KELOWNA — Geoff Ballotti, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, was part of a lively panel that looked at what's happened at Travelodge Canada since Superior Lodging Corp. took over last spring. The panel was part of the Travelodge Canada Brand Conference held at the Coast Capri Hotel in Kelowna, Oct. 26-28.
Ballotti, who spent Oct. 25 visiting six Wyndham hotels in the Kelowna area, noted that people at those hotels were now pushing Wyndham rewards, thanks to a revamped rewards program that included the Wyndham Wyzard, and a simple formula that now allows members to use 15,000 points for a free night at any Wyndham property.
“That didn't happen a year ago,” Ballotti said. He noted that Wyndham Rewards is now rated number two among reward programs, behind Marriott. “Marriott has a tiered membership program, and that's what we are going to do next,” Ballotti said.
Ballotti noted that Wyndham now has 508 hotels in Canada with 40,000 rooms. Eleven of Wyndham's 15 brands are represented including Super 8, Days Inns and Travelodge (first, second and third in terms of numbers of hotels), Wingate by Wyndham, Wyndham Garden Inn, Ramada, Microtel, Howard Johnson, Tryp by Wyndham, Knights Inn and Dolce. Wyndham has opened more than 20 hotels in Canada in the last six months, and has 50 more hotels in the pipeline, Ballotti said.
Ballotti said he was delighted when he heard about the Superior deal to take over Travelodge last spring, and praised Marc Staniloff, president and CEO of Superior Lodging Corp. and his team. He told CLN Marc was the first hotel customer he met when he joined Wyndham to run RCI in 2008. Ballotti said he was feeling a little lost, when Marc invited him to play golf in his foursome. “We have been great friends ever since,” Ballotti said.
“There are 91 Travelodges in Canada, and Travelodge has been the most consistent grower for us of late in Canada,” he said. Seven Travelodges have opened this year, and five more are in the pipe.
He said he liked the way Staniloff reacted to the six owners they met in Kelowna, offering insights and suggestions. “I love the way he thinks, and he is a great builder of teams,” Ballotti said.
Keri Putera, vice-president brand operations for Travelodge, who also participated in the panel, assumed leadership for the brand right before Wyndham's global conference last spring.
In a subsequent panel, Tony Pollard, president of the Hotel Association of Canada, said that HAC is an advocate for the industry. His association has devoted a lot of time and effort to convincing the government that lodging is a big and important industry that employs 290,000 people, and brings in $17 billion in revenue, plus another $16.5 billion for suppliers. They have achieved success including increasing funding for marketing Canada in the U.S. and getting more dollars for tourism. He is optimistic that with the new Liberal government, they will keep building on the last 10 years.
“It's going to be good,” he said.