Each month, ExpertFlyer sits down with an executive in the travel industry to provide insight to changes in the industry and how it affects the way you do business. It’s another way ExpertFlyer is providing additional information to empower the business traveler.
This month ExpertFlyer sat down with Flo Lugli, Executive Vice President, Marketing for Wyndham Hotel Group, the largest hotel company in the world. Flo discusses how the travel industry has been affected by the recent recession and how business travelers can take advantage of special offers and programs available to them.
“We don’t expect to get back to pre-recession levels for some time, but we are encouraged by the leading indicators. People still need to get together. They still need to do business.”
– Flo Lugli, executive vice president, Marketing, Wyndham Hotel Group
How big is Wyndham Hotel Group – how many properties, brands and in how many countries?
Wyndham Hotel Group is the world’s largest hotel company with more than 7,100 hotels and 597,000 rooms in 67 countries. We have 11 brands, including Wyndham Hotels and Resorts®, Ramada®, Days Inn®, Super 8®, Wingate® by Wyndham, Baymont Inn & Suites®, Microtel Inns & Suites®, Hawthorn Suites® by Wyndham, Howard Johnson®, Travelodge® and Knights Inn®.
What is the demographic of your company’s “typical” business traveler?
With eleven hotel brands spanning the economy to upper-upscale segments, we offer lodging to just about every kind of business traveler.
For instance, our upscale Wyndham brand accommodates those looking for a more personalized experience as offered through our Wyndham ByRequest program, which provides a welcome snack and beverage as selected by the guest, free Internet access, expedited check-in and extras, like towels and pillows the way a guest likes them.
Brands, such as Days Inn and Ramada, cater to those business travelers looking for added value. Our brands not only have reasonable rates but many also offer free Internet access and complimentary breakfast. Those are two big pluses when guests are looking to save money while they are on the road.
What are the current customer travel trends and how are these trends shaping Wyndham Hotel Group’s offerings and operations?
It’s a difficult economic climate we are living in and it is no secret that many consumers are looking for value. They are also waiting to book their hotel stays a bit later than usual.
Our brands have always provided consumers with value. As mentioned, most of our brands offer free Internet access and breakfast. We also offer consumer promotions including the Baymont brand’s “Stay 2 Nights, Save $20” promotion or Howard Johnson’s Double Dribble promotion that offered guests free Harlem Globetrotter tickets. Some brands, such as Ramada, are using social networking tools to offer value. Ramada’s “Just for You” promotion provided consumers exclusive discounts through an email link distributed to friends and family.
Tell us about Wyndham Rewards? Are there any plans for new offerings or changes to the program this year?
The Wyndham Rewards loyalty program is the world’s largest lodging loyalty program. It offers members the opportunity to earn points by staying at participating Wyndham Hotel Group properties, shopping with select retailers and using their Wyndham Rewards credit card.
Points are redeemable for free hotel stays with no blackout dates in the U.S. and Canada, airline tickets and dining and shopping gift cards, among other options. In lieu of points, members may elect to earn airline or rail miles with a variety of vendors.
The Wyndham Rewards loyalty program is available in more than 20 countries including Germany, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Mexico. Much of the program’s expansion occurred just this past year. Recent additions to the program’s earning and redemption network include Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental.
We are always looking at how we should evolve the program to make it as robust and useful as possible for members.
Why would a business traveler consider your hotels? What’s different about the Wyndham Hotel Group experience?
Wyndham Hotel Group offers travelers the most hotel choices with regard to location and type of property – we have just about every kind of hotel, almost everywhere, to fit any budget. This means that travelers have many opportunities to earn points that they can use for free night stays, merchandise, rental cars, and more.
Are there any specific offerings or programs designed to benefit business travelers and frequent flyers, i.e. relationships with airlines, collaborative programs?
Absolutely. In addition to the opportunity to earn airline miles, we often feature member-only promotions with car rental and airline partners that can help members make the most of their travels. For example, we recently ran a promotion offering bonus airline miles with many of our airline partners for stays at Wyndham Hotel Group properties.
In your opinion, what cost-saving measures can business travelers take to maximize their travel budgets?
Travelers should book as far in advance as possible and they should stay at hotels with a free breakfast and free Internet access. Joining rewards programs is always smart and asking the front desk clerk for good and inexpensive lunch and dinner recommendations helps too.
Generally speaking, do you think business travel is moving back toward its pre-market crash numbers or has it leveled off, still short of what it was about 2 years ago?
Business travel isn’t back yet but we are seeing some signs of a recovery. The meetings business has also seemed to have started to recover. We don’t expect to get back to pre-recession levels for some time, but we are encouraged by the leading indicators. People still need to get together. They still need to do business. And our broad scope of hotels and price points, coupled with our rewards program, uniquely positions us to deliver value to travelers.
Has Wyndham noticed certain parts of the country (or world) that seem to fair better (or worse) than others during the recession?
Most everywhere has been hit hard. There are some countries, in the Middle East for example, where the impact hasn’t been as significant, but for the most part, we’re all in this together.
In what areas do you see the next uptick? (High end, budget, leisure, business, etc.?)
We’re expecting to see more and more travelers looking for accommodations in the upscale and midscale segments since inconspicuous consumption is the current trend, and value is in vogue. Leisure travel and drive vacations will also outperform the business/air travel market.
How do you think Wyndham is best positioned to take advantage of that?
As mentioned, Wyndham Hotel Group is uniquely positioned to satisfy the requirements of all kinds of travelers, regardless of their travel occasion. Our Wyndham brand is an excellent choice for those looking for a personalized, upscale experience and our midscale brands such as Ramada, Wingate by Wyndham, Baymont and Howard Johnson are just right for guests seeking value (free internet access and breakfast, as examples) for the price they pay. These brands are located in key and center-city areas as well as resort destinations, all appropriate to leisure travel.
Can you tell us which airlines you work with to create special offers or co-promotions?
I encourage you to visit WyndhamRewards.com to check out all of our partners but we’re associated with the following specific airlines:
Aeromexico, Aeroplan, Air Berlin, Air China, American
China Eastern, China Southern, Continental, Czech
Southwest, Spirit, Sun Country
United, US Airways