With over 8,900 hotels across nearly 95 countries on six continents, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is the largest hotel franchising company in the world. Its President for EMEA (Europe, Middle East, Africa), Dimitris Manikis lets us in on his industry wisdom, his idea of the perfect holiday, and the company’s plans for the Indian market. By Rashima Nagpal
T+L India: What is non-negotiable when building a global hospitality brand?
Dimitris Manikis: The hospitality industry is a people-centric sector, and putting people first is paramount to what we do. I believe the power of a great team is a business’s greatest resource. Another non-negotiable when building a global hospitality brand is having a great product and service. Our growth is credited to a flexible business model that can be tailored to meet the needs of the partner hotels. Our global portfolio includes 20 hotel brands that are globally recognised, and each has a rich history, unique design, and voice.
We also have the world’s most generous rewards programme, with 86 million enrolled members.
T+L India: What’s your strategy for the EMEA region?
Dimitris Manikis: EMEA is a diverse and large division with vast opportunities. With this in mind, we have been working towards implementing enhanced regional support, which allows us to offer additional operational excellence and on-the-ground market knowledge to existing and new partners. For example, our Gurugram business hub provides regional support across India and the Indian subcontinent and drives operational excellence at the hotel level.
T+L India: What are Wyndham’s plans for the Indian market?
Dimitris Manikis: India has been and continues to be a key growth market for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. We currently have a great representation of six of our brands in the Indian subcontinent with Wyndham, Ramada, Ramada Encore, Hawthorn Suites, Howard Johnson, and Days Hotel, and [we] feel there is great potential for more of our brands to be included in the market. Our development pipeline for India and the subcontinent specifically includes 29 additional hotels and over 2,600 rooms, which will continue providing accommodation to suit every type of traveller. We are focused on expanding our footprint beyond metros into secondary and tertiary cities as well as leisure destinations.
T+L India: How is the brand coping with the challenges posed by the pandemic?
Dimitris Manikis: Throughout these unprecedented times, our focus has been on the health, safety, and well-being of our guests, team members, and partners, and we remain committed to this as we continue to navigate the new normal. Over the past year, there has been a shift in consumer behaviour as new expectations and technologies have emerged in the hospitality industry. Being flexible has been essential to remain competitive in the current climate. A few examples of the measures we took to meet these growing demands include the launch of Wyndham Easy Book, a new programme aimed at simplifying and promoting corporate bookings from small to mid-size businesses. We also recognised that the world of meetings and events needed to adapt to ongoing restrictions in travel and meeting size. To address this, we designed Hybrid Meeting Solution, which provides the best of in-person meetings combined with elements of virtual engagement— with attendees in other locations.
T+L India: What are the new industry trends that you feel are here to stay?
Dimitris Manikis: The pandemic has accelerated many trends that were already gaining traction prior to COVID-19, such as the adoption of technology in the hospitality industry. With guests now looking for low-contact, seamless experiences, the Wyndham mobile app could not have arrived at a more critical time. The new app was designed to provide travellers with a reimagined user experience to inspire upcoming travel plans. Now more than ever, guests are looking for brands they can trust. With this in mind, we rolled out our long-term hygiene initiative ‘Count On Us’. The programme is part of our long-term efforts to rebuild guest confidence and to support our Wyndham hotel partners as they prepare to welcome back guests. Another key element that has gained traction during the pandemic is sustainability. I believe hoteliers have a responsibility to be socially, ethically, and environmentally aware and promote sustainability in all areas of their business. Remote working is the final trend I believe we will continue to see evolve and grow as international travel gradually resumes and more businesses and people adopt the flexibility that remote work offers.
T+L India: What does travel mean to you?
Dimitris Manikis: I believe that I am not a tourist but rather a traveller, someone who loves interacting with local communities and sharing experiences. A perfect holiday for me is one where I am surrounded by people I love.
T+L India: Which is your favourite place in the world?
Dimitris Manikis: Everyone would expect me to say Greece, and that is true! However, there are two countries that I have fallen in love with over the years—India and South Africa. The diversity, culture, food, colours, people, incredible scenery, and attitudes are the main reasons why these two countries have made an impact on me.
T+L India: What are some of the most underrated places you’ve discovered?
Dimitris Manikis: I would highly recommend Namibia and Georgia, but I don’t believe there are any underrated places as each one of us sees beauty in different and mysterious ways.
T+L India: Destinations that you’re yet to check off your bucket list?
Dimitris Manikis: China and Japan.
T+L India: A word of advice for aspiring hoteliers?
Dimitris Manikis: Love people, be patient, and learn how to control the controllable.