Wyndham looks at minimum 60 flags in India by 2018 end

After making a relatively slow start in India in 2000, the mid-segment global hospitality major Wyndham Hotels has made some quick moves in the recent years in expanding its footprints in the country. The company which operates through franchise model​,​ claims to have a robust pipeline of new openings in the market and is aiming to have a sizeable presence in the country in the next couple of years.  Deepika Arora, Regional Vice President (Eurasia), Wyndham Hotel Group shared details of the company’s growth agenda including the inorganic options which the company is considering in a recent exclusive conversation with TourismFirst. Edited excerpts:


Let me begin with a simple question: how do you analyse Wyndham’s positioning in the Indian market today? The group is now 15 years old in India but is largely believed to have been a slow starter in the first decade of its operations in India.
I would say Wyndham’s position in India today is fantastic. Six years ago, we just had a handful of hotel units – six to eight hotels. And now we have close to 25 hotels operating in the market. We also have about 47 units under different stages of construction. So we have an inventory of about 2600 rooms operating and 5000 plus under construction. Six years back, the most visible brand we had in the market was Ramada. Now we have introduced five more brands – Days, Howard Johnson, Encore, and Ramada Plaza. Ramada Plaza are typically in tier 1 and tier 2 cities, Howard Johnson and Encore are in Bangalore(opened three years back), Days units are present in Neemrana and Panipat and seven more are under construction. The Wyndham brand is a vacuum for us presently. We are also looking to launch Wyndham Garden which is a mid-market upscale brand. If we have to talk about growth in percentage terms in the last six years, we have seen 250 percent growth in our portfolio. Our ambition now is to move from a challenger position to a leadership position.

So has India become a critical point in Wyndham’s global scheme of things now?
In the last five-six years, there has been a momentum which really reiterates that India is one of the strategic markets for us. It is one of the key markets where they are looking to invest in human resource. Our team has commendably grown in size here. We are further strengthening our investments in India by looking at acquisition of existing management infrastructures. That would not only add footprints for us but also give us ready infrastructure to be offered to owners. We have been working very hard to promote some of our new technologies and doing a lot of promotion around our loyalty programme. Wyndham is really focused to ensure that we are in a position to contribute to the owners by investing whether it is through human resource, technology, training or any other facility that we want to do in India.

How many hotels you have in China?
In China, Wyndham has 1000 plus hotels.

What a difference…
The difference, as you rightly mentioned, stems from the fact that while we have been factually in India for over ten years, the growth momentum has picked up in only last five-six years. As against this, the growth was from year one in China. And that is why they have such a huge volume. There are other reasons too: in China, the supportive infrastructure is quite advanced. The construction timeline is much easier. And we have two master franchisee there who contribute heavily to the inventory. But our number two market in Asia would be India.

How many openings are scheduled for this year?
This is an unaccounted number but I feel we will have close to seven openings this year. Our second hotel in Chennai (Days brand) is scheduled to be commissioned. Our first hotel in Darjeeling (Ramada property) and Trivandrum will be ready. Plus, we will have another opening in Bangalore. This will a Days property joining Ramada, Encore and Howard Johnson properties which are already there. With Days property, Bangalore will become the brand showcase city for us. A hotel in Kumbalgarh in Rajasthan targeting leisure traffic will also be ready. We also have an Encore property coming up in Lucknow as well as a Ramada unit in Jammu.

Realistically speaking, how many flags you expect to have flying here by 2018 end?
Realistically speaking, I think at least 60 percent of signed properties will get in the up and running mode by 2018 end. So we are basically looking at 35 odd hotels to begin operations in next couple of years. I think, by 2018 end we will definitely have 60 operating properties in India. We are very confident of this number because we have seen the delivery cycle in the last few years. We have been very conscious in choosing right owners. We are also conscious of the fact that we offer right product in the right segment in the right city.
What’s the scene on your interest in picking up equity stake in Sarovar Hotels? It is a much speculated move which you are likely to make to consolidate your position. The company is reported to have been valued at Rs 500 crore and there have been some reports in recent past that you will be buying 30 percent stake in the company which belongs to investors.
I would not like to comment on this. As I said in the beginning, we are looking at large management set ups which can be acquired. That is part of our growth model and with India being a strategic market, we would be looking at several investment options. But I can’t say on a specific case which you are talking about.

So you are neither confirming nor denying?
I am not saying anything on this. I would not like to comment on industry speculation.

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