As the hospitality industry starts to gain momentum, HN sat with Panos Loupasis, VP Development, Middle East & Africa at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, to discover the chain’s upcoming plans and developments.
What did you learn from the Covid-19 pandemic?
Last year was extremely challenging for many industries, particularly for the tourism and hospitality sector. No industry has been left unscathed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The importance of collaborating was one of the biggest lessons. The power of Wyndham’s culture has never been more apparent than in the past year, and we are tremendously proud of how our teams and our hotel partners performed despite the challenges of a global pandemic.
Our focus is on the long-term success of our brands and our partners, and I am confident that we are collectively well positioned to continue to perform through the recovery and into the future.
As the impact of Covid-19 on travel and tourism starts attenuating with increased vaccination and precautions, how is Wyndham getting ready for the comeback of tourism?
Now, more than ever, travelers will be looking for brands that they can trust, not only for quality but also for cleanliness and safety. Our focus is always on the safety and well-being of our partners and team members, and we are working to restore our guest confidence and excitement in travel. Our mission is to make hotel travel possible for all, and that becomes especially important during times of uncertainty.
We have introduced many exciting initiatives to help our hotel partners get ready to welcome guests again, continue to inspire travelers and ensure we remain as flexible as possible. We remain confident in the knowledge that the travel industry will inevitably rebound, and we will be there ready to welcome our guests again.
What can you tell us about the influx of tourists to Turkey from the GCC?
Residents from the UAE are permitted to travel to Turkey by submitting a negative Covid-19 PCR test result. This more relaxed approach has encouraged a large influx of tourists from the region. Over the past year, there has been an increase of over 100 percent in visitors to Turkey from the UAE alone – which is an enormous increase. Our continued growth in the country is a testament to our confidence in the future of tourism in Turkey, and we plan to continue expanding our footprint with on-going openings, development pipeline growth and opportunities to introduce more brands in the market.
Why is Turkey that popular and what makes your properties so appealing?
Turkey is rich in culture, history and nature, offering something unique for every type of traveler. Its close proximity to GCC countries makes it an ideal destination that offers something for everyone, from the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul, famed for its world-renowned cultural sights, shopping and restaurant scene, to the Black Sea, Aegean and Mediterranean coastline destinations, which offer a favorable year-round climate, fantastic cuisine and a family-friendly atmosphere.
As for our properties, we’re proud to be the largest international hotel group in Turkey in terms of the number of properties we have. We have a great mix of city hotels (72) and resorts (9) across 37 cities, with a presence of 26 hotels in Istanbul alone. In addition, our development pipeline remains robust, with seven additional properties slated to open by the end of this year.
What did you amend in your offering to make it more suitable to the new market requirements?
Early in the pandemic, we launched “Count on Us,” a long-term and multifaceted hygiene initiative based on the consistent use of top-of-the-range disinfectants at hotels, the introduction of robust new training and guidelines, as well as ongoing access to critical health essentials through trusted suppliers. We want guests to know they can “Count on Us” and that their safety, health and well-being matter most. The initiative is all about providing comfort and also peace of mind when guests stay with us. In addition, we recently rolled out our new Wyndham mobile app to enhance the guest experience, offering a new way of interaction that prioritizes low-contact and in-stay functionality while also simplifying the hotel booking process.
What are your development plans for Turkey and the MEA region?
We are focused on growing our portfolio where we know travelers want to be. We remain steadfast in our commitment to expanding our footprint across the region. In Turkey alone, we currently have over 80 hotels, with a further 14 hotels in the pipeline. We are also looking forward to bringing 23 additional hotels across the MEA region, adding to our current portfolio of 62 properties and providing accommodation to suit every type of traveler.