DIMITRIS MANIKIS, PRESIDENT EMEA WYNDHAM HOTELS & RESORTS
Born and raised in Athens, as part of a family whose values and focus were to always ‘do the right thing’ held Dimitris Manikis in good stead for a life in hospitality. Here, he shares with SPACE his future plans for continued growth at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts
Tell us a little about your journey into hospitality?
I hold a bachelor’s degree in Tourism and Administration from the Technical University of Patras in Greece, and an MSc Postgraduate degree in Tourism Marketing from the University of Surrey in the UK. My passion for people and my work ethic comes from my father, who built up a grocery retail business in Athens where I learned the value of elevated customer service, having a positive outlook and hard work as being the foundations of success in both business and life.
What is your role within the group and what does that involve?
As the President for Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, I am responsible for the development of all of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ brands in the EMEA region as well as maximising the performance of all new and existing franchise and managed hotels. I focus on driving the strategic objectives of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts including quality and technology solutions as well as new business, loyalty, sales, and marketing.
Which areas of the business are you currently focused on?
Despite the ongoing challenges that the travel industry continues to face, we remain steadfast in our commitment to make hotel travel possible for all. This year we expanded our presence in well established markets and introduced new brands to new markets. To name a few, we recently debuted the Wyndham brand in Poland in the beautiful city of Wroclaw, we continued to expand our Trademark Collection by Wyndham, with our first brand launch in Portugal, in a central location in Porto as well as welcomed our TRYP by Wyndham brand in the Greek island of Corfu. We reached 50 hotels in India, one the fastest growing economies and sought-after destinations in the world. Finally, we introduced our Wyndham Garden brand in Turkey, in the beautiful Antalya and more hotels across the country where we are incredibly proud to be the largest international hotel company by number of properties. Upcoming, we have around 30 more highly anticipated hotel openings in EMEA for the rest of the year which me and the team are very much looking forward to.
Which aspect of your role do you find most challenging?
Like with everything in life there are challenges and rewards. In my case I am lucky and blessed by the fact that the rewards significantly outperform the challenges.
Yes, there are work life balance challenges, priorities constantly changing to reflect the change in the market realities and curve balls we need to deal with BUT there are so many aspects of the role that I find rewarding. A great example is our commitment to protecting the environment in which we live and work as part of our strategic vision for fostering a value-driven culture. In terms of initiatives, Wyndham Green is our global sustainability programme, a five-level certification programme that helps reduce a hotel’s environmental footprint by helping properties to improve energy efficiency, reduce emissions, conserve water, and reduce waste. We have seen incredibly strong engagement in the programme. Over two thirds of our properties are currently enrolled on the Wyndham Green programme since its EMEA relaunch in February 2021.
We are also proud to be part of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the leading global network of responsible hospitality. The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance recently launched the Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality for the Planet. The vision of the Pathway is that every hotel around the world can, and must, aim for net positive environmental impacts, whatever their starting point. To achieve this goal, the Pathway provides a practical, four-stage guidance framework as a free resource that supports all parts of the hospitality value chain to progress in a cohesive, strategic manner. We have a collective responsibility to collaborate as an industry and move quickly to reduce our environmental impact. We believe we can make great progress through an active participation with organisations like the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.
How are your sustainability goals being met?
Wyndham recently introduced a new brand standard, which will require all Franchised Wyndham Hotels & Resorts properties to complete Level 1 of the Wyndham Green Certification Programme by April 2023. Managed properties will be required to reach a minimum standard of Wyndham Green Level 2 by the end of 2022. At present, 100% of our Managed Hotels within EMEA have reached the required Brand Standard of Wyndham Green Level 1 compliance and an additional 40% of those have achieved Level 2 or higher. The already high and increasing levels of participation we are seeing across the EMEA region for the Wyndham Green programme is a reflection of the dedication and determination our properties have for tackling the on-going climate crisis and recovering from COVID-19 in a positive and more sustainable way.
What do you believe is behind the continued growth and success of Wyndham?
Without thinking about it or hesitating, I would say that our success is mainly due to our people. Hospitality is a people business and without them and their passion, engagement, and love for what they do, no plan, and no strategy would ever end up being a success. I look back since the start of the pandemic and see all the remarkable things our people in every level have done for their clients, for each other and for the community and I know that with them on my side, no barrier and no obstacle is strong enough to hold us back. Throughout these challenging times, our focus at Wyndham 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.
In addition to our Count on Me ethos, we are willing to adapt with the everchanging market. For example, technology was already playing a key role in our industry, but COVID-19 has further accelerated the pace of digital adoption. To further support the demand for contactless solutions, Wyndham rolled out a new mobile app which prioritises low-contact in-stay features to provide travellers with a reimagined user experience.
We also introduced the Oracle Hospitality OPERA Cloud Property Management (PMS), a new mobile-enabled platform that helps hotels enhance guest personalisation, lower costs and continue to improve operational efficiencies. The initiative provides hotel with tools to gain competitive advantage.
Could you share Wyndham’s latest plans for entry into the extended-stay market?
This is definitely an area that continues to generate demand from guests and developers alike. As many companies around the world have transitioned to working remotely, employees and managers have recognised the benefits of increased flexibility, autonomy, and work-life balance. It is a trend that is here to stay.
In 2021 we announced the openings of several resorts in various leisure destinations in Europe under a combined extended-stay ‘Residences’ offering within existing brands. These properties bring upper-upscale, upscale and midscale accommodation options for families and extended stay guests who seek to combine business and leisure.
At the same time, we launched our economy extended stay ECHO project in the North American market with 50 committed and signed new build projects already. We will be looking to bring the new concept into the EMEA region very soon bearing in mind that the market is ready, and it needs an extended stay alternative in the economy space.
How will Project ECHO differ from your many competitors?
When Wyndham unveiled the new details about “Project ECHO,” our upcoming economy extended-stay hotel brand we did so by including the newly awarded franchise contracts for 50 new construction projects with its first two developers: Richmond, Va.-based Sandpiper Hospitality and Topeka, Kan.-based Gulf Coast Hotel Management.
Operating under the working title “Project ECHO”—an acronym for Economy Hotel Opportunity—the all new-construction brand fills whitespace within the larger Wyndham portfolio while strategically expanding the company into a segment that has seen record growth and resiliency, not just amid the pandemic but throughout the last lodging cycle. Wyndham has been developing and working through the brand details since summer 2021.
This is a timely and natural fit for Wyndham as the leader in the economy segment—we’re well positioned to become a key player in the economy extended stay space. We also bring two things that no other hotel company offers, an owner-first mentality as well as the scale, distribution, and resources of the world’s largest hotel franchising company.
What is currently Wyndham’s most ambitious project?
Our most ambitious project is to continue our growth across the globe and to do it in a way which aligns with our values, culture, and DNA as a business. We have such a strong sense of purpose and duty of care and our ambition is to enhance it despite the many challenges and obstacles in the way.
Are there preparations in place to counter the possibility of a global recession?
This is now becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, so we are having regular internal discussions around the plans, the ways to address the possible recession but will also continue to focus on the needs and objectives of the business. We have learnt to focus and worry only about controlling the controllable and this is what we do on a daily basis.
Where do you go on holiday?
I am biased! I have a timeshare on the island of Paros which I visit very regularly. I also love exploring the places in Greece that I haven’t yet managed to visit because of the years I have been travelling abroad.
What is your favourite city?
Apart from Athens, I love Cape Town as apart from it being a wonderful city, it is the diversity, the people and the generosity that makes it a beautiful place to visit.
Where is your favourite view?
Again, I’m biased! Sitting at a roof top bar in Athens looking at the Acropolis and the Parthenon is my favourite view in the world. This monument has been standing there against all odds for thousands of years reminding us of the greatness of the human spirit.
How do you switch off from work?
Cooking is the best way to destress and a very creative way to experiment with new things. I highly recommended it.