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Published on: Feb. 19, 2022, 1:51 p.m.
Fifty and counting!
  • Ramada Plaza, Wyndham, Lucknow, Hotel and Convention Centre

By Suman Tarafdar

As hospitality models go, franchising is not usually the most popular option. Indeed, none of the largest global hospitality brands – or Indian – follow the model. Except for one notable exception – the New Jersey, US headquartered Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. As the world’s largest and most well-known franchise-based hotel brand, Wyndham now has over 9,000 hotels globally. Hugely popular in North America, its presence in India is just about a decade old, and has just reached 50-odd hotels in India.

While the company’s flagship brand is Wyndham, it has over 20 brands globally, six of which are present in India. Easily the best known of these in India is the mid-scale brand Ramada, of which there are 28 in the country, apart from eight Ramada Plaza and three Ramada Encore hotels. Also present in India are the luxury end Wyndham (2), Howard Johnson (3) Days (1), Days Hotel (4) and Hawthorn Suites (1). Internationally, the group, which is present in 95 countries, has other well-known brands, such as Travelodge, Wingate, Baymont, Super 8, La Quinta and TRYP among others.

“We now operate 50+ hotels, which is a significant milestone in our continued growth objectives to introduce even more accommodation options across the country,” says Nikhil Sharma, regional director, Eurasia, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “We are committed to continuing our growth across the sub-Indian continent, hosting a development pipeline of about 30 hotels, with seven expected to open in early 2022. These include destinations such as Gangtok, Siliguri, Jammu-Katra, and Khopoli.”

The group has opened a number of hotels during the pandemic, including Wyndham Ahmedabad Shela, Ramada by Wyndham Varanasi, Katesar, Wyndham Chandigarh Mohali, Howard Johnson by Wyndham Udaipur Roop Nagar, Ramada by Wyndham, Jaipur besides Ramada Encore by Wyndham Kathmandu Thamel. It has also announced the signing of Ramada Plaza by Wyndham Navi Mumbai. The group has its largest presence by number of hotels in Rajasthan with nine hotels, while Punjab and Uttar Pradesh have six each.

Despite the huge setback to the Indian hospitality sector during the pandemic, Sharma remains optimistic about the prospects of the sector. “One of the fastest-growing economies globally, India brings immense potential for the hospitality industry,” says Sharma. “We look forward to continuing our strong growth trajectory here and in the wider Indian sub-continent, making travel possible for all in a beautiful and diverse region.”

Growth during Covid times

“Despite the challenges brought on by Covid-19, Wyndham’s strong, stable, asset-light business model showcased that it could deliver results in any environment,” argues Sharma. “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.”

The new normal includes changes that are here to stay. “The adoption of contactless solutions and digitalisation has been accelerated due to the pandemic,” says Sharma. “Since the pandemic, adopting contactless and digital solutions has played a crucial part in supporting our partners with providing guests memorable and safe experiences.”

  • Sharma: India brings immense potential

    Sharma: India brings immense potential

During the early stages of Covid-19, the group introduced Wyndham Easy Book for the SME/MSME – “an initiative put into place to support the return of corporate travel, where we have seen some positive signs of recovery as of late,” points out Sharma. “Our hotels based in key leisure destinations saw a large uptick, as well as some positive signs of recovery in more business-focussed destinations such as Mussoorie, Udaipur, Jaipur, Kasauli, and Darjeeling. Weddings also made a return and supported the rise of revenues and occupancies.”

Another novel feature was the ‘Count on Us’ long-term hygiene initiative as part of the group’s long-term efforts to build confidence among guests and support its partners. The programme focusses on further enhancing a broad range of health and safety protocols at the hotel-levels such as consistent use of top-of-the-range disinfectants at hotels, introduction of new training and guidelines and ongoing access to critical health essentials through trusted suppliers.

Next, “We created Wyndham Easy Book to support everyday business travellers, targeting small to mid-size businesses,” says Sharma. “These travellers get more accessibility and a simplified booking process, along with competitive rates available at many Wyndham hotels around the world. As virtual interactions have become the norm for many during the pandemic, we wanted to bring something different by allowing attendees to join a live event while keeping the engagement high. Our hybrid meeting solution combines live-streaming capabilities with in-person participation to encourage higher attendance and support corporate business recovery.”

The group introduced the Oracle Hospitality Opera Cloud Property Management (PMS), a new mobile-enabled platform that helps hotels enhance guest personalisation, lower cost and improve operational efficiencies. The initiative provides hotels with tools to gain a competitive advantage. It is now available at nearly 100 properties globally. The group expects about 20 per cent of its full-service portfolio to adopt it in the next 12 months, with the majority migrating in the next few years.

Wyndham has also rolled out a new suite of revenue management tools for franchised and managed hotels in EMEA. The new initiative will equip participating hotels with stronger and enhanced visualisation of revenue performance metrics and is part of Wyndham’s long-standing partnership with OTA Insight, a leading cloud-based data intelligence platform.

  • Wyndham, Ahmedabad Shela

Road ahead

Being the world’s largest hotel franchising company, we have continued our asset light strategy and delivered sustained growth, says Sharma. “Focussing investments on improving the engagement and motivation of existing staff and cutting down on unnecessary amenities is a great way to save on costs, without putting the business or the guest experience at risk,” adds Sharma.

Reviewing systems and operations and implementing technology that improves day-to-day operations or will support cost-saving is important as it helps businesses to be successful in the future. “We have provided recovery guides highlighting best commercial practices for preserving cash flow, marketing tools and resources for navigating through these challenging times.”

“Heading into 2022, our focus at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts will continue to be the health, safety and well-being of our guests, team members and partners,” stresses Sharma. “I believe domestic travel will maintain its stronghold on the market, as we continue on the road to recovery. Government guidelines and regulations will continue to impact the industry, with agility and adaptability playing a crucial role. As history has shown, the hospitality industry is notoriously resilient, and we feel confident that it will rebound faster than ever.” 

Wyndham, and the rest of Indian hospitality, will be keeping fingers crossed for that.

  • Ramada is Wyndham's best known brand in India

Better placed to recover?

Brands are playing a significant role in rebuilding consumer confidence, observes Nikhil Sharma, regional director, Eurasia, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. “Being a part of a well-known brand gives hotel partners access to technology, safety, protocols, and distribution channels, which ultimately helps to rebuild guest confidence. Brands deliver more direct bookings through loyalty members, who stay longer and spend more. Brands also generate significant distribution and operating cost savings through lower procurement, technology, and labour costs.

“We have built our portfolio of renowned hotel brands primarily through acquisitions, enabling us to meet travellers’ leisure and business travel needs across a wide range of price points, experiences and destinations. We have established an extensive track record of successfully integrating franchise systems and enhancing the performance of brands post-acquisition by leveraging our operating best practices, significant scale, award-winning Wyndham Rewards loyalty programme and access to global distribution networks, producing substantial cost synergies for our franchisees and us. We intend to build upon our past success by opportunistically acquiring and integrating brands into our franchising platform.”

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