The International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) Summit Series provides access to available financing, prospective growth markets and the industry’s most senior-level decision-makers. Following a successful IHIF event in Berlin attended by more than 2,000 delegates from a record 73 countries, Hotel Management caught up with Rui Barros, SVP and managing director, EMEA, Wyndham Hotel Group.
HM: As an expat now living in London, what were some of the personal and professional challenges and rewards involved with your transition?
Barros: As Wyndham Hotel Group is present in 39 countries within Europe, the Middle East and Africa, my role involves a lot of travel. This has given me the opportunity to see some amazing places, including vibrant cities where we have an established presence, such as Berlin, Istanbul and Dubai, and emerging markets, such as Dar es Salaam in Tanzania where we have our first hotels opening up later this year. Getting to know new customs, new cultures and new people has definitely been some of my highlights so far. As for challenges, on a personal level, it was probably getting used to driving on the left!
HM: How often do you travel in a given month?
Barros: Whether it is to meet existing or prospective franchise and management partners, I am always on the road. My travel plans fluctuate from month to month. Sometimes I find myself traveling to various locations back to back for a period of weeks; other months I may have more time with the team in London.
HM: What regions of the world are you excited about in terms of hotel development moving forward?
Barros: Within Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group is growing rapidly in both established and emerging markets. Last year alone, we added over 50 hotels in Germany, almost doubling our portfolio there. Wyndham has also seen consistent growth in Turkey, where we have opened almost 30 hotels since entering the market in 2007. Our footprint in Turkey now extends to three brands, spanning our namesake Wyndham Hotels and Resorts brand, TRYP by Wyndham and the midscale brand Ramada. In October 2013, Wyndham Hotel Group also launched the select-service Ramada Encore tier in Turkey, with the opening of Ramada Encore Izmir, the first of 30 planned Ramada Encore properties to be developed in the country over the next 10 years.
We also are looking forward to introducing our Super 8 brand in Turkey, having signed a development agreement last year which is anticipated to bring 20 Super 8 hotels to the market over the next 10 years. In fact, we also have development agreements in place in Saudi Arabia, where our first Super 8 will open within the next few months, as well as in Germany, where the first Super 8 broke ground in February.
In terms of new markets, there is certainly a lot of opportunity for Wyndham Hotel Group in Africa. With five hotels already flying Wyndham Hotel Group brand flags on the continent, we expect to grow that number significantly, particularly in eastern Africa.
HM: What travel industry trends are having a big impact on hotel deals and even operations these days?
Barros: There are certainly trends impacting the industry globally, such as the rise of mobile devices and social media, leading to an ever-more connected society. This has really changed the way guests research, book and share travel experiences. There are also trends affecting hotel development on a more local level. In many countries within the Middle East and Africa for example, we are seeing the emergence of a strong demand for hotel accommodations designed for extended stays. In part, this is driven by increased mobility in the labor market, with companies importing specialist skills for particular projects, or relocating employees who seek hotel accommodations while they establish themselves in the market. The suites and fully equipped kitchens in Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham properties mean the brand offers a solution for the increased demand for extended-stay products. Having recently opened the first Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham in the Middle East—adding to an existing property in Nigeria—we are confident the brand will add value for guests and owners alike in many other markets across the region.
HM: What makes an industry event good?
Barros: Investment forums such as IHIF and CATHIC provide a valuable opportunity to network with investors, owners and operators. With expertise in both franchise and management, a diverse portfolio of 15 brands and Wyndham Rewards, the largest guest loyalty program in the industry by number of participating hotels, Wyndham Hotel Group has a very compelling customer value proposition. Events such as IHIF and CATHIC are perfect to communicate this.
With burgeoning tourism in regions including Russia, Turkey, Asia, Brazil and North America, the IHIF Summit Series provides the ideal venues to learn about critical investment trends in every region of the world. The next IHIF event will be the Turkey & Neighbours Hotel Investment Conference (CATHIC) in Istanbul, to be held June 9-10, where opportunities for investment in Turkey’s growing hospitality sector will be explored. For more information, go to cathic.com or ihif.com.