Speaking with LODGING at AAHOACON 2023, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Lisa Checchio, provided an update on Wyndham’s initiative to support hotel ownership by women through its Women Own the Room program, which she said, fits in with Wyndham’s “owner-first philosophy.” She also described other ways Wyndham’s marketing team is supporting franchisees, including boosting labor retention by enabling guests, who may not be carrying cash, to tip housekeeping staff, and offering Wyndham Rewards to staff members who increase membership, to, in turn, be rewarded themselves.
Women Own the Room
The Women Own the Room program, which helps women own hotels franchised under Wyndham brands, was created to help overcome barriers commonly experienced by women aspiring to hotel ownership, mainly by obtaining financing but also just believing it was possible to realize this “dream” in the face of obstacles. It is designed to advance and empower women entrepreneurs to break through the predominantly male-dominated hotel industry and is an extension of Wyndham’s dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
“We have been thrilled with the early success of the program. In just over a year, we have nearly three dozen hotels in the program across the country and across all chain scales. The hotels they own across the country and across every chain scale include both new construction and conversions,” said Checchio.
Supporting Underrepresented Owners
Checchio explained the rationale behind Women Own the Room is rooted in an unfortunate reality of the industry. “Our industry is the most diverse, and arguably, the most universal in the world—it’s on every continent, every culture, every language, every country, and it unites and provides an opportunity for people from all walks of life. But the opportunity to own hotels needs to extend to underrepresented groups within our industry.”
Women, she said, make up 70 percent of those employed by hotels, but are only 10 percent of owners. The underrepresentation is even greater with Black owners, who make up only 2 percent, and for whom Wyndham created the Black Ownership and Lodging Development (BOLD) program. Both programs, she maintained, seek to open the door of ownership to this pool of underrepresented would-be owners with program pillars that address the unique challenges they face using the scale and resources of Wyndham, which is the largest hotel franchising company in the world.
Rewarding Loyalty Among Employees as Well as Guests
Checchio said Wyndham’s other efforts to support franchisees are mainly tied to its Wyndham Rewards loyalty program, which now exceeds 100 million members. “The Wyndham Reward program breeds loyalty, repeat business, and, really, what we’re really trying to deliver to our franchisees, which is the highest amount of bookings at the lowest acquisition cost.”
However, she says, customer loyalty can also be used—sometimes indirectly—to attract and retain talent. One way, which is aimed directly at increasing membership in the program, rewards front desk team members when they enroll guests. “Given how important the program is to franchisees, it makes sense to reward the staff who help boost those numbers by providing them with their own reward points…which they can use for hotel stays or for gift or gas cards. In addition to the typical salary increases, this benefit adds extra stickiness, another incentive for them to stay.” Outside of Wyndham Rewards, another tool that Wyndham provides to franchisees to support retention is a mobile tipping program that allows guests—many of whom no longer carry cash—to tip housekeepers using their phones.
And Now for Baseball Fans
The latest Wyndham Rewards enhancement is aimed directly at Minor League Baseball (MiLB) fans. Since becoming the official hotel partner of minor league baseball, Wyndham is driving hotel says into 120 ballparks, which Checchio said, means, “Families going out to ballparks to see their favorite teams, as well as little league team, players, officials, and media, have a place to stay and be around others who share their passion.”
Setting an Example
Circling back to Wyndham’s commitment to underrepresented owners, Checchio said the success of programs like BOLD and Women Own the Room may well go beyond those who benefit directly from such program. Checchio noted that a speaker during AAHOACON 2023 mentioned the power of a young girl seeing a room full of women hotel owners who look like her and eventually taking a step toward hotel ownership based on witnessing that support. “Just think how much easier and how much hope there is for every generation that follows her.”