During Wyndham Hotels & Resorts' Q4 2020 Earnings Call on Feb. 11, CEO Geoff Ballotti told listeners that he was “tremendously proud of how our teams and franchisees performed” during the last year. Ballotti then shared some encouraging statistics on the chain’s overall performance, including the fact that 97% of its nearly 9,000 hotels are open and operating.
While RevPAR in Q4 finished down 31% domestically and 44% internationally, domestic RevPAR is continuing to show improvements with January 2021 RevPAR down 24%. Additionally, cancellation rates have returned to prior year levels, a bright spot for hotels to focus on as this indicates that “overall confidence in the safety of drive-to leisure destinations has continued to improve,” noted Ballotti.
Wyndham has also seen an increase in demand from essential everyday business travelers who cannot work from home. This is driving weekday bookings and weekday ADR in the economy hotels to be 500 basis points higher year-over-year than their weekend rates. Traveling everyday workers combined with the strength of leisure travel in Wyndham’s sales and marketing efforts, boosted market share for Wyndham’s economy and mid-scale brands by 210 and 520 basis points respectively in the fourth quarter.
In 2021, Ballotti says Wyndham Hotels will be focusing on three specific action items: to return to positive net rooms growth, to carry on with the “meaningful sales operation, marketing and digital investments that are contributing to our guests evolving travel habits,” and to remain intensely focused on the guest experience.
During Wyndham’s Q3 earnings conference call, on October 28, Ballotti spoke in detail regarding the digital investments the company was undertaking to improve operations, marketing and guest experience. During that conference call, Ballotti discussed how Wyndham had recently deployed “three state-of-the-art initiatives aimed at increasing bookings at our hotels and increasing overall franchisee profitability.”
The first of those initiatives was to launch a customer data platform to better enable Wyndham’s teams to compile, to visualize and to analyze data from multiple sources and deliver sophisticated and actionable guest insights.
“We can now better understand guest behavior and preferences and leverage that knowledge to keep them loyal to our brands, which increases direct bookings and lowers overall customer acquisition costs for our franchisees, thereby increasing their profitability,” Ballotti explained. “Investing in our team’s understanding of our guests and how we can incentivize them to book direct enhances the return on the marketing dollars we spend.”
It's second initiative was the launch of Wyndham Direct, a business-to-business solution that allows business travelers to book on any direct channel using a Wyndham Direct ID number.
“All guestroom and incidental charges are now processed through our new Wyndham Direct platform, with one monthly bill and without the need for company credit cards,” Ballotti noted. “We have also automated the tracking and payment for these business customers and in doing so, we are saving them and our franchisees time and money. This new technology is expected to continue to increase our bookings from both the infrastructure and logistic industries we service and position us well to capture an increased share of the eventual return of corporate transient business travelers.”
It's third initiative was the launch of what the company believes to be the “fastest mobile app in the industry.” With its new mobile app, booking a room takes only three taps. Using geolocation, hotels within a 15 mile radius are displayed for guests. Touch and face ID features remove “the friction of authentication and account management, while in-state features anticipate where guests are in the travel journey and all for remote check-in and -out directly from the app.”
During Wyndham’s Q3 call, Ballotti mentioned how app bookings over September and October are running 4% above prior year as compared to 7% below prior year during July and August, an 11 point improvement in such a critical booking channel. However, Q4 saw an even more dramatic improvement. During Wyndham’s Q4 earnings call, Ballotti said that “targeted digital marketing through our new Wyndham Hotels & Resorts app drove an 18% year-on-year increase in bookings for the quarter."