By 2019, roughly 80% of branded hotels were franchised operations, according to research by JLL. For a brand, the model offers the opportunity to expand its reach more easily across markets, while franchisees benefit from brand recognition.
Greek-born, UK-based Dimitris Manikis is the President and Managing Director EMEA at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, the US chain that has over 9,300 properties in its portfolio across 20 brands, including Wyndham Grand, Ramada and Days Inn. Of these, nearly 9,000 are franchised. We spoke with Manikis to ask about this business model and how franchising is changing.
Click.: What do you see as the main benefits of franchising?
Manikis: Franchising is a model that’s expanding in different industries. It’s one that people understand and where they can see the benefits. From a hospitality perspective, I think franchising is a partnership where hoteliers get personalised support. It offers a global scale that’s attractive to property owners. You can see that in the loyalty rewards program that builds community and delivers business to hotels.
Technology plays a big part too – not all owners can afford to invest in the latest technology, so we can offer support and solutions on that front. And we provide sales and marketing support.
Click: How do you think the franchising model is evolving?
Manikis: More people are asking for the franchise model than before. In the past, major hospitality companies would be asset heavy and they’d all manage the properties that had their names on them.
White label [using third-party software while keeping your own branding] operators on the management side of the business are growing and becoming multi branded. The demands of business owners and asking for franchise opportunities is changing and in order for us to address all those points, we need to change too.
Demographics are evolving and new markets are coming into play, such as The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) region, Central Europe and the Middle East. Different owners have different needs and you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach. Of course, you have certain standards across the board but we try to change and adapt. What’s changing is not so much the model itself but what the owners are looking for.
Click.: With such a large number of hotels across your portfolio how do you maintain standards?
Manikis: It’s not easy. Different regions have different needs and a Ramada in Cincinnati doesn’t have the same needs as a Ramada in Istanbul. But you can’t compromise on certain brand characteristics because one of the reasons a customer chooses a worldwide brand is consistency.
Having said that, we can be quite flexible when it comes to specific needs in certain destinations … and we are open to adapt brand standards and to adapt different hotels in different destinations.
We make sure … we have an operations team that works with owners and GMs to remind them of those standards. You need to make sure you refresh them in order to be relevant and to add value for your franchisees. Above all, you need to take into consideration guest comments, what they’re telling us about our hotels.
Those standards aren’t set in stone. They evolve as hospitality evolves, as technology changes, and as new destinations come on board, so being rigid is not what we do.
Click.: If a smaller hotelier was thinking about taking the plunge to become a franchisee with Wyndham, what would you say to make them go for it?
Manikis: It might sound a bit clichéd but I like to talk about family. Among 9,300 hotels, someone might feel lost in a sea of brands but what I’m proud of is that every single franchisee gets the same attention as those who have been with us for years, or as those who have 15 or 20 properties with us. It’s easy to talk but hard to listen. Becoming a listener in the franchise world is key when it comes to understanding individual needs.
Click.: What impact is technology having on your business?
Manikis: We’ve acquired a lot of brands and it’s rather like being the parent of 20 kids who don’t speak the same language, so we migrated our central reservation system to Sabre SynXis, which was a lot of hard work and a lot of pain, to be honest. Apps that support the hospitality industry are important too – so many people these days use their phones to book hotels. How we access wifi across our whole network is essential too, how all our hotels connect under one solution in terms of both hardware and software.
Click.: When you travel, what do you look for in a hotel?
Manikis: A genuine, authentic smile is, for me, the definition of hospitality. Being able to deal with any challenge in a positive manner.
- Property owners are attracted to franchising, in part, because of the possibilities offered by global scale and being part of a worldwide “family”
- A parent group can help franchises with new technology as well as sales and marketing support
- The model of franchising is not changing so much as what owners are looking for
- Wyndham maintains certain core brand standards across the globe but is mindful of regional differences