Thought Leadership: Achieving Future Growth In An Evolving Landscape

A VOASA EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Dimitris Manikis, President EMEA at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Question: Attracting and retaining staff has been a significant challenge for our industry in recent years. What are some of the old strategies we need to abandon if we want to attract new people into hospitality?

We always hear that we are a people-centric business. If it’s true, why do so many people not want to work in this industry? Something is wrong.

The definition of workplace success has drastically changed. It’s no longer about a company car, corner office, leather chair, and lots of air miles. Forty years ahead, the younger generation doesn’t work in an office. They don’t have a chair. They do ride shares. They hate travel because it adds to the carbon footprint. Often, when I interview candidates, they end up interviewing me about our sustainable hospitality practices and plans to create a better workplace.

We have to change the narrative about why the younger generations want to work in hospitality, and we need to give them a purpose. Identify their key expectations – purpose, career development, and working in a company that has diversity and inclusion. It’s not just about a salary, but how you will influence their development. For example, turn your receptionist into an Experience Officer. Receptionists are not just there to ask for your passport and credit card and hand you the keys. Give purpose to every single member of your staff because without team spirit, people are not going to stay. They’re going to grab a couple of years, and then they’re going to move to the next job or the next industry.

Question: Regarding guest experiences, what new strategies have replaced historical practices?

Digital technology has transformed the guest experience – but instead of replacing human interaction, it should enhance it by providing real-time information and support. For instance, Wyndham uses the Canary guest engagement platform for online messaging and in-premises communication. This allows staff to address guest needs immediately, which is more proactive and effective than the historical approach of addressing issues after guests leave.

“Prioritise understanding your guests.”

Invest in pre-arrival preparations as much as in their actual stay. We possess a wealth of guest data, including preferences, family details, and travel habits. Yet, what do we do with this data? How do we harness it to enhance their experience? We need to shift our mindset and effectively utilise this information to avoid losing its potential in translation. Timeshare guests tend to be more demanding, often feeling a sense of ownership over their allotted time. So ensure that throughout their stay, you maintain constant communication about daily activities by utilising digital channels, such as WhatsApp.

Question: What industry trends are expected to have the most significant impact on the future of the timeshare industry?

In the good old days, we used to compartmentalise the industry by saying, ‘ This is a timeshare resort,’ ‘This is a hotel,’ or ‘This is all-inclusive.’ Why? Because we believed guests had different preferences. But they all want the same thing – a good deal, a great experience, and to feel welcome. So, timeshare is not a standalone product. It is not an outsider of the hospitality industry; it is at the heart of what we do. The moment we start feeling that we are something different, that is when people will see us as something different, and we don’t want that. We are in the leisure real estate business. That’s what we do, and that’s what timeshare is all about. Many of our hotels are doing this, selling condo hotels, fractionals, travel clubs, branded residencies, etc.

“The days of putting each hospitality industry sector into different boxes are long gone.”

Today, it’s everywhere, and people are more familiar with the sharing economy than they have ever been. There’s no generation gap in timeshare as long as you listen to what younger consumers and families want. When adding experience, make sure it has value and is enhanced with technology so the younger generation can understand that, if done right, timeshare is actually a very modern product.

Question: Looking at today’s global market, what stands out?

There’s one market that South Africa cannot afford to miss – and that’s the Indian market. In the next five years, there will be three hundred million Indians travelling around the world, as their economy is the fifth contributor to the world’s GDP. Right now, they have an affluent, middle class of Generation Z and X who want to spend their money on travel. They won’t spend the day on the beach because they come from places where it’s forty degrees. Instead, they’ll do what we call in hospitality, the ‘breathing holiday,’ by spending time in nature. Places like Shanghai, Mumbai, and Delhi are some of the most polluted places in the world, so people go on holiday to breathe, and South Africa has an abundance of natural beauty and nature to explore.

“Promote South Africa as a place of tranquillity, enormous nature, great food, and wine.”

Another huge market is Malaysia, which will be the fastest contributor to GDP in the world within the next five years. Bring those consumers into your country because they are the consumers of the future. Promote a South Africa of peace, tranquillity, enormous nature, great food, and great wines – precisely what I experienced living in South Africa for five years.

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