyndham Hotel Group brands into three categories, which Danziger calls “reinvigorate,” “optimize” and “grow.”
The reinvigorate category includes Ramada Worldwide, Howard Johnson and Travelodge.
“Some of our brands need … to get back to their original story,” Danziger said, mentioning how, when he was a child, Howard Johnson was “a big deal” and became known for its ice cream and orange roofs.
The brands in the optimize category are Days Inn, Super 8 and Knights Inn.
“We need … to get them to their full operating potential,” Danziger said. “Days Inn and Super 8 have 2,000 hotels or more apiece. Those are big brands. So, we want to optimize them … optimize doesn’t mean not grow, it’s just a little different emphasis.”
And the growth category includes Microtel Inns & Suites, Baymont Inn & Suites and the Wyndham family of brands. Wagoner said most growth opportunities at this moment will come from conversions, and he highlighted three main areas for this growth.
“One is international opportunities,” he said. “Also, we feel resort opportunities and our urban, domestic, high-profile properties are a key strategy for us. We want to grow more significantly, and we want to grow in each of our product types.”
Specifically, Asian, European and Latin American countries are the international focus [see sidebar on page 48].
The second level of the brand clarity strategy is thoroughly defining the Wyndham Hotels and Resorts family of brands within the larger portfolio. This family includes Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, Wyndham Garden, The Wyndham Grand Collection, Wingate by Wyndham and the newly repositioned and rebranded Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham.
“Creating this family of brands gives us the chance to continue to have the Wyndham look and feel across more of the portfolio,” Wagoner said. “It gives us the opportunity to bind them together and effectively market them.”
The repositioning of Hawthorn gives the brand Wyndham name recognition, new signage, new design concepts and places it into the upscale extended-stay segment to compete against Hyatt Summerfield Suites, Marriott’s Renaissance Hotels and Hilton’s Homewood Suites. According to Roy Flora, Microtel brand president, who was Hawthorn Suites brand president before Wagoner took on the role, this is a move the brand has wanted for many years.
“We have long desired to be fully embraced by ownership and acknowledged in a visible and tangible way,” Flora said. “When Wyndham acquired the Hawthorn Suites brand, [it] saw the strategic importance of moving the brand to position itself once again in the upscale category of the extended-stay segment.”
Flora said the move should increase consumer brand awareness, increase product distribution and then increase business with new selling opportunities since it is being integrated into a set with Wingate and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, which creates a bucket of 350 properties throughout North America.
“It’s a different product and a different use, but it is a lot of the same customers in the other four tiers,” Wagoner said of Hawthorn’s grouping with the other Wyndham hotels. “It’s the missing link of the other family of brands … the opportunity for that brand becomes really significant. Hawthorn has a chance to not dilute or pull business [from the other Wyndham brands] but there’s a segment of business that resides in those other four categories that can now come into the Hawthorn product.”
All Hawthorn Suites from here on will be a blend of new-build all-suites prototypes or quality, all-suites extended-stay conversions, and current properties in the system have until the end of 2010 to convert to the new standards. Those that cannot accommodate the changes will be repositioned, according to Flora.
“The result of these exercises should deliver approximately 75 to 80 hotels to qualify to make the transition to Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and bear the name Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham,” Flora said.
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