Dimitris manikis, PresiDent & managing Director, WynDham hotels & resorts emea
Dimitris Manikis, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts new President & Managing Director of EMEA, talks to SPACE’s Can Faik about the future of the Wyndham brand…
Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is the world’s largest hotel franchising company and leading provider of hotel management services, the company has approximately 9,000 hotels and more than 792,000 rooms in 80 countries under 20 hotel brands.
What was your background in hospitality prior to working for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts?
Whilst I am new to Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, I spent more than 25 years with our former sister company RCI – on the Wyndham Destination Network side of the business, so I have familiarity with our brands and the hospitality industry. I am very excited to move over from the vacation ownership world to the world of hotels.
What does your current position involve?
As President and Managing Director for EMEA, I am responsible for the development of all Wyndham Hotels & Resorts brands in the EMEA region, as well as maximising the performance of all new and existing franchise and managed hotels. My main focus is driving the strategic objectives of the company, including quality and technology solutions as well as loyalty, sales and marketing. It’s an extremely exciting time for Wyndham. We have recently announced our spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide and as a pure-play hotel company, we are now more flexible than ever and laser-focused on smart growth, development of our franchisees and elevating of travellers’ experiences.
The past year Dubai has seen more hotel openings, with a number of new hotels due to open in the next two years. What will Wyndham Hotels & Resorts have to do to stay one step ahead of its competition?
It’s a very exciting moment for the travel and hospitality business in UAE. Recent figures highlighted that Dubai welcomed a record 8.10 million international tourists during the first half of 2018. From deserts to attractive beaches, fantastic entertainment and cultural attractions, the UAE is rapidly becoming a hotspot for travellers all across the world. Inbound visitors are starting to see the UAE in a new light. Whilst Dubai previously held a reputation as a primarily luxury destination, there is now a strong demand for mid- scale accommodation, for families and budget-conscious travellers. This is why it’s so important for the hospitality industry to bridge the gap in the current hotel supply to cater to a more diverse traveller. With our strong and diverse brand offering, we want to make travel possible for all. And this is hugely relevant in the UAE, and broadly in the Middle East and North Africa Region. With a growing and diverse portfolio of over 50 operational hotels in the region, a strong pipeline and a growing team of hospitality experts in our Dubai office, we are strongly positioned to meet this objective.
What are Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ unique selling points?
One of our USPs is undoubtedly our diverse and growing portfolio of 20 powerhouse brands, with nearly 9,000 hotels in 80 countries. The diversity of our brands, ranging from upper upscale to economy, and the breadth of our footprint means that Wyndham truly makes travel possible for all.
With a number of new Wyndham Hotels & Resorts opening across the world next year, which one in particular are you most excited about?
We are in the midst of incredible growth in EMEA, and it’s a very exciting time for Wyndham not just for new openings, but also from a quality and new destinations’ perspective. Just to name a few, we are seeing strong momentum in Turkey, where we are the largest hotel group, and have ambitious growth plans. We have expanded our Greek portfolio, in just over 18 months. We are experiencing strong growth in the CIS region, particularly in Georgia, and we are focused on expanding our footprint in the Middle East & Africa by increasing our portfolio of managed hotels and strengthening our franchise business.
What is your plan for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in Europe and the UAE?
There are a number of key markets for us in this region .Turkey for example, is one of them. Not only it is the sixth largest market for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts globally but we are also proud to be the largest hotel group in Turkey. As of July 2018, we have 67 hotels all across this vibrant market. We are committed to maintain our leading position through sustained expansion in this dynamic market.
At the same time, in just over 18 months we have opened seven hotels in Greece, accounting for almost 1,300 rooms. We entered Greece in December 2016 with the opening of Wyndham Grand Athens. The co-located Ramada and Wyndham resorts in Loutraki opened about a year ago to much success and we have continued to establish a larger presence in the Athens area with three additional hotels.
We are experiencing some fantastic momentum in the Middle East too. In the past year alone, we had some key openings across the region, including the world’s largest TRYP by Wyndham in Dubai, with 650 rooms, the introduction of the Wyndham Garden brand in Manama, in Bahrain which is also the largest globally with 441 rooms, as well as in the UAE (Ajman) and we are looking forward to expand the brand’s footprint in Saudi Arabia later this year. We are focused on growing in key destinations across the Middle East, including UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Africa is steadily developing into one of the world’s great regions for travel, and we are strengthening our presence in this market too.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotel interior design?
Authenticity and relevance to the local culture and destination is key, and that’s why design is such an important element of our brand. Our Architecture Design & Innovation team continuously focuses on creating interesting design twists for our brands.
There are some interesting trends emerging in soft brands, where hotels have their own identity and a strong location-inspired design, which guests react positively to. We introduced The Trademark Collection by Wyndham in 2017. It’s a brand aimed at upper mid-scale and above hoteliers who want to maintain that independence whilst benefitting from the perks of a bigger brand, including scale, services and loyalty programme.
Another recent trend is the evolution in business travel – the realms of business and leisure are no longer so distinct and hotels need to recognise this in their design. Flexible and agile office spaces and a new collaborative working culture are integral to the future of design, and hoteliers are considering new design elements and concepts to cater for a new generation of traveller.
Have you noticed any particular trends in hotels in Europe compared to the USA?
Europe has its own strong identity in terms of design and architecture, but they do seem to be taking on a number of trends that have been brewing in the US for a while. The main ones I see in Europe taken on from the US are hi-tech hotels and more mid-scale hotels upping their game – you don’t need to go to a five-star hotel to receive impeccable service or a beautiful room anymore, and that’s a really exciting trend to be a part of. I think Europe and the US are well aligned in their trends – travellers these days are totally global and the hotel industry reflects that.
How important do you feel hotel design has become when launching a new hotel?
Design is absolutely crucial, and often the first thing that people judge a hotel on. People are much more aware of design today, and are likely to decide where to stay depending on the look and feel. Ultimately, it’s part of a brand experience and if it’s not carefully chosen it does have an impact on the hotel and the overall guest experience.
We’ve recently introduced an interesting concept we have for some Ramada hotels here in EMEA based on the relevance of design. Ramada is one of the most recognised hotel brands in the world, welcoming guests to ‘Sample the World’, whether they are venturing to the edge of the earth, or simply to the edge of town. Our Architecture Design & Innovation team has recently designed a new artwork package to reflect that idea in an engaging, playful way to highlight the hotel locations and the global nature of the brand.
Let’s finish with the issue of personal and work life balance. How do you aim to achieve a good balance and what do those closest to you think of your attempts?
Over the years I have been trying to champion this and I have to admit that there is definitely room for improvement! The silver lining is that I am happily married after 23 years and my two teenage daughters still recognise me after so much travelling! All jokes aside, balancing work and private life has its challenges, but I am incredibly lucky to have a family that fully supports me and despite all the travelling, we do spend quality time together and we have a very fulfilling family life.