1. How have the first few months of 2020 been for Wyndham Hotels and Resorts?
We are incredibly proud of our strong growth across the region in 2019 and look forward to continuing the momentum into 2020 with a robust pipeline in place.
La Quinta by Wyndham officially expanded outside of the Americas with the opening of La Quinta by Wyndham Istanbul Gunesli in Turkey. This is our first and largest La Quinta hotel outside of the Americas and the first in the EMEA region, in a key growth market for us. In Turkey we have reached over 80 and we are proud to be the largest international hotel company in the country based on number of hotels.
We celebrated the brand expansions of Wyndham Grand. Our upper-upscale brand entered in new markets, including Georgia, Croatia, Greek islands (Crete) in 2019 and at the very end of the year in Portugal with the opening of Wyndham Grand Algarve, in a fabulous location in Quinta do Lago.
Our Ramada by Wyndham brand has continued its international expansion with the opening of Ramada by Wyndham Madrid Getafe, our first Ramada hotel in Spain. The market’s tourism industry is flourishing, and it is one of the most visited countries in the world, so this is a fantastic move for us.
We also recently expanded in Oman with two new hotels in Muscat (Ramada Encore by Wyndham Muscat Al Ghubra and the Wyndham Garden Muscat Al Khuwair). These two openings mark the introduction of the Wyndham Garden and Ramada Encore by Wyndham brands to Oman and underscore Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ commitment to strengthening its presence in this important market and supporting Oman’s ambitious Vision 2040 programme.
- When we met in November last year at the IHIF Sponsors Dinner, you identified the CIS region as an area of interest for travellers, developers, investors and operators. Wyndham have now announced plans to open 15 in Russia and neighbouring countries within the next two years. What is it specifically about this region that has made it such a significant part of your development plans?
You are correct, we are planning to open 15 new hotels in the region in the next two years, which will significantly boost Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ footprint here, reaching 35 operational hotels and over 5,700 rooms by 2021 across a number of key markets including Russia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
This region provides an attractive variety of opportunities for our industry, and we are incredibly proud of our presence in these markets. It offers both thriving, metropolitan cities and captivating landscapes, which present a strong pull for both business and leisure travellers.
The wealth of emerging destinations and an increase in international and domestic arrivals creates a lot of potential in the region. Our mission is to make hotel travel possible for all, that’s why we have 20 different brands to suit every kind of traveller’s needs, and the region has such diverse offerings that it presents opportunities for a wide range of these brands. We can bring multiple different brands into this region to not only meet an increasing demand for high-quality accommodation, but also to suit all the different travellers’ needs. The demand is there so we are carrying out rapid development in order to meet it.
- Germany also seems to be a key focal point for development with ambitious plans for the economy brand, Super 8 by Wyndham. New hotel openings are scheduled in Hamburg, Berlin, Mainz, Koblenz and Augsburg. With alternative operational real estate models on the rise and investors looking to other geographies for their returns, why do you still believe mainland Europe holds strong prospects?
We see there is a growing demand for quality affordable accommodation in mainland Europe, an area that is generally set at a high price point. We know that today’s travellers look for a quality experience, but at an affordable price – which is exactly what Super 8 by Wyndham stands for. The Super 8 brand expansion in Germany is meeting demand and realising our ambition to make hotel travel possible for all.
Consumer confidence is a key driver in our decision making and if we look at other mainland European countries where we are expanding our reach, we see huge growth potential. The demand in the budget hotel industry has increased strongly in recent years. Based on their location and facilities, budget hotels are popular with leisure and business travellers alike. We expect the demand to continue to grow in the coming years in Germany as well as in Europe – for young travellers, but also increasingly for business travellers.
- If you could change one thing about the hotel industry, what would it be?
I would like to change the perception of a career in hospitality. Many younger people see it as a summer job, a steppingstone to a career in a different industry. This perception can make it harder to find talent in the sector, especially at a junior level. Hospitality is often not considered as a long-term career choice, despite it being one of the most diverse industries with a wealth of opportunities. Working in hospitality is a fulfilling and lasting career and one that provides a long ladder, where you can work your way from the very bottom to the top. I think it is important that the industry works collectively to make hospitality careers appealing to the younger generation. We have a dream job and it is our duty to inspire the younger generation.
- If you weren’t President and Managing Director for EMEA at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, what would you be doing?
Hospitality runs into my blood so I would definitely still work in the industry. I would probably run a small restaurant either in mainland Greece - the Peloponnese where my family comes from - or on a small Greek island. Gastronomy is becoming a reason for people to travel and the Greek cuisine has so much to offer to travellers from both an experience and a discovery perspective.
We work in an industry that unites people. Every time I go to my favourite restaurant on the island of Paros and I see all different people around the world enjoying like one large group of friends, this reminds me that hospitality was the right career choice for me and I would make that choice again and again.
Dimitris joins the hospitality community at IHIF 2020 from the 2-4th March and will participate in “The Big Squeeze: Budget Segment or Affordable Luxury?” taking place on Tuesday 3rd March at 16:30. Regardless of budget, today's traveller is demanding better designed hotels with more personalised touches. But how can brands deliver the optimum customer experience and an inspirational product whilst limiting development costs. Is affordable luxury the answer? If, so how does a developer make it profitable? This panel aims to discuss these questions in an engaging and topical session.