Q&A: Christian Michel, Wyndham

Following the debut of Wyndham’s new Registry Collection Hotels in Georgia, Sleeper caught up with the company’s Vice President of Development for Europe, Christian Michel, to talk key learnings from the pandemic, predictions for 2022 and ongoing expansion plans during the IHIF conference in Berlin.

What lessons has Wyndham learned from the Covid crisis?

In terms of development we took the time to reflect on the brands and vision that we have, tapping into our strategic positioning and where we could expand that in different markets. On the operations side of things, it was about how we could support the franchise and management teams in implementing safety protocols as well as giving them the tools to close and reopen their properties. During the pandemic it was more about engaging with our many brands and franchisees because they had a lot of challenges in front of them.

How would you sum up the current state of the hospitality sector?

It’s heavily dependent on region – in China, for example, our numbers were never totally down and now we are back to 2019 levels, while in Europe our drive-thru highway hotels are doing well. Other areas like South America and India however are seeing challenges with second and third waves of the virus, so it’s a mixed bag. Overall though, we had a strong summer season with occupancies between 70-80% across the board.

Art Tbilisi, a Registry Collection Hotel in Georgia
Wyndham recently announced the debut of Registry Collection with a 100-key flagship in Georgia’s capital of Tbilisi, opening 2023

Is there anywhere in Europe that Wyndham is looking to expand?

Though there was a slow down last year as a result of uncertainty amongst developers, we are set for further expansion in 2022 following the signing of agreements with partners across the continent. We are a leader in Turkey and believe the market will bounce back strongly as the country is used to dealing with crises, while we also have leisure projects on the boards in India, and there’s new construction happening in Russia too.

What trends is Wyndham seeing that are changing the industry?

We are seeing a lot more mixed-use developments, especially in places like Eastern Europe and Russia, and as a result are developing residence tiers for many of our brands. The US already has a strong business model in this field and we’d like to replicate that, catering to families moving to a new city that need something temporary for one to two months, or simply providing more space and independence via a kitchenette.

La Quinta by Wyndham in Bodrum, Turkey
Last July, Wyndham expanded its La Quinta brand with two new hotel openings in Turkey, taking its portfolio to 55 properties globally

How important is F&B to Wyndham’s offerings around the world?

We have brand standards but we also give a lot of flexibility to our franchisee to manage their own F&B concepts. Again it depends on region and sector, so in the leisure and resorts markets we aim to create memorable gastronomic experiences, while in the select service industry we may take a different approach.

Where does Wyndham see the hotel landscape going in the future?

We believe that guests of the future will be looking for authenticity and experience, but also sustainability credentials. Are we planning to develop totally differently? I don’t think so, but it will be more of an of interaction with presentations around the local environment and an education into what the country’s all about. The large, all-inclusive hotel will eventually make way for more tailored concepts that are intrinsically linked to their community and culture, allowing people to discover destinations and what they have to offer.

La Quinta by Wyndham Bur Dubai is home to a speciality restaurant serving traditional Indian delicacies and international cuisine