There were two main points of interest at this week’s Wyndham Hotel Group Global Business Conference at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The first was the announcement that Wyndham’s Microtel brand is undergoing a rebranding strategy that will add the “by Wyndham” designation (look for my report on the rebranding, including interviews with company executives, tomorrow here on LodgingMagazine.com). The second, and what I want to discuss in this blog, is Wyndham’s now aggressive strategy to better drive direct bookings to its own websites.
Direct reservations via a brand.com website is nothing new to the hotel industry. For years now, hotel companies have struggled to dig themselves out of the self-created hole they dug with online travel agencies (OTAs). However, Wyndham is taking steps to correct that and bring consumers back to its brands’ direct booking channel. It’s an endeavor that President and CEO Eric Danziger said he believes is vitally important.
To that end, Wyndham jumped on board the recently launched RoomKey.com, a consortium of hotel giants founded to help take back consumers on the Internet and drive bookings back to the brand.com channel. Executive Vice President of Marketing Flo Lugli told assembled reporters during the conference that the company is very pleased with the progress of Room Key, which is still in beta format and remains a work in progress. But Wyndham’s efforts to drive direct bookings extend much further.
Lugli said that the company is in the midst of a two-year project to relaunch all of its brand and hotel websites. “We’ve relaunched 10 brands and we are also redoing all of the content,” she said. “We rewrote 7,200 property descriptions. We believe content is important.”
Before Wyndham could begin to drive traffic, Lugli admitted the brand sites needed to be reworked, including the Wyndham Rewards site, which is serving as a centerpiece of the effort.
In December, Wyndham piloted functionality on Wyndham Rewards, which will extend to the brand sites, that puts TripAdvisor comments directly on the homepage. “It is important to provide all of the information that the consumer will need directly on your site,” Lugli said. She pointed out that the company is not editing the comments and that because it is TripAdvisor, which has already gained the trust of travelers, there is no worry that people will question the integrity of the comments. Lugli said that the company is encouraging franchisees to respond to both positive and negative reviews.
Lugli said every brand has already realized a revenue increase since the Wyndham Rewards site has been relaunched.
In addition, the company launched WynReview, a program that lets the hotel owners keep track of what is being said about them on the Internet. Lugli said the company has rolled out the program to properties for free, taking the hit on the corporate marketing budget.
Wyndham’s efforts don’t end there. The company has launched mobile sites for all 15 brands. “They’re pretty slick,” Lugli boasted. The mobile sites are heavy on proximity marketing, looking to capture direct bookings from consumers who are in the area of a hotel. Lugli cited the fact that the majority of mobile bookings happen within hours of arrival.
She also said apps for the brands have been rolled out and will be released by Apple and Android soon.
As for social media, Lugli sees the main impact for the company remaining with ratings and reviews.
It’s a new age for hotel bookings and Wyndham is getting on board and hitting the Internet, and looking to bring customers back to its direct channels.