From digital room keys to green screens for hybrid meetings, Globetrender speaks with Julie White, vice-president commercial EMEA for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, about how the company has been using technology to transform the guest experience, and what trends they predict for 2021 and beyond.

How has Wyndham been innovating during the pandemic?

As a global hospitality company, we always strive to innovate and elevate our guest experience. The pandemic has generated significant changes in demand and guest profiles, so we have implemented a variety of new initiatives to attract travellers to Wyndham properties in this new environment.

For instance, we launched Wyndham Easy Book, a new programme aimed at simplifying and promoting corporate bookings from small to mid-size businesses.

We recognise these travellers will be among the first to be back on the road as their businesses are more agile and adaptable than larger corporate organisations. Our programme gives them a really simple and straightforward discount programme that is easy to book either directly on our branded websites, or through a selected travel management company.

We also recognised that the world of meetings and events needed to adapt to on-going restrictions in travel and meeting size. To address this, we designed a new hybrid meeting solution, which enables in-person meetings combined with elements of virtual engagement with attendees in other locations.

For example, Dolce by Wyndham Sitges, Barcelona, has recently turned one of their meeting spaces into a studio-like environment, that can be used flexibly to better accommodate virtual and hybrid meetings. Dolce SitgesDolce by Wyndham La Hulpe, Brussels has also recently revamped a few of their meeting rooms into studios, which include green screens and provides greater audio-visual capabilities to enhance the overall virtual and hybrid meeting experience. This enables the best of both worlds while maintaining a Covid-safe environment.

Another key innovation has been the launch of our new Wyndham mobile app combining best-in-class design with personal experiences, gamification and other innovative features. The app was designed to provide travellers with a reimagined user experience to inspire their upcoming travel plans.

Technology was already playing a key role before the outbreak, but the pandemic has accelerated the pace of digital adoption with travellers expecting more streamlined, low-contact experiences and our new app could not have arrived at a more critical time.Wyndham Hotels mobile app

What measures has Wyndham been taking to enhance the guest experience?

The arrival of our new mobile app for iOS and Android has enhanced the guest experience with a reimagined way of interaction that prioritises low-contact in-stay functionality. Some of the key offerings in the new Wyndham mobile app are features that simplify the hotel booking process.

It also showcases a personalised user experience that adapts to users’ real-time needs based on where they are and what they want to do. The app has been designed with the guest in mind, based on what travellers expect today alongside a robust foundation for the future.Comwell Copenhagen Portside Dolce by Wyndham 3

In what ways is technology going to play an ever-more important role in the travel experience?

As hygiene and safety remain top of mind for all guests as they get ready to travel again, technology and contactless solutions are going to be key in restoring their confidence and supporting partners as they welcome back guests.

Our app has arrived at a vital time and will allow thousands of our hotel partners to deliver upon those expectations, while providing the most straightforward path to booking direct. It is a seamless solution for both parties.

How can smartphones be used to create ‘contactless’ journeys?

Consumers increasingly rely on their smartphones to help make everyday choices, including travel. Smartphones can be used to simplify the booking process and deliver contactless journeys that are particularly relevant in today’s travel landscape, and will continue to be important for travellers moving forward. Guests can experience contactless journeys from the moment of booking all the way through to check-out.

In addition to the in-app functionality, the use of QR codes within the hotels has greatly expanded allowing guests to use their phones to access restaurant menus, spa menus and mobile concierge information. The use of smartphones and apps can provide an innovative solution to delivering the digital touchpoints guests expect today, whilst paving the way for a strong foundation for the future of technology in hospitality.

What features does your new mobile app have?

Building on the app’s core features is a fully reimagined user experience that is filled with personal touches, while anticipating and adapting to users’ real-time needs based on where they are and what they want to do. We have a number of key features that help in executing an immersive experience for guests.

The “Lightning Book” functionality helps guests search for and book the nearest Wyndham hotel for the night in as a few as three taps. They can also see in real time their proximity from the hotel and book using Wyndham Rewards points.

Once at the hotel and within three days of a stay, the “In-Stay Mode” tool displays information of the most relevance to the guest such as important stay details, local attractions, ensuring guests have important information at their hand at all times.

With “My App Passport”, guests will also be able to track their engagements with memorable stamps and animations when they achieve the select in-app accomplishments such as booking a stay or redeeming points.

Alongside this, guests will be able to further enhance their experience by easily updating their Wyndham Rewards profile, preferences and payment methods. With full access and control of their account, searching for special offers can be administered with a single tap allowing full access to managing their choices.Wyndham Hotels mobile app

In what way will the app make travelling easier and safer during the pandemic?

The app prioritises low-contact in-stay features that are particularly relevant to today’s reality. Its mobile check-in and check-out helps travellers reduce contact between themselves and hotel staff. Just a few months after the launch, we have completed the roll-out of mobile check-in and check-out to nearly 6,000 economy and midscale hotels in North America, and have plans to expand more broadly.

We are also piloting a “Digital Room Key” at a selection of properties, which allows guests to use their room key digitally via their mobile phone throughout the duration of their stay, making it even more low-contact and efficient.

The digital room keys will be introduced at select US resorts including the Wyndham Grand Bonnet Creek in Orlando and Wyndham Grand Rio Mar in Rio Grande, with the intention for expansion over the next 12 months as additional locations choose to leverage this measure.

What will travellers be looking for from the hotel experience in the months and years ahead?

Covid-19 has made people slow down and we think they will become more appreciative of their surroundings, and be far more cautious in their spending when thinking about travelling. Seamless service options with more digital outlets for information and interaction as well as flexible booking polices will be significant to them. Guests will be looking for brands they can trust and will be looking for offerings to help them maximise their time spent away.

Travellers will be much more conscious with regards to where they choose to go and for how long. The length of stay will be important. At Wyndham we have recently launched a “Stay Longer and Save” promotion to help drive long stay bookings as for the time being, we recognise extended stays may replace the previously popular short weekend getaways with travellers looking to take longer, more meaningful trips and extend their holiday for remote working.Wyndham Dubai Deira

In what ways has the virus permanently changed the hotel stay experience at Wyndham hotels across the world, for the better?

The pandemic experience has helped the hospitality industry to rethink the way in which they interact and provide for their guests and support communities. People will be thinking more carefully about the way in which they travel, and in consequence they will be seeking out hotels and travel companies that are doing everything they can to still provide an enjoyable experience and impeccable customer service whist adapting to the ever-changing climate.

The pandemic has without a doubt accelerated the use of technology tools and consumer adoption, this will continue to evolve over the coming years and our tools will enable more seamless and personalised guest experiences.

Consumer sentiment is also more community minded, reflecting a desire to return to travel with a greater focus on sustainability – guest surveys confirm they will prefer to book hotels that demonstrate commitments to the environment and their local communities.

At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts we have been and will continue to invest in our communities and our Wyndham Green programme and will evolve these programmes to where our support is most required.

For example, in this last year, hotels have offered free rooms to elderly people displaced from their nursing homes as a result of Covid, we have contributed monetary donations to governmental bodies fighting the pandemic, and we have rewarded essential workers with upgrades on loyalty status and hotel stays. We will continue to invest our time and resources to maintain a robust sustainability agenda, it is what travellers increasingly demand and is just simply the right thing to do.La Quinta by Wyndham Giresun - Exterior & Pool

What travel trends do you predict for 2021 and beyond?

Digitalisation and personalisation will continue to be key trends. A growing number of travellers are looking to be treated as individuals, rather than just another anonymous customer.

More generally, from a recent traveller’s sentiment survey we conducted among our Wyndham Rewards members, we found that there is strong appetite for staycations and driving holidays to nearby countries amongst travellers, and we believe we can expect the domestic market to see increased demand across countries throughout 2021.

In the current climate, many of us are also embracing a more active lifestyle and I think this will transition into our holiday preferences this year, with more travellers looking to partake in activities outdoors that have become a welcome respite for us over the last year.

How people travel will also be different in 2021 and beyond. With a degree of remote working that may set to stay for some in the foreseeable future, we may see a rise in people taking workations and longer stays where they can extend their holiday and swap their home office for a change of scenery.

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