By Colleen Isherwood,
LAS VEGAS – A massive ramp opened on the stage and Eric
Danziger, president and CEO of Wyndham Hotel Group, emerged as Iron Man.
theatrics were not without precedent – at past conferences Danziger has landed
in a space shuttle and climbed Mount Everest. Reaching into his extensive
“Halloween closet,” Danziger appeared as characters from Superman, Spiderman,
The Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Lincoln, and – in line with this year’s conference
theme, Together 2013 – The Avengers.
One of the highlights of the opening session of the
conference, held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this week and attracting 6,000
owners and GMs, was the announcement of a marketing campaign to be launched on
U.S. television in 2014, that would encompass all 15 Wyndham brands.
The other highlight is what Wyndham calls the
“reinvigoration” of Howard Johnson. When Danziger came to Wyndham four years
ago, one of his priorities was improvement of the iconic HoJo brand.
“Howard Johnson is a brand that for millions of travellers
conjures fond memories of ice cream cones and family vacations,” said Danziger.
“It’s a name that carries with it incredible equity. Reinvigoration is about
growing the brand and restoring it to its rightful place within the industry by
inspiring that same type of brand loyalty and affinity from a new generation of
As part of the unveiling, the brand shared conceptual interior
and exterior designs that will begin appearing at yet-to-be-announced test
locations throughout the U.S. as early as the end of next year. Best described
as clean, fresh, fun and timeless, the designs showcase a new Howard Johnson
that while modern in look and feel, offers a playful nod to its past.
As an example, HoJo used to be famous for its 28 flavours of
ice cream, and the brand is looking at ways to bring select flavours of ice
cream back as a signature offering at all of its hotels.
Also unveiled were early details around a new service
training initiative that will launch as part of the larger project, an effort
the brand believes will play an integral role shaping the overall guest
experience at hotels.
“We want people to celebrate its rich history without
becoming too retro,” said John Valletta, president, Howard Johnson. “We want to
focus on memories – ice cream and the colour orange.” He also wants HoJo to
compete in the midscale segment once again, as the brand has often been
competing in the economy sector.
“It’s for kids at heart of every age. The design is fun and
shows we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”