LAS VEGAS - The Wyndham Hotel Group Global Conference kicked off at here at Mandalay Bay Resort on Monday night with leaders from the Parsippany, N.J.-based company sharing updates on the last 18 months since the previous conference. With new openings around the world and an updated loyalty program, the company is aiming to "democratize" travel for a rapidly rising demographic.
Wyndham Hotel Group President and CEO Geoff Ballotti told the crowd of owners and managers that for 2015, the company opened an average of two hotels per day for a total of 65,000 new rooms added to the portfolio. The company’s pipeline currently has 50 hotels with more than 10,000 rooms in the works.
But that growth, COO Bob Loewen said, has to be carefully planned. “We want to be everywhere our guests want to be, even before they know they want to be there,” he said. To that end, he called the company’s overseas growth “unstoppable,” and highlighted several notable new achievements. A year ago, WHG became the first international hotel company to have 1,000 hotels open in China. Now, that number has reached nearly 1,200 hotels, and is still growing. (China is also home to the Howard Johnson City of Flower Hotel Kunming, WHG’s largest hotel at almost 2,300 rooms.)
South East Asia is also slated to get its first Wyndham Grand hotel in November when the Wyndham Grand Phuket Kalim Bay opens, the result of a management agreement signed between Parisorn Company and WHG.
In New Zealand, Queenstown’s first new hotel in five years was a Ramada that opened in June, Loewen said. The Latin American region, meanwhile, broke records for the company, with “more hotels, more new brands, most growth than in WHG history.” The company’s 35th hotel in Argentina and a new property in Rio de Janeiro were among notable recent openings in the region.
But growth must be strategic, and even as new hotels were opening around the world, WHG closed hotels in their portfolio with the lowest TripAdvisor scores, and have been focusing on adding hotels with higher scores, which Loewen said would raise the entire system’s profile. “With great quality comes great recognition,” he told the crowd.
Democratization of Travel
Chief Marketing Officer Josh Lesnick pointed out two growing trends that the audience would need to know for the coming years: First, he said, millennials now outnumber baby boomers, and within the next five years will become the top purchasers of travel. Secondly, the global middle class is growing from 2 billion people to 5 billion. This, Lesnick said, will create a new “everyday traveler,” a generation of people with limited disposable income who want “a good price and an amazing experience.”
To capture that demographic, Lesnick said, Wyndham is calling for “the democratization of travel,” a movement that began last year with the simplification of Wyndham Rewards and has continued with the updating of standards and prototypes across the brands.
The new rewards program emphasizes a flat, free-night redemption rate and easily reachable member levels with unique perks. Since the program was announced 18 months ago, Wyndham Rewards has added 7 million new members for a total of 46 million members worldwide. Members spend $500 million at Wyndham’s hotels per year, and the top 4 percent of members make up 40 percent of the company’s revenue.
Coming up on day 2: What’s happening with the brands? Plus, more updates from Wyndham leaders.