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Ignace Bauwens Ignace Bauwens

Q & A with Ignace Bauwens, Regional Vice President, Middle East and Africa, Wyndham Hotel Group

WYNDHAM HOTEL GROUP HAS SETS ITS SIGHTS ON EXPANDING ACROSS THE MENA REGION, IGNACE BAUWENS, REGIONAL VICE PRESIDENT, MIDDLE EAST AND AFRICA, WYNDHAM HOTEL GROUP, EXPLAINS THE REASONS BEHIND THE STRATEGIC GROWTH.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What differentiates Wyndham Hotel Group from other international hotel brands in the region?

IGNACE BAUWENS: A hotel giant with an unmatched global presence of nearly 8,000 hotels, Wyndham Hotel Group is a leading hotel brand franchisor and hotel management services provider.

Our global portfolio consists of [...] approximately 689,800 rooms in 76 countries, with brands including Ramada, Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Garden, TRYP by Wyndham, Hawthorn and Super 8 – offering both our investors and guests an unrivalled variety.

Wyndham Rewards, our industry-leading guest loyalty programme, offers more than 48 million members around the world the opportunity to earn and redeem points at thousands of hotels, helping to drive brand loyalty and repeat business for hotels.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Which are your most popular brands within the region?

IGNACE BAUWENS: Ramada has been our most popular brand in the region for some time, but Wyndham Grand, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Wyndham Garden are all brands we are seeing rapidly growing in the area.

Having said that, our extensive portfolio of brands means there are no limits.

Each one caters to a specific customer need, with all of our iconic brands united by the richest and simplest rewards programme in the business, Wyndham Rewards.

[...] With a strong and growing footprint around the world, including many hotels conveniently located near major airports, Wyndham Garden brings a carefree convenience and peace of mind to both business and leisure travellers.

Now that the market has matured in this region, we are able to successfully introduce more of our fastest growing brands, such as Wyndham Garden.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: Why is there a focus on development in the Middle East and North Africa region?

IGNACE BAUWENS: Despite all the challenges of the last few years, political as well as economic, the MENA region has proven its resilience in many ways.

The region remains dynamic with many opportunities for growth.

Dubai has certainly taken the lead in the hospitality industry within the MENA region, however there are many other countries and cities with vast opportunities.

History has proven the importance of tourism – and therefore hospitality - in countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia to name just a few, and they will all bounce back at some point.

The lower oil prices in GCC countries over the past year have also presented many opportunities.

Owners and developers have seen the value and prospects of upper and midscale hotels as well as those at the budget end of the scale.

The evolving budgets of both leisure and business guests, together with an improved midscale and budget hotel offering, have created a lot of opportunity in the region. For owners and investors the financial returns of these hotel investments are also more attractive compared to the luxury offering.

The increased number of people travelling to the MENA region – due to cheaper airfares and the growing connectivity of budget airlines to this region – means that, although we are still seeing healthy growth within the luxury market, the real opportunity lies in midscale and budget developments.

Therefore the introduction of the Wyndham Garden, TRYP by Wyndham, Super 8 and Days Inn brands to the MENA market are aimed specifically at this growing market.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: What are the upcoming developments for the group in the region?

IGNACE BAUWENS: 2016 was a busy year in the region, and this year is set to be even bigger.

We have a number of new hotels set to open across MENA, including TRYP by Wyndham Dubai, Wyndham Grand Manama, as well as three new openings in Saudi Arabia.

Looking further ahead, we are opening an additional 15 properties between 2018 and 2020, and are, of course, always working closely with local teams to identify more opportunities to bring our iconic brands to both emerging and established destinations.

TRAVEL TRADE WEEKLY: How do you forecast the coming year to be?

IGNACE BAUWENS: We are certainly optimistic about the opportunities in the region this year.

We are working hand in hand with the tourism boards and authorities in the various countries to promote their destination to different types of travellers, to help boost visitors to the region as a whole.

By developing calendars of the major events in the cities we can attract guests from all backgrounds, all of whom will be looking for different types of accommodation which our portfolio is best placed to provide.

We are also expecting to see an increase in visitors to the region as a direct result of our regional marketing campaigns around our Wyndham Hotel Group branded hotels and their destinations.

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