By Colleen Isherwood, Editor
LAS VEGAS — In the past 18 months, Wyndham Hotel Group has democratized travel by revamping its rewards program. This year, definition of its 16 brands, quality control, and growth — including Canadian growth — were on the agenda at their annual conference held Sept. 11-15 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. They also added seven new construction prototypes to their list of achievements.
The goal of the Wyndham Rewards program, with its distinctive Wyzard, which was recently named No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report Best Travel Awards, was to make points redemption simple and accessible to all kinds of travellers, from economy to luxury. Wyndham's brands cover the full spectrum from budget to luxe, with a concentration in the economy and midscale sectors. Wyndham Rewards also created an umbrella structure to let guests know that Howard Johnson, Days Inn, Super 8 and Wyndham Grand are all part of the Wyndham hotel family — and eligible for rewards points.
This year, Wyndham refreshed its marketing campaigns and websites to make the the hotels look more appealing and simplify the booking process.
The company also announced new guest-facing initiatives that reinforce the unique positioning of each of brand. This transformation will keep the company’s brands relevant for the everyday traveller and enhance their hotel experiences wherever they go and however they choose to stay.
Vampires beware. Big things happen when you “Bask in the Sun.” That’s the tagline behind Days Inn’s new multi-million-dollar marketing campaign, which in addition to showcasing a new brand voice also highlights the hotel powerhouse’s newly discovered funny bone. Created by Toronto-based Giants & Gentlemen, the company responsible for past Days Inn Canada campaigns, it debuted in the U.S. and Canada on Sept. 13 across TV, digital, social and mobile. Days Inn also announced a three-phase program to refresh its hotels with this new brand positioning, with the first step, exterior uplighting, to be fully implemented by 2018.
Say hello to Red
At Ramada, the new brand definition includes a new marketing campaign called Say hello to Red, because red represents life, energy and passion. Launching in mid-September across the U.S. and Canada, it leverages the brand’s signature colour while highlighting Ramada’s expanding global reach and the warm, welcoming hospitality of its hotels. The campaign will span TV, digital and outdoor, among other media.
Super 8 to Innov8te
Super 8, North America’s largest economy hotel brand, now has guestrooms with soothing colour palettes, sleek finishes, updated bedding, modern amenities and new, hyper-local artwork. The Innov8te design will be featured in all 1,800 Super 8 hotels by the end of 2016.
Marc Staniloff of Superior Lodging Corp., Canadian master franchisor for Super 8, says hotels that have implemented the Innov8te rooms with their large headboards featuring local photographs, have already seen an ADR bump and have the added benefit of stimulating interest in nearby attractions. The Innov8te rooms have already arrived in Canadian Super 8s.
Other brand definers include a pilot “text request” program for Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndham — the first-ever at an economy brand — and a new “Grab and Go” breakfast bento box at Travelodge and Ramada.
Strengthening quality and quantity
Wyndham Hotel Group is strengthening the overall quality of its growing footprint, but is unwavering in its approach to removing hotels that no longer meet quality standards — a number which has increased three fold in just a few years. As unfit properties leave its system, Wyndham Hotel Group aims to attract higher-rated hotels through conversions, closing the quality gap and elevating the calibre of hotels within its portfolio.
The company also stresses new construction, driven by its seven LEED-certifiable economy and midscale prototype designs. Microtel, Wyndham Garden, Wingate and Hawthorn are among the brands with prototypes. This plays a crucial role in hotel quality, as new builds now account for 66 percent of the company’s current development pipeline.
The evolution of Wyndham Rewards
Wyndham Rewards has been one of the company's biggest success stories over the past 18 months, with the company's loyalty program moving up the ranks to its No. 1 rating by U.S. News and World Report. The program has added seven million new members since then, bringing the total to 46 million. More than one million reward nights have been redeemed.
The company has now added Members Levels, Blue, Gold, Diamond and Platinum, plus a Titanium level for owners and managers whose properties meet certain quality standards. Members were lined up at the convention to see if they qualified.
“There is a Titanium level for you, our owners,” said Geoff Ballotti, Wyndham company president and CEO, introducing the initiative. “You receive 15,000 points, automatic suite upgrades, the ability to give gold to friends and family, and a dedicated concierge. Owners have to operate their hotels at an A or B level, and there are 3,300 in this room.”
“We open two hotels every day of the year – growing faster than any hotel company on the planet – so an integral part of delivering greater guest experiences is educating and enabling our owners to more easily and expediently manage their hotels’ reputations online through our proprietary WynReview,” said Ballotti.
“Canada is unbelievable,” he told CLN in a media roundtable. “We have five brands with 10,000 rooms, and great partners like Marc [Staniloff of Superior Lodging] and Irwin [Prince of Realstar Hospitality]. Canada is critically important for us.
“It's a tale of really strong economy in certain areas, and challenges in oil and gas markets. There were setbacks such as the [Fort McMurray] fire.
“We feel your pain — those in all markets struggling with occupancy half of what it was a few years back.”
Ballotti also noted that, “In the last 48 hours [at the conference], developers have seen great opportunities to begin buying or building. Bob Loewen's development team is looking at 16 brands — five of which have critical mass in Canada.”
Wyndham Hotel Group’s Global Conference is one of the world’s largest gatherings of hoteliers, bringing together nearly 6,000 franchisees representing the company’s nearly 8,000 hotels in 73 countries.