During the 2017 Skift Global Forum in September in New York City, we heard from a host of the travel industry’s top leaders from across every sector. And after first speaking to them on stage in front of an audience of more than 1,100, we took another few minutes with them to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.
In our behind-the-scenes conversation, Wyndham Hotel Group President and CEO Geoff Ballotti spoke about growth in the midscale and economy space, the importance of loyalty programs to business travelers, and what hotel companies can learn from their homesharing competitors.
“I think all of the alternative lodging companies like Airbnb have a lot to teach us in terms of what they offer online,” he said. “It all starts with a great [user experience], it all starts with making the guests, while they’re on our sites, feel connected to the brand, to our loyalty program. And it more importantly, then, is up to us to create that experience, that living like a local experience when they check into our hotels.”
Ballotti said the hotel company is doing that through its loyalty program.
“Our Wyndham Rewards loyalty program in our top 25 destinations today are providing those local experiences to our most important members,” he said.
Ballotti said the loyalty program is also crucial to attracting business travelers.
“They want to know that after a week on the road, they have a vacation, they have at least a night,” he said. “Appealing to that importance of earning that free night while on the road traveling for business is what we’re working on more than anything else.”
Wyndham is also working on growing its midscale and economy business, which Ballotti said are “getting tremendous attention right now from all of our competitors because that’s where the growth is.”
In January, the company announced a $1.95 billion deal to buy La Quinta Holdings — which has 890 properties and roughly 87,500 rooms — as part of that strategy.
“It’s an area of the market that, if we could elevate the experience, has tremendous growth potential,” Ballotti said.