The big interview: Dimitris Manikis, president, EMEA, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

by | 17 Jan 2022 | Chains

In an exclusive chat, Manikis sits down with our editor-in-chief Richard Frost to discuss how the world’s largest hotel franchising company is responding to the Covid crisis.

One of the biggest names in hospitality, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has a vast global portfolio of more than 800,000 rooms across 22 brands, including Registry Collection Hotels, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham, Dolce Hotels & Resorts by Wyndham, Wyndham Alltra and Ramada by Wyndham. Here, EMEA president Dimitris Manikis explains what the hotel giant is doing to ensure a speedy recovery from the pandemic.

Could you tell me about your role within Wyndham?

I’m the president of EMEA, covering Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa. My job is to grow the business, make sure that our franchisees are happy, keep our team happy, and ensure people know what Wyndham stands for.

I have about 460 operational hotels and a great pipeline, with 95% franchised. We’re the world’s largest franchisor, with 9,000 hotels in 95 countries.

I’m responsible for growing the system, but also for making sure we actually have fun while we do it because this business is about enjoyment. Although the last two years have been full of doom and gloom, we’ve survived, and still managed to come out with a smile on our faces.

How has Wyndham coped with the challenges of the last couple of years?

Nobody expected the pandemic would last this long. I remember when we all left our offices at the end of March 2020 and said ‘see you again in a couple of weeks’. And we’re still working virtually now.

The good news is that our business model has proven to be very resilient. We’re one of the fastest growing hospitality businesses in the world, our system has grown and our EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation] levels are very strong.

How have you helped franchisees get through this difficult period?

Ultimately, you don’t have a franchise business if you don’t have franchisees, so the survival of our customers was our number one priority. We learnt a lot about our own business, our clients and human relationships. And we actually became closer to our customers through technology, which we’d never anticipated in the past.

We’ve taken a host of financial measures to support the business of our franchisees – measures that were tough for us, but good for them. Also, we’ve implemented lots of new strategies – hygiene, virtual meetings, sustainability and so on.

To what extent has the pandemic affected your hotel development plans?

The way we’ve dealt with the pandemic has actually helped our pipeline. People saw the resilience of our business model and understood that Wyndham had the right brands in the franchise world, and in the managed world to some extent.

Also, a lot of existing clients brought us new business because they appreciated what we did for them during the most difficult time in their history.

Which hotel development markets are you particularly focusing on?

First of all, I see second- and third-tier cities picking up plenty of business. Second, I see a lot of growth in Russia, the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States], India, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Cyprus.

In addition, we’ve introduced two new brands in the last 18 months. There’s our soft brand Registry Collection Hotels, which is in the luxury segment. And there’s our Wyndham Alltra brand – our first all-inclusive concept – which has enormous opportunities in the likes of Spain, Portugal, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia and the whole Mediterranean basin.

What’s Wyndham doing to make the hotel business more sustainable?

We have our own certification programme called Wyndham Green – and enrolment is mandatory.

Every time we bring a hotel onboard, we say ‘you need to be part of this and adhere to these values if you want to join our brands’. We have five levels of certification, so you start with the basics, and grow from there.

What lessons can we learn from the pandemic?

In the last couple of years, what I’ve come to value a lot are two phrases – ‘I’ll do my best’ and ‘thankyou’. In the past, people would tell me ‘I’ll do my best’, but now when somebody says it, I know they really mean it because I’ve seen what they’ve done for our industry and our company.

I’m glad that you write about them because some really amazing things happened. I really enjoy reading your stuff – you’re right there on my emails every morning. I love your pipeline reports, Project of the Week stories and infographics.

If it wasn’t for you guys keeping us connected over the last two years, it would’ve been tough. I really mean that. It was a beacon of hope for us because we didn’t have events and we couldn’t communicate with the rest of the world as everybody was working from home.

How do you think the hotel industry will change over the coming years?

Firstly, sustainability. Sustainable buildings, architecture and design will be key – more banks will fund sustainable projects and more investors will buy them.

Secondly, technology. It’s amazing to look back on what’s happened just in the last 18 months – in normal circumstances, these things would have taken at least five years.

Thirdly, talent. We need to make hospitality attractive to young talent again and we need more diversity because this is still a male-dominated world.

For me, you can have the best sustainability and technology plans, but if you don’t have the right people to deliver them, you’ve got a big challenge on your hands.

Many TOPHOTELNEWS articles draw on exclusive information from the TOPHOTELPROJECTS construction database. This subscription-based product includes details of thousands of hotel projects around the world, along with the key decision-makers behind them. Please note, our data may differ from records held by other organisations. Generally, the database focuses on four- and five-star schemes of significant scale; tracks projects in either the vision, pre-planning, planning, under-construction, pre-opening or newly opened phase; and covers newbuilds, extensions, refurbishments and conversions.

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