HM on location: Wyndham bets on new designs, tech for growth

Geoff Ballotti, president/CEO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, greeted the crowd as the conference began. Photo credit: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

LAS VEGAS—Speaking to an estimated 7,000 owners, managers and industry suppliers at the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts Global Conference here at Mandalay Bay, Wyndham President/CEO Geoff Ballotti announced several new and evolving initiatives the company is working on to meet growing guest demands and drive revenue.

Updated Prototypes

Wyndham is prioritizing new-construction growth with the launch of both new and refreshed prototypes that Ballotti said are designed to lower development costs and capture greater efficiencies. The new designs take a page from the company’s newest brand, La Quinta by Wyndham, and the recent Moda prototype launch from Microtel by Wyndham. 

La Quinta itself will be part of a new dual-brand concept with the company’s extended-stay Hawthorn Suites brand. The prototype is inspired by La Quinta’s Del Sol guestroom prototype, and had seven new-construction agreements signed in the second quarter this year.

The company also plans to update its Wyndham Garden brand with a new interior and exterior prototype called Arbor, describing the new look as “a streamlined, modern aesthetic inspired by nature that is designed to reduce cost-per-key to build.”  

The new $40 million Howard Johnson design scheme, the brand’s first in 25 years, was announced in August, and the company announced the new Dawn interior design package for its Days Inn hotels at the conference. The company expects to implement the design standard across its 1,400 U.S. hotels in several phases.

Related: The 'Dawn' of a new Days Inn

The new interior design concept for the AmericInn brand, meanwhile, was “inspired by the modern lodge look,” updating the brand’s contemporary exterior prototype. Together, the interior and exterior designs represent the brand’s fourth-generation prototype. 

The company’s new-construction pipeline is growing at 16 percent, Ballotti told attendees. “We’ve never had more hotels in the pipeline,” he said, and emphasized new-construction projects are driving better returns for owners. Global Chief Development Officer Tom Barber said historically, only about 10 percent of Wyndham’s North American openings have been new construction, while the remaining 90 percent were conversions. “[EVP and Chief Development Officer Chip Ohlsson] and I both agree that we need to increase the percentage of new construction,” Barber said, explaining that new-builds have a higher consistency in quality.

Digital Upgrades

Wyndham is leveraging new technology to drive brand recognition and contribution, partnering with businesses like DoorDash to bring meals to Wyndham hotels without an onsite or adjacent restaurant. “An automatic F&B solution with no cost is a true differentiator,” Wyndham Chief Marketing Officer Lisa Checchio told the attendees. 

A recent survey, Checchio continued, found that guests would prefer to go without hot water than without fast internet access. “Poor internet service can cost you half a bubble on TripAdvisor,” she cautioned attendees. To boost guest rankings, Wyndham is launching what will be known as Hotel Connectivity Solutions, a new bundle of wireless and network services that will be visible to guests as Wyndham WiFi. The platform will include hardware and equipment that can handle multiple devices from each guest at what Checchio said would be the lowest cost in the industry with no capital down from owners. 
The final digital push is an upcoming new mobile app, due to debut in the spring that will cover “streamlined” guest bookings, account management, gamification and details of on-property features. “We want to be where our guests are, and that's mobile,” said Jessica Davidson, Wyndham's SVP of digital, noting more than half of the company's web traffic comes through mobile devices. “This is very much in line with the industry, and so we know we need to focus our energies and our digital constant transformation on the mobile guest experience.”

As part of the growing demand for personalization, the app also will make it easier to keep track of Wyndham Rewards members' preferences, from room type to bed type to any special needs, such as adjoining rooms for families. “We’ll be able to collect...a variety of other personalized signals and be able to serve up the right results for the guests,” Davidson said.