In laying out global expansion, Wyndham targets lower-tier, high-potential markets

Leo Liu, Wyndham’s managing director for China, speaks at the company's opening general session at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Photo credit: Wyndham

LAS VEGAS — While the biggest news so far at the Wyndham Hotel Group 2018 Global Conference at Mandalay Bay is about the “by Wyndham” moniker being added to 12 of the company’s brands next week, there is also plenty of discussion about where Wyndham is growing its presence. After a strong 2017, and after the recent acquisitions of AmericInn and La Quinta, the company is bringing its brands to new markets, and targeting lucrative destinations for more growth.

Southeast Asia & Pacific Rim

With 40 countries and a population of 1.8 billion people, the Southeast Asia and Pacific Rim region is seeing consistent growth in inbound travel. “Tourism in our region is booming and infrastructure is rapidly advancing,” Barry Robinson, Wyndham’s president and managing director for the region, said at the conference’s opening general session. “We’re seeing arrivals in countries such as Vietnam show double-digit growth, which in turn is driving increased demand for quality accommodation—and that’s where we come in.” 

Over the last three years, Robinson said, Wyndham has grown its portfolio in the region from “a handful” of properties to more than 246 hotels across 15 countries open or in the development pipeline. Wyndham manages more than 40 of these properties. 

“South Korea is a great market for us because we have the most expansive presence of any international hotel group in the country,” Robinson said. The Ramada brand currently has 27 hotels open and operating, and the company expects to open at least another 13 by the end of the year. Wyndham recently opened three Howard Johnson properties on Jeju Island, and has another five properties in the pipeline for the end of the year. “We’re extremely positive about the future that this market holds,” Robinson continued. 

He called the opportunity for development in Vietnam "huge," especially for large-scale developments. “The hotels in Vietnam are a little like Las Vegas in their size,” he said. The upcoming Wyndham Resort Nha Trang will have 1,709 rooms when it opens next year as part of a $200-million mixed-use development. The Wyndham Soleil Danang, meanwhile, will have 3,200 rooms across four towers when it opens later this year. “It will provide us with great brand representation,” Robinson said.

China

Chinese owners and operators have a strong presence at the conference—a good sign for the company’s growth in the country. “Wyndham Hotel Group is by far the largest international hotel operator in China,” Leo Liu, Wyndham’s managing director for the country, said. The company currently operates 1,400 hotels with 140,000 rooms across nine brands in Greater China.

To grow its presence from there, Wyndham is looking to bring new brands to the market, particularly in “lower-tier cities with high potential,” Liu said. The new Wyndham Suzhou Fenhu, for example, is in one of China’s “most rapidly developed second-tier cities, one hour from Shanghai.” 
 
The country’s first Tryp by Wyndham hotel opened in Xi’an last fall, and Wyndham will open China’s first Wingate and Microtel properties this year. “Each year, China gets record-high tourism numbers,” Liu said. But more than capturing inbound travelers to China, he added, Wyndham is focused on growing brand identity and bringing 138 million outbound travelers to international Wyndham hotels. 

Europe, Middle East and Africa

In the EMEA area, Wyndham has 470 hotels with 65,000 rooms across 40 countries, Dimitris Manikis, the regional president and MD, said. Key markets include Germany with more than 100 hotels, the UK with 75 and Turkey with 65—“and growing so rapidly that by the end of this session that number will change,” Manikis quipped. The company has nearly 50 hotels in Spain and Portugal, and the two countries also have the largest portfolio of Tryp by Wyndham globally. Wyndham is also growing in the Central Independent States, the nations that used to be part of the Soviet Union. “We are the leading group in Azerbaijan, and by mid-year, we will be the leading hotel group in Georgia and Kazakhstan,” Manikis said. “By 2020, we will be one of the leading groups in Russia.” 
 
Wyndham is on track to open more than 30 hotels with more than16,000 rooms in the EMEA region this year—“our best growth yet,” Manikis said. The company saw 4-percent growth in 2014 and 2015 and just one percent in 2016, but reported 11 percent growth in 2017. 

India is also a key focus for Wyndham. “In 2017, we opened six new hotels and signed five more,” Manikis said. This year, the company expects to open four hotels in key cities across the country. “India is a very important market for our growth strategy in the region,” he said. “Travel accounts for 10 percent of the economy’s GDP.”  

Latin America

Fourteen of Wyndham’s brands are represented in 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, Alejandro Moreno, the region’s president and managing director, said. “Over the next few years, we will be focusing on adding resorts and continuing to increase the hotel portfolio in the midscale and upscale sector, adding properties in Mexico, Caribbean and Brazil.”

In 2014, Wyndham had 100 franchised hotels in Latin America and the Caribbean region. “In 2017, we reached 200,” Moreno said. This year, the company is set to open another 41. “It’s difficult to follow China, but we’ll do our best,” Moreno said.

Wyndham is looking to expand beyond the 20 countries where it already has a presence. The Wyndham Grand Belize will open later this year, while Sam Lord’s Castle - A Wyndham Grand Resort, in Barbados, is scheduled to open in 2020. “We have grown a lot, and we have the potential to keep growing,” Moreno said. “This is just the beginning of the breakthrough.”