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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | May 5, 2016

Wyndham Dubai Marina HotelThe expansion into Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) by the Wyndham Hotel Group shows no sign of slowing down. At last month's Arabian Hotel Investment Conference held in Dubai, UAE, the Parsippany, N.J.-based Wyndham announced it had signed three new development deals that would see it plant its brand flags in Oman, Ethiopia and Iraq. That's in addition to the 40 properties the chain opened in EMEA in 2015, and the 486-room Wyndham Dubai Marina that opened just days ago. All of this puts Wyndham at the forefront of hotel companies pushing into emerging international travel destinations.

Upon his return from Dubai, Wyndam's Dan Ruff, president and managing director, EMEA, filled me in further on his company's expansion strategy from his London office.

What other locations is Wyndham considering?
We carefully select and analyze destinations and their ever-evolving trends to determine their suitability and potential. Our latest deals in Oman, Ethiopia and Iraq are bringing globally recognized brands and international standards of accommodation to some of the Middle East’s most exciting travel destinations. While I can’t comment on specific locations or deals yet to be announced, our growth strategy is bold yet simple: We work with local partners to bring quality accommodation to locations where few other brands are yet to tread.

In addition, we are expanding some of our brands, which are known and loved across the U.S., to new destinations. We recently launched the Super 8 brand in Europe. Our first Super 8 hotel in Germany opened last month in Munich, and we have plans to open 10 more across the country. Super 8 is the perfect regional fit for Germany’s growing economy hotel market and will meet and exceed the expectations of demanding business and leisure travelers.

Will the majority of Wyndham's pipeline be in the mid-tier market segment, or will it also include full-service hotels that would draw meetings business?
Our pipeline includes hotels across our brand portfolio. For example, we recently opened the upscale Wyndham Dubai Marina and the economy Super 8 Munich City West. We want everyone who travels to experience quality accommodations within their budget. As a global middle class emerges, there will be an increase in travelers seeking value, who favor midscale and economy lodging. In the next 15 years, this global middle class is likely to more than double from 2 billion to 4.9 billion. We embrace the diversity of travelers and offer the widest range of places to stay. This also includes expansion of the Dolce brand, which we acquired in 2015. We see tremendous opportunity for expansion of Dolce to the Middle East as the market for conferences and meetings in that region continues to grow.

Will rebranding be part of the overall expansion strategy, or will it be a mix of rebranding and new-build?
We want to ensure that our loyal guests have the opportunity to earn and redeem Wyndham Rewards wherever they travel around the world. In some countries, we have great new-build projects that fit naturally with one of our 16 brands. Other projects are great opportunities for rebranding or adaptive re-use. Our growth strategy is working. No one is growing organically faster than Wyndham Hotel Group. We open two hotels every day around the world, including one hotel every week in EMEA. Plus, more than 70 percent of our pipeline is new construction hotels.

Will the brands tweak their offerings based on destination and cultural preferences? For example, Marriott mid-tier properties in India all have full-service restaurants, which they do not have in North America and Europe.
Absolutely. We do not believe guests are looking for a cookie-cutter approach when they travel the world. We want to give them the comfort and security of staying with brands they know, while also incorporating the unique character of the local area. For example, a Super 8 in Munich may provide a breakfast with Weisswurst and pretzels, while a Days Hotel in Chennai may have a three-meal-a-day restaurant and a coffee shop. Wherever in the world our guests travel, whether it is Germany, India or Dubai, we want to ensure they have local experiences, as well as the comforts they are used to at home.