Brand alignment and quality are top priorities for Wyndham Hotel Group as the company adds “By Wyndham” to 12 brands and outlines tech advancements.
LAS VEGAS—Wyndham Hotel Group is projecting 2018 will be a breakthrough year for its brands in terms of growth and quality, according to executives speaking at the company’s 2018 Global Brand Conference.
One breakthrough expected to drive that is the announcement that 12 of Wyndham’s brands—Super 8, Days Inn, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, AmericInn, Baymont, Ramada, Ramada Encore, Dolce, Dazzler, Esplendor and Trademark—will add the “By Wyndham” endorsement to their names. That change will appear digitally, on logos and brand websites, beginning next week, according to a news release.
“We did a lot of research, an awful lot of research,” said Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, during the opening general session of the conference. “We talked to over 5,000 consumers … and here’s what (they) told us: that (with) a ‘By Wyndham’ affiliation … you’d be more likely to stay. You’d be more likely to book direct because not everybody knows that our brands are connected. You’d be more likely to believe in our brand quality and be willing to pay more, and you would be instantly aware that you could earn your Wyndham Rewards points.
“The most astounding statistic that hit us over the head was that our brands are searched 6 billion times each and every year,” Ballotti said. “And what these experts said is that if they were all ‘By Wyndham.’ From a search standpoint, from a pay-per-click standpoint, from a digital media standpoint, we’d be crazy not to do this.”
Lisa Checchio, Wyndham’s global head of brands, pointed to Wingate as an example, noting that adding “By Wyndham” to its identity resulted in an 11% boost to bookings.
She said that the latest “By Wyndham” additions equate to 500 billion roadside impressions, a statistic based on calculations including the numbers of drivers on roadways where Wyndham properties are located or nearby.
That means changes to signage standards, Ballotti said, eliciting groans from the cost-conscious franchisees in the room. But, he assured the audience, “we’re not asking you to change the pole … or the monument. The monument will stay the same. We’re asking you, within five years, to change the (sign) faceplate, for the awareness.” He also noted that Wyndham will cover some of the cost for its “best of the brand” properties that meet certain criteria for performance and quality.
One brand notably absent from the “By Wyndham” group is La Quinta Inns & Resorts, which Wyndham is still in the process of acquiring. The acquisition remains on track to close in the second quarter, Ballotti said.
“We don’t yet own La Quinta,” Ballotti said, “and we want to make sure it makes sense in the franchisees’ and owners’ minds before we even propose this. … It would be a failure for me to not have everyone on board before making a decision of that magnitude. In a franchisee setting, we wouldn’t want to say, ‘It’s my way or the highway.’”
Ballotti noted members of the La Quinta brand council seemed “very upbeat, very excited” about the prospects of the Wyndham acquisition.
Franchisees of one of Wyndham’s newest brands, AmericInn—which was acquired in October—may have offered “a sneak peek” at reactions to the addition of a “By Wyndham” endorsement, said Nasir Raja, SVP of brand operations at AmericInn.
“When Geoff (Ballotti) went on a tour to meet our franchisees … he did a pulse check. … He wanted a sense from them of how they feel about a ‘By Wyndham’ endorsement. Even early on, he got a very positive response to it,” Raja said, adding that adding “By Wyndham” will help AmericInn from a revenue and also exposure perspective.
“It takes us from a regional brand to a national player,” he said.
New tech tools
Wyndham brand franchisees and owners can also look forward this year to technology advancements aimed at capturing more guests and improving engagement with them throughout the booking process, Chief Marketing Officer Barry Goldstein said during the conference’s opening general session.
Goldstein said the focus is on three key areas: partner and hotel connectivity, customer loyalty and the digital experience.
The implementation of a new central reservations system, rolled out to 14 of Wyndham’s 20 brands, is already proving successful, with guest conversions on new sites 10 percent higher, he said. The plan is to move the remaining brands to the new system by mid-June.
Wyndham also recently has launched new global brand sites in seven different languages, which has resulted in 35% growth in conversions for every brand, Goldstein said.
Goldstein demonstrated on stage Wyndham’s new mobile check-in and check-out via its Wyndham Rewards app, which is being piloted at a few hotels and is expected to be available to all brands this year. The first in line, he said, will be its Wyndham, Dolce, Microtel and Wingate brands, chosen based on mobile usage and type of guest.
Another new tech tool that may be put into use at Wyndham hotels this year is drone video and photography, which also is being piloted at a few hotels with plans for extended use in the future, Goldstein said. He added this technology provides “pretty spectacular imagery and a great way to capture the mobile shopper.”
Editor’s note: Wyndham paid for accommodations at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino where the conference is held and meals. Hotel News Now retained complete editorial control, and Wyndham had no influence on the coverage provided.