Wyndham Conference Helps Execs ‘Connect’

Yesterday, approximately 6,000 Wyndham hoteliers converged at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas for Wyndham Hotel Group’s 2016 Global Conference. The theme of the 2016 conference is “Connect,” and the opening general session gave Wyndham’s executives an opportunity to share the company’s successes from the past 18 months, as well as some of Wyndham’s major goals for connecting with guests in the next year.

First, Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti congratulated attendees on the huge number of new rooms opened in 2015: 65,000, or an average of about two hotels every day of the week. According to Ballotti, Wyndham is on track to deliver similar numbers in 2016.

This year, each Wyndham brand is rolling out new initiatives meant to continue to drive this massive growth. The highly specific branding boils each chain down to its bare bones, clarifying its message and purpose for travelers.

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One of the most popular points of discussion was the immense success of the Wyndham Rewards program, which this year jumped from seventh to first place on U.S. News and World Report’s Best Hotel Rewards Program list. More than 7 million people signed up for Wyndham Rewards in the last year, boosting the number of members to over 46 million. “At a time when loyalty has never mattered more, our members are redeeming, not for dinner discounts or movie coupons, but are redeeming for free nights,” Ballotti said. “When we last met, our redemptions for free nights stood at about 40 percent. They now stand at 88 percent of our redemptions. We are putting more money back into your hotels with high redemption rates.”

Wyndham execs also talked at length about quality, and its importance in the hotel business. “Quality does matter,” said Scott LePage, SVP of franchise services. “And our strategic focus on quality is paying off…there is a return on quality.” LePage noted that when quality improves, guests notice, which leads to more business for Wyndham properties.

Josh Lesnick, chief marketing officer, added that when a brand delivers on quality, it doesn’t gain customers, it gains fans. This is a much more powerful approach to fostering brand loyalty. “In order for our brands to generate passion, we need to connect with our guests on a deeper emotional level.”

There was also a lot of focus on the digital refresh currently underway on the Wyndham websites. “Over the last six to nine months, we have transformed, upgraded, and enhanced our digital capabilities,” said Barry Goldstein, chief digital and distribution officer. “We are building a new digital foundation and improving the customer experience.” The mobile upgrade was extremely important, as almost half (45 percent) of all customer visits to the Wyndham website are via mobile. According to Goldstein, the total impact of these initiatives on rooms revenue could exceed over $100 million. Wyndham is also in the process of updating all of its hotel photography, and to date, 1.3 million new photos have been uploaded to the Wyndham website.

The opening session closed with some words from Steve Holmes, chairman and CEO of Wyndham Worldwide. “As I step back and look at the travel industry as a whole, there are a lot of things going on. There’s a growing global middle class, that’s having a massive impact on travel across the globe. You have the millennials coming on, the buying power of the future, and they’re getting there very quickly. And you’ve got the disruptors that are out there that are changing the way bookings are done and everything else,” he noted. “I’m incredibly excited about the travel industry. I think we are positioning ourselves very well. We’re going to be in the middle of the game, ahead of the competition.”

Holmes was also very enthusiastic about the future of Wyndham in this changing industry. “Things that we are doing within the Wyndham Hotel Group right now are things that are game changers for our industry,” he said. “I am so thrilled that we are connected with you, and you have decided to connect with us, with your hotels, to make us part of your business and part of your life.”

There will be more coverage of Wyndham Hotel Group’s 2016 Global Conference later this week.