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‘Wyndham has Ambitious Growth Plans for Greece’ – Interview with Dimitris Manikis

Wyndham Grand Athens Exterior

Wyndham Grand Athens Exterior

Wyndham Hotels & Resorts sees huge potential in the vibrant market of Greece and is optimistic for the future of the country’s tourism sector, according to Dimitris Manikis, president and managing director for Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA).

Appointed to the position in April 2018, Manikis is responsible for the development of all Wyndham Hotels & Resorts brands in the EMEA region – which includes Greece – as well as maximizing the performance of all new and existing franchise and managed hotels.

Wyndham entered Greece in December 2016 and today has a strong portfolio of seven hotels. The company is continuously in talks with partners to expand its presence in Greece even further.

“We have ambitious growth plans in this beautiful country,” Manikis, who is a Greek national, told GTP Headlines.

Manikis was born in Athens and holds a Bachelor degree in Tourism and Administration from the university of Patras in Greece and an MSc Postgraduate degree in Tourism Marketing from the University of Surrey. He has a long-standing career and deep knowledge of the hospitality industry. Prior to joining Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, he spent over 27 years with RCI, the worldwide leader in vacation exchange, across a number of senior roles.

GTP Headlines recently caught up with Manikis and had the chance to discuss his new role at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, his focus on technology and the company’s plans for the Greek market.

GTP Headlines’ pick:
“…Our vision is to make hotel travel possible for all… We are focused on growing our portfolio where we know travelers want to be…” – Dimitris Manikis

Wyndham Athens Residence suite.

Wyndham Athens Residence suite.

  • GTP: Let’s begin with the latest. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts recently completed its spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide Corporation and is now the world’s largest hotel franchiser. Now as an independent public company what is Wyndham Hotels’ development strategy? What should the market expect from here on?

Dimitris Manikis: As a pure-play hotel company, we are now more flexible than ever and laser-focused on smart growth, development of our franchisees and elevating of travelers’ experiences. As the world’s largest hotel franchiser, we will continue to build on our powerful asset-light and fee-based business model comprising of an exceptional portfolio of brands. As the number of people travelling around the world continues to experience unprecedented growth, our vision is to make hotel travel possible for all. With that in mind, we are focused on growing our portfolio where we know travelers want to be, including a mixture of places where we already have an established and strong presence, as well as up-and-coming destinations where there is need for internationally recognized brands. Even as our global scale of nearly 9,000 hotels in over 80 countries remains unmatched today, we are boosting our global footprint. Globally, our growth outlook is strong with 1,200 hotels and 147,000 rooms in the pipeline and we are in the midst of a period of incredible growth for the EMEA region.

  • GTP: You were recently appointed to the role of president and managing director for Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA). What are your aims in your new role?
Wyndham Grand Athens Executive Double Acropolis View

Wyndham Grand Athens, Executive Double Acropolis view.

Dimitris Manikis: Whilst I am new to Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, I spent more than 25 years with our former sister company RCI – on the Wyndham Destinations side of the business. So I have familiarity with our brands and the hospitality industry. I am very excited to move over from the vacation ownership world to the world of hotels – and what better way to do this than with the world’s largest franchiser of hotels – Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. The diversity of our brands, ranging from upper upscale to economy, and the breadth of our footprint in over 80 countries worldwide, means that Wyndham truly makes travel possible for all. I want to continue to deliver on this promise, growing our brands across the EMEA region so that no matter where guests want to travel, they know they will find our hotels ready to welcome them.

GTP Headlines’ pick:
“Technology has dramatically changed everything about the way we sell to and service our customers.” – Dimitris Manikis

Ramada and Wyndham Loutraki Poseidon Resort, combined view of both resorts.

Ramada and Wyndham Loutraki Poseidon Resort, combined view of both resorts.

  • GTP: It had been announced that your role will include focus on technology solutions. Just how important is technology in the hotel industry and how do hotels blend technology and hospitality successfully?

Dimitris Manikis: Digital disruption is leaving no one untouched. Technology has dramatically changed everything about the way we sell to and service our customers. The contemporary traveler wants to book when they want, where they want and how they want. They expect a personalized and streamlined experience across every device they use. In order to meet these “new” needs as a company we are laser focused on connecting customers, partners and hotels to enable bookings, creating a passion for our brands and the experience they offer, and last but not least changing the way our guests interact with our brands and our hotels at every stage. All three focal points are, as you can see, 100% technology-related.

GTP Headlines’ pick:
“We have a number of exciting destinations in mind as part of our ambition to continue to grow in Greece.” – Dimitris Manikis

Ramada Plaza Thraki

Ramada Plaza Thraki, Greece.

  • GTP: Greece is one of the countries in your portfolio. In the last 18 months, you have opened seven hotels in the country, adding up to some 1,300 rooms. Is it in Wyndham’s plans to expand its presence even more in the Greek hospitality market? What are your strategies for 2018 concerning Greece?

Dimitris Manikis: We entered Greece in December 2016 and we are proud to have a strong portfolio of 7 hotels – 6 of them developed in partnership with Zeus International – including Wyndham Grand Athens, the co-located Ramada and Wyndham resorts in Loutraki, our Athens-based Wyndham Athens Residence, Ramada Attica Riviera and Dolce Attica Riviera. In addition, we opened Ramada Plaza Thraki in the north of Greece in June 2017 with our partner Thraki Palace S.A.
All across the world, Greece is known for its historic tradition, staggering culture and enviable coastlines, and the country has seen a large resurgence in international arrivals. We see huge potential in this vibrant market and are optimistic for the future of its tourism sector. Whilst at this point in time, there are no specific projects that we are in a position to announce, we have ambitious growth plans in this beautiful country and are in we are continuously in talks with partners to expand our presence in Greece even further.

  • GTP: Are the Greek islands in Wyndham’s future plans? Does Wyndham have its eye on any specific destinations in Greece to expand its presence?

Dimitris Manikis: Our development strategy is focused on growing our portfolio where we know travelers want to be. With a wealth of fabulous destinations, rich attractions and dramatic coastlines, Greece has something to offer to any traveler and whilst at this point in time there are no specific projects that we are in a position to announce, we have a number of exciting destinations in mind as part of our ambition to continue to grow in the country.

Exterior of Wyndham Athens Residence.

Exterior of Wyndham Athens Residence.

  • GTP: Wyndham recently brought a new and unique concept in the hospitality game with the launch of Wyndham Athens Residence in Athens. What sort of travelers does this new hospitality concept target? Was there a specific reason that Athens was selected as the launch destination of the concept?

Dimitris Manikis: Wyndham Athens Residence is our seventh property in Greece, and our first mixed-use hospitality development in the country. It’s a whole new hospitality concept for our Greek portfolio with an exciting proposition. Wyndham Athens Residence brings together the comfort – which the Wyndham brand is known for – with enhanced features to suit the needs of a longer-stay guest and is ideal for families and younger travelers who want to feel at home in the heart of Athens. In addition, Wyndham Athens Residence’s convenient location next to the Metaxourgeio station, and close to many attractions such as the Acropolis and National Archaeological Museum, makes it an ideal destination for both business and leisure travelers.
Greece is seeing a large resurgence in international arrivals and we believe that Athens is well positioned to become one of Europe’s key travel hotspots. It was in Athens that we established our presence in December 2016, with our first hotel Wyndham Grand Athens. And from there we have continued to expand in the country. Athens is an important destination for us and we are proud to have opened three hotels in the area, including Dolce Attica Riviera, Ramada Attica Riviera and of course Wyndham Athens Residence, which is the perfect addition to our presence in this exciting city.

GTP Headlines’ pick:
“As of May 2018 we have seen a healthy 70%+ occupancy average across all our hotels in Greece…” – Dimitris Manikis

Dolce Attica Riviera, pool area.

Dolce Attica Riviera, pool area.

  • GTP: Speaking of the Dolce Attica Riviera, located on the eastern coast of Attica, in Vravrona, what are the expectations for the resort’s first year of operation?

Dimitris Manikis: We are very proud to have introduced the Dolce Hotels and Resorts by Wyndham in Greece with this key opening.  Set in some of the world’s most awe-inspiring destinations, this brand is designed to inspire and delights guests by turning experiences into extraordinary moments. What a better place to this in Greece than Dolce Attica Riviera’s gorgeous surroundings? With state-of-the-art amenities, elegant settings, and sweeping vistas we are confident that the hotel will be a key destination for both business and leisure travelers seeking a unique stay in Greece.

  • GTP: Can you give us some details on the performance of Wyndham’s hotels in Greece until now in terms of occupancy rates and revenues?

Dimitris Manikis: We entered the market fairly recently – with 7 hotels in 18 months – and as of May 2018 we have seen a healthy 70%+ occupancy average across all our hotels. With the busy summer season just starting now, we expect this positive trend to continue for the rest of the year. With 27.2 million foreign travelers visiting the country in 2017 alone (according to the Bank of Greece), Greece is seeing a large resurgence in international arrivals and we are overall optimistic for the outlook of the country’s tourism sector.

    • GTP: How are bookings proceeding at Wyndham’s hotels in Greece for this season? What are your expectations for 2018?

Dimitris Manikis: As previously mentioned, we expect the positive momentum we are seeing across our portfolio to continue this year, as the high season has just started and more travelers – both international and domestic – are expected to visit our hotels.

GTP Headlines’ pick:
“Greece’s tourism has been experiencing really strong and rapid growth over the past few years and we foresee an increasing demand for hotel options that offer great value.” – Dimitris Manikis

Dolce Attica Riviera deluxe double room, sea view.

Dolce Attica Riviera deluxe double room, sea view.

  • GTP: What are the new features that Wyndham’s hotels have added to the Greek hospitality industry?

Dimitris Manikis: We are not just the world’s largest hotel franchiser but also one of most diverse hotel groups in the world. Our brands span across all segments, offering travelers the right place to stay, however they choose to travel and wherever their journey takes them. Greece’s tourism has been experiencing really strong and rapid growth over the past few years and we foresee an increasing demand for hotel options that offer great value. Our growing and diverse portfolio of hotels, is strongly positioned to cater to this increasing demand in the Greek hospitality industry and in line with our quest to make travel possible for all. In addition, one of our top strengths is our Wyndham Rewards loyalty program, which gives over 56 million members around the world, access to over 25,000 hotels, villas and holiday apartments globally.

  • GTP: Can you give us some details on the Wyndham Rewards loyalty program?
Ramada Loutraki Poseidon Resort.

Ramada Loutraki Poseidon Resort.

Dimitris Manikis: Our award-winning rewards program was designed with the everyday traveler in mind. One of the reasons it is so successful –other than the depth and breadth of more than 25,000 hotels, villas and holiday apartments it brings together for our guests- is its unmatched simplicity. Members earn a minimum guaranteed 1,000 points for every qualified stay and can redeem for a free night around the world for just 15,000 points per room per night.  Widely acclaimed for its generosity, the program has received more than 50 accolades in the last three years. It has also been named the most generous rewards program by both WalletHub and consulting firm IdeaWorks and a best rewards program in travel by U.S. News and World Report. The merits and benefits of Wyndham Rewards are clearly recognized by our travelers as total membership continues to grow by approx. 10% each year; right now, the program has 56 million members globally. Since 2015, we have averaged, globally, more than 1 million award-night per year, a number that demonstrates the impact of the program in driving additional stays.

  • GTP: Let’s close the interview with trends. What are the trends that are likely to grow this year in hospitality?

Dimitris Manikis: As I touched on in some of my previous answers, technology is a key trend that will continue to shape the hospitality industry. Today’s traveler wants to book when they want, where they want, and how they want. They expect a personalized and streamlined experience across every device they use.  That’s why we are focused on partner & hotel connectivity to enable bookings, customer loyalty that will makes branding increasingly important and the all-important digital experience that is an integral part of the integrated traveler experience we all strive to build.

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About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.
  1. Julian Weaver Reply

    Dimitris shows why Wyndham is the front runner across the global hospitality industry. This insight indicated the ever changing use and role of new technology which must look to balance a beautiful guest experience over cost. Obviously a difficult balance to manage and maintain. However someone needs to set a benchmark and this article indicates Wyndham is setting up a solid foundation. Back this up with the vacation ownership portfolio they operate they will be a hard act to follow. Let’s see!

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