The world's largest and most diverse hotel company seeks to further boost its reach across the region– particularly within the mid-market sector, he added.
Wyndham operates hotels in different locations across the world including Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, Turkey, Germany, the UK, the Caribbean and Margarita Island in Venezuela.
Below is Mubasher’s exclusive interview with Ignace Bauwens, Regional VP Middle East, Eurasia and Africa of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts:
Mubasher: What is the number of hotels part of the group?
Ignace Bauwens: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is a hospitality powerhouse with over 9,000 hotels across more than 80 countries. Through a network of over 798,000 rooms, and a portfolio of 20 brands globally, our vision is to make hotel travel possible for all. We offer a diverse range of brands from economy to upper upscale, and a large and growing footprint to ensure that whenever and however guests want to travel, there is a Wyndham hotel to suit their needs.
Mubasher: What is the size of the company's regional portfolio, and is the company planning to expand locally and regionally?
Ignace Bauwens: As of December 2018, our portfolio includes 57 operational hotels and over 10,900 rooms in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) and a further 22 under development across the region, which will add over 4,000 hotel rooms to our portfolio over the next three years. We have seen solid growth across MEA, with our hotel room portfolio having grown by over 30% in the past two years alone, also marking our entry into the Kuwait market in 2017.
Saudi Arabia is an important market for us, and it is our second largest in the Middle East by number of operational hotels. In December this year, we further strengthened our presence there with the opening of four new properties, including the introduction of our Wyndham Garden and Howard Johnson by Wyndham brands, increasing our number of operational hotels to 15 and over 2,300 rooms, with more openings planned for the next two years.
In 2018 we proudly became the largest international hotel operator by number of hotel rooms (over 1,100) in Bahrain with the openings of Wyndham Garden Manama - the world’s largest in our Wyndham Garden collection with 441 rooms – and Wyndham Grand Manama, which is located in 19 floors of the United Tower, an iconic landmark which features a twisting shape and 360-degree unobstructed views of the Kingdom.
Overall, we have expanded our development pipeline for the region, with a major focus on addressing the gap in the mid-market sector in particular. This will continue to be our focus as we look to further expand our footprint across the region.
Mubasher: What is Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ model – do you own the properties or work on a partnership model?
Ignace Bauwens: Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has an asset-light business model. We work with partners on both franchised and managed agreements depending on different factors including business objectives and market of operations, amongst others.
Mubasher: Does the company have any plans for future mergers or acquisitions?
Ignace Bauwens: In 2018 we completed the acquisition of La Quinta - one of the largest midscale brands with 900 hotels in the US, Canada, Mexico, Honduras and Colombia - which has bolstered our leadership position in the midscale hotel segment.
Whether it’s through strategic acquisitions or organic growth, Wyndham has a long track record of spotting opportunities in the market. We are however not in a position to address the topic of any potential future acquisitions.
Mubasher: What are the most important future projects that the company intends to announce in the coming period?
Ignace Bauwens: In December 2018, we announced that we will be launching three new managed hotels in Dubai within the next 2 years, which will operate under the Wyndham, Days by Wyndham and Super 8 by Wyndham brands. The addition of these new properties, which will be situated along the Dubai creek in the southern part of Deira, will provide a further draw to domestic and international business and leisure visitors to the UAE seeking accommodation suited to a range of budgets.
Overall, our focus is to be the region’s leading player in the mid-market hotel segment, striving to elevate the experience of the everyday traveller. With a growing and diverse portfolio, we are strongly positioned to capitalise to meet this objective. Looking ahead, we are focused on growing our portfolio where we know travellers want to be. When we think about our opportunities for growth, our highest potential markets are a mixture of places where we already have an established and strong presence, as well as up-and-coming destinations where there is a need for internationally recognised brands, such as Africa.
Mubasher: Are there plans for expansion into any new markets within the region?
Ignace Bauwens: We have seen dramatic expansion of our presence across the UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia and other key markets, and with a robust pipeline in place, we see substantial opportunities to further expand our reach across the region – particularly within the mid-market sector.
Within the wider MEA region, Africa is steadily developing into one of the world’s great regions for travel, and we are strengthening our presence in this market too. In 2016, we opened our first hotel in Ethiopia - Ramada Addis Ababa - and have plans to introduce three more hotels in the next three years. Our development pipeline in Africa also includes a number of openings in Benin, Senegal and Kenya. We are also looking into potential opportunities for further expansion in Nigeria and Ghana, as well as new markets like Rwanda.
Mubasher: What is your vision of the performance of the hotel industry in the UAE in 2018?
Ignace Bauwens: Whilst the industry continues to be confronted with the issue of oversupply, which has pressured rates and caused RevPAR declines for the past two years, it is encouraging to see the UAE tourism industry continuing to show its resilience in 2018.
Despite wider macro-economic challenges, visitor numbers have been steady in 2018, with Dubai welcoming 11.58M visitors in the first nine months of the year. As one of the most dynamic markets in the world, Dubai has also maintained its position as the fourth most visited city globally, according to Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Cities Index – showing that demand remains strong. Abu Dhabi is also seeing positive growth, recording more than 3.31 million hotel guests in the first eight months of 2018 – a 5.8% increase compared to last year.
With robust occupancy levels and strong growth from markets such as Russia and China – due largely to the new visa-on-arrival scheme – the UAE hotel sector continues to perform well. I am confident that as we look ahead to 2020 and beyond, the UAE will continue to grow in attractiveness to existing and new source markets and maintain its position as one of the most popular destinations in the world.
Mubasher: What is Wyndham Hotels & Resort’s revenue for 2018?
Ignace Bauwens: In June 2018, Wyndham Hotel Group span off from Wyndham Worldwide, as a pure play independent hotel company now known as Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Our Q3 2018 results were announced in October 2018 and revealed that revenues stood at $604m representing a 74% increase on the same period in 2017
All Rights Reserved - Mubasher Info © 2005 - 2019 Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).