HB ON THE SCENE: Wyndham Eyes 2,000 Hotels in China, Global Growth

LAS VEGAS—With Wyndham Hotel Group (WHG) outlining some 30 new brand initiatives, unveiling prototypes and highlighting the repositioning of its 16 brands at this year’s conference, focus for the company is on the future. And its executive team made clear that the future for Wyndham isn’t just North America—here’s what the company expects across international markets.

Paulo Pena, president and managing director, Latin America and Caribbean, reported that the region has 165 hotels currently across 12 brands and 18 countries. “Last year, we had a record year in our region; we opened over 5,000 rooms,” he told members of the media, noting that this was 90% growth over the prior year. “This year we have a very strong growth momentum again, and have opened just over 1,200 rooms year to date.”

Last year, Wyndham introduced several brands to new countries: Wyndham to Argentina and Brazil, Baymont Inn & Suites to Mexico, Days Inn to Guatemala and Tryp by Wyndham to Mexico and Puerto Rico. “We continue to add new brands to new countries,” said Pena.

Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and Peru are significant countries for the company. “They have been our focus markets and we’re now introducing Argentina and Chile as new markets where we see opportunity,” said Pena, citing Argentina’s recent economic and political changes as factors. Research Wyndham commissioned earlier this year on these six markets found that there’s an opportunity for 450,000 new hotel rooms in those countries between now and 2025. “The Caribbean is also a major growth opportunity for us as well,” he added.

According to Pena, the growth can be attributed to the growing middle class in Latin America. “As the middle class grows, as consumers become more aware of brands and what’s available outside the region through technology and their own travel, preference for brands continues,” he said.

Daniel Ruff, president and managing director, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa, said that the strategy in these markets is simple: “We want to make sure our guests have whatever type of hotel they want to stay in wherever they go.” Noting that this is a bold statement given the diverse and huge geographies, Ruff said, “We’ve seen really good growth in East Africa, for example, but we’ve just scratched the surface. We’re going to be the biggest hotel company in Ethiopia; 10 years ago, you had a lot of NGO money going into the market to support the poverty efforts, and now private equity money is going in.

“That’s what’s so exciting about our diverse landscape,” he continued. “I’ve got Ethiopia, where you have money pouring in from all over the world with hotels popping up left and right, and then there’s Germany, the powerhouse of Europe where we have 100 hotels and we’re just beginning.”

Turkey is another big market for Wyndham. “We opened our 50th hotel this week, and we’ll probably double that in the next couple of years,” said Ruff. “We want to make sure that from Wyndham Grand to Super 8, we’ve got hotels for the guests. What’s exciting is we’ve got significant footprints in a lot of countries, but we’re not even close to reaching our potential.”

Leo Liu, president and managing director, Greater China, called 2015 a record year for Wyndham in the region. “We literally opened a hotel every 30 hours,” he said. This accounts for 245 hotels. Currently, there are 1,208 Wyndham-branded properties open in China. “We are by far the largest U.S.-based hotel company in China,” he said, noting that three brands were introduced to the country this year: Tryp by Wyndham, Microtel Inn & Suites and Wingate by Wyndham. 

“Our goal is to exceed 2,000 hotels within three years,” Liu reported. “It’s very ambitious, but we can do it because the market is huge, demand is very large and there’s plenty of opportunity for us to continue our success.”

Barry Robinson, president and managing director, South East Asia and Pacific Rim, turned to other parts of Asia. “Leo and the team have done a great job in China,” he said. “The China market is exploding. If you look at every inbound market within Asia, the U.S. and Europe, the exponential numbers of the inbound Chinese tourism is extraordinary. Having a great brand presence in China is really helping us in other regions to grow our product. We’ve gotten more serious about other parts of Asia,” he said, pointing to the dedicated office in Singapore for both hotels and vacation ownership.

“We have just over 100 properties outside of China [in the region]; we’re the largest international operator in Korea,” he reported, adding that there are some 2,000 rooms in the pipeline in that market. Attractive markets include Indonesia and Vietnam—“good, stable, buoyant countries that we see huge potential in,” said Robinson. “Watch this space—there’s huge potential.”

—Nicole Carlino