As the travel industry continues to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts continues to lead hospitality brands in dedication to customers and the vacation experience.
Wyndham Americas President Scott LePage has been a key player for over a decade with the hotel giant, and he spoke to TravelPulse about a multitude of topics, including travel’s resurgence in 2022, the impact of coronavirus on travel advisors, sustainability initiatives, diversity efforts and more.
Here is the full Q&A session with LePage:
TravelPulse (TP): The travel industry is looking to get back to some semblance of normalcy in 2022 and the hotel industry will be at the forefront of that resurgence. What is Wyndham expecting in 2022 as compared to 2021 and what are some trends the company is tracking?
Scott LePage (SL): Across the Wyndham portfolio we have seen a release in pent-up travel demand and are optimistic this trend will only continue to strengthen into 2022. Enthusiasm for travel has rebounded to levels unseen and the urge to travel is higher than ever as more people are comfortable getting back on the road. The company recorded the highest average daily rates ever for the last two weeks of December 2021. As the largest hotel franchisor in the world, this is validation of our connection to our guests, the value of our Wyndham Rewards loyalty program and the great service our hotels provide every day. In fact, over 70% of leisure travelers plan to book in the next three months, according to data from MMGY. With that, we continue to see domestic leisure trips leading the recovery.
In our strongest segments, economy drive-to and midscale drive-to markets, growth has not slowed down. The added impact of blending business and leisure travel – ‘bleisure’ – has led to extended stay periods, strengthening typical shoulder patterns. In this new, remote, work-from-anywhere world, we know that longer long weekends, are here to stay. Last year, we saw Thursday & Sunday night occupancy climb to record highs, including our highest non-holiday Sunday in the U.S. on record. There’s no doubt ‘bleisure’ travel is truly a win-win as the industry continues to recover and guests are willing to stay even longer.
TP: In terms of the United States, what are some of the premier properties being added to the Wyndham portfolio this year and what are some changes can American guests expect at existing properties?
SL: Last year, we announced the addition of our 21st and 22nd brands – Registry Collection Hotels – our luxury debut into the luxury segment and Wyndham Alltra – our first all-inclusive concept. This includes stunning resorts like Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, a Registry Collection Hotel and Wyndham Alltra Playa del Carmen—both of which cater to aspirational U.S. travelers who are looking for an amazing international experience while still staying close to home. We also announced several exciting hotel openings including our BEI Hotel San Francisco, Trademark Collection by Wyndham, La Quinta Inn & Suites Nashville Downtown/Stadium, and La Quinta by Wyndham Selma, the milestone 120th hotel in the La Quinta portfolio featuring the sought-after Del Sol prototype. Last year, we announced the addition of more than 100 La Quinta hotels in the development pipeline. It doesn’t stop there – we announced seven new hotel franchise agreements for our namesake, upscale, Wyndham brand spanning six states. This is just the beginning – we will continue growing this year – domestically and abroad, furthering our mission of making hotel travel possible for everyone. Stay tuned!
The number one key area of satisfaction for our guests has not changed: a comfortable, safe and affordable stay. As the recovery has continued, we’ve worked hard to bring back the amenities that make a stay even better. Food and beverage service has returned in many places, as well as the amenities our guests love, like pools and gyms. Guests can still expect the same great service, warm Wyndham welcome and of course, access to our #1 award-winning Wyndham Rewards loyalty program offering over 90 million enrolled members the opportunity to redeem points at thousands of hotels, vacation club resorts and vacation rentals globally.
TP: Last year, Wyndham joined Playa Hotels & Resorts to announce the launch of a new all-inclusive resort brand, Wyndham Alltra, the company’s first dedicated entirely to the all-inclusive segment. What are some of the benefits travelers will experience at an all-inclusive Wyndham property that they wouldn’t find anywhere else?
SL: Wyndham Alltra created a new category in the upper-midscale all-inclusive space and keeps with Wyndham’s mission of delivering exceptional experiences for the everyday traveler. In fact, its name is born from the brand promise of “All-Inclusive Travel for All.”
The first two Alltra resorts are in in prime beachfront locations – family-friendly Wyndham Alltra Cancun and adults-only, Wyndham Alltra Playa del Carmen – the first of many hotels to be developed under the exclusive strategic alliance between Wyndham and Playa. The brand provides the ultimate carefree all-inclusive vacation, with everything guests have been daydreaming of in one place. From exciting eats and refreshing cocktails, to live entertainment and non-stop activities, picture-perfect beaches to inviting pools, the resorts have something for everyone. Best of all, our partnership with Playa allows our guests and nearly 90 million Wyndham Rewards member to experience outstanding all-inclusive resorts – many for the first time – who can redeem and earn Wyndham Rewards points for their stays. We feel the combination of these fantastic resort locations, the amazing all-inclusive service and the affordable prices make these hotels unique.
TP: Like the rest of travel, the hotel and resorts industries have been dealing with the impact of the Omicron variant of coronavirus. From your perspective, how has Wyndham handled the ongoing pandemic and what measures are in place to safeguard guests?
SL: The past two years have challenged our industry yet also allowed hoteliers to show their resilience. From day one, our focus has been and continues to be the safety of our guests, team members and franchisees. We’ve researched and updated effective operating processes, collaborating with our vendors to ensure we’re doing all we can to help our owners weather this storm. Thankfully, the industry continues to move in the right direction. We’ll continue to follow these protocols because they help provide the security guests are looking for. People want to travel and they are—particularly leisure travelers. We’re thrilled to be welcoming them back and expect the number of people traveling will only increase over the coming year.
TP: What effort have been made to assist travel advisors who previously worked with Wyndham and were directly impacted by the pandemic?
SL: Over the past 18 months we have taken significant steps to show our commitment to travel advisors impacted by the pandemic. We increased our engagement with ASTA (American Soc of Travel Advisors) – providing our support at both their annual conference and participating in Legislative Days. At the height of the pandemic, we updated our Wyndham Wise course offered through Travel Agent University to ensure that even travel advisors who were furloughed could keep up with their industry education. Additionally, we have used every opportunity to share our special offer for travel advisors: 40% off for their personal, leisure stays. Every step of the way we communicated with our travel advisors that Wyndham would be there for them – from the early days when there was very little travel to now, where we’re seeing travel picking-up again.
TP: What are some sustainability efforts being made by Wyndham and the hotel industry as a whole to make it more environmentally friendly?
SL: Our business has a duty to care for people, owners, and franchisees, and of course, the planet. We’re working to advance knowledge in the field of sustainability and remain steadfast in our commitment to operating in a way that provides outstanding experiences to those it serves. We developed our own certification program called Wyndham Green – consisting of a five-level certification program that helps reduce a hotel’s environmental footprint. Some of these efforts include, improving energy efficiency, reducing emissions, conserving water, and reducing waste. Wyndham Green components are included in the brand standards we require at every hotel. We celebrate hotels that have achieved Green certification with a leaf on our website so guest who prioritize sustainability in their purchase decisions know which hotels have made the commitment. We’re proud to share that our work has been recognized through our participation in the Carbon Disclosure Project’s climate change response, where we achieved the leadership band for our sustainability performance and disclosure.
TP: What efforts are being made by Wyndham as it relates to diversity, equity and inclusion?
SL: Diversity, equity, and inclusion are key cornerstones of our Wyndham culture, and I am incredibly proud of our team who bring a range of experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives with them every day. For four years in a row, Wyndham has received a perfect score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Index, designating the company as a best place to work as well as having been named by DiversityInc as a noteworthy company for its commitment to diversity and inclusion. Additionally, we were just recognized by Newsweek as one of America’s Most Loved Workplaces. Our team member’s passion and enthusiasm for what we do can’t be topped.
And while we’re proud of the progress we’ve made so far, we also recognize there is more we can do. Just recently we announced our newest initiative – “Women Own the Room,” the first-ever program by a major hotel company specifically targeting women’s advancement in hotel ownership. The program is designed to advance and empower women entrepreneurs to achieve success and is a natural extension of Wyndham’s strong dedication to a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The hospitality industry is one of the most diverse industries in the world with women making up more than 70% of its ranks, but only 1 in 10 women go into development roles. We should be fostering that diversity at the highest levels in the industry including ownership. Members of ‘Women Own the Room,’ have access to Wyndham’s tools and support designed to help them achieve success every step of the way, from signing and breaking ground to welcoming their first guests. Last month, we announced our first franchisee member – Trusha Patel – who is developing two new construction La Quinta and Hawthorn Suites dual-branded hotels in Austin and Georgetown, Tex. We welcome Trusha to the Wyndham family and are excited about the opportunities ahead.