A passion for people and places2 January 2023
With over 30 years working in hospitality, Dimitris Manikis has had the opportunity to cover a variety of roles across the world before becoming president, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa, of Wyndham Hotel & Resorts in 2018. Phoebe Galbraith speaks with Manikis to find out his experience in the industry as he explains Wyndham’s commitment to embracing sustainability and development.
With most of his life spent working in hospitality, Dimitris Manikis doesn’t think of his career as merely a job but rather a life choice. Starting off as an intern for an internationally-branded hotel in his hometown of Athens, Manikis fell in love with the industry. “I loved the people, the passion and the difference hospitality can make to people’s lives,” he says. “From there, I decided to do my master’s degree in tourism, I travelled and worked abroad, and the rest is history.”
Having been associated with Wyndham for most of his career, Manikis spent over 25 years at the hotel group’s former sister company RCI – prior to its spin-off from Wyndham Worldwide – before joining Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in 2018 as president, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA). “I joined Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in April 2018 and I am responsible for the development of all of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ brands in Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa as well as maximising the performance of all new and existing franchise and managed hotels in the region,” Manikis explains. “My role is to grow the business, ensuring our franchisees are supported and engaged, keep our team happy and ensure people know what Wyndham stands for.”
With a passion for people and a strong work ethic, Manikis learnt the importance of customer service, hard work and positivity as the foundation of success from his father. “It is these foundations that I place at the forefront of all that I do in business and life,” he adds. “Having been at the company for nearly five years, it makes me very proud to see the evolution and growth we have achieved and especially the resilience of the industry over the past two and a half years.” The company, as Manikis puts it, is committed to a future where all feel welcomed and appreciated.
Something to look forward to
When it comes to the future of hospitality, sustainability, technology and talent are all essential elements that will ensure the evolution and growth of the industry. “The world is seeing rapid change and as the world’s largest hotel franchising company, we do have a responsibility to strengthen and contribute to the communities where we operate, further our diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and protect the environment for future generations,” Manikis explains. “The work of our valuable team members, all around the world, not just in EMEA, continues to make a meaningful impact on our industry, our franchisees and the communities around them.”
When it comes to the environment, Manikis and Wyndham certainly understand the importance of their commitment to its protection to preserve the world in which we all live and work, including natural resources and creating long-term sustainable solutions. In light of this, Wyndham Green – the groups global sustainability programme – is a five-level certification programme that aids hotels in reducing their environmental footprint by improving the energy efficiency and helping to reduce emissions, conserve water and reduce waste of hotel properties. With over 70% of hotels in the EMEA region engaged in the programme, the initiative is seeing great momentum in its implementation. Wyndham has also created a new “brand standard” that requires all franchised properties to meet the first level of the programme by April 2023. “We also work closely with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and are proud to be one of the world-leading hotel companies and members, which work towards building a more sustainable and inclusive future for our planet and its people.”
As a hotel group, Wyndham is also invested in technology as the Wyndham mobile app has helped enhance the guest experience and makes the booking process easier and more personalised, says Manikis. Likewise, labour shortage is an important issue across the hospitality industry and it is more important than ever to acquire and retain talent for Wyndham.
“We invest in our employees and are committed to attracting, motivating and retaining team members who align with our company’s core values. This applies to our corporate team members as well as hotels teams,” continues Manikis. “We provide our partners and owners with toolkits, best practices and materials to equip them with all the tools needed to acquire, grow and retain talent.”
With the standstill of the pandemic becoming a memory, Wyndham is not slowing down in terms of expansion with over 550 hotels across EMEA alone and a host of openings and plans expected.
Just a few months ago, says Manikis, Wyndham acquired the Vienna House brand adding an upscale and midscale portfolio of roughly 40 hotels and over 6,000 rooms across Europe. “While it is an acquisition in Europe, Vienna House has become our 23rd brand in our global portfolio and we have an ambition to double the size of the brand portfolio in the next five years,” he adds.
This is not the only exciting development for the hotel group, however. “We have seen continued expansion in Germany, entered Poland for the first time, and expanded the reach of more of our iconic brands in more countries, from the TRYP by Wyndham in Greece, Wyndham Garden in Italy to Trademark Collection in Portugal,” Manikis reveals.
“We have expanded our foothold in Turkey, where we are proud to be the largest international hotel company by number of properties and brought more accommodation options to the Middle East while also surpassing our 50th hotel mark in India.”
With such strong development in place and ahead, Manikis sees enormous potential for the year ahead. With a motto to “make travel possible for all”, the Wyndham group intends to continue expanding across the globe to bring new products its guest.
Pandemic impact and recovery
While the world is indeed doing its best to move forward, there is no denying the impact the pandemic had – especially for the hospitality industry as many businesses closed as travel and tourism came to a standstill. However, Wyndham stuck to what it knows best and continued to prioritise its team and partners as it navigated the challenges of Covid-19. “Our teams came together to provide our hotel partners with extra direction and guidance every step of the way. We introduced proactive measures across all areas, from operations guidelines, commercial best practices and initiatives, regular webinars and constant communications, while adapting our support as needed.”
As Manikis says, in one of the toughest periods the industry has experienced, putting partners, guests and teams at the heart of everything they do was more important than ever before. “Our ability to continue to grow during this challenging time is testament to the strength of Wyndham, the resilience and dedication of our partners and teams, and we are looking forward to our continued and long-term success together.”
When he looks to the future for recovery, Manikis’ is confident that Wyndham’s plans haven’t changed post-pandemic. “We are looking to grow organically and via strategic alliances and partnerships and we are looking to bring Wyndham to new geographies and regions,” elaborates Manikis. “Our plan is to do this using the power of a global company, which acts locally and by utilising the strong work ethic of a diverse, committed and passioned team across the EMEA division.”
Despite the difficulties of the past few years, Manikis is determined to use the lessons learned from the pandemic as a “compass” to guide them for the future, while serving as a reminder of the greatness, resilience and beauty of the hospitality industry. “We serve a basic human need, travel, and we plan to do this with the best of our abilities.”
Wyndham Green Programme
The Wyndham Green Programme consists of two integral components: the Wyndham Green Toolbox and Wyndham Green Certification. These components allow the company to measure impact, while aiming for continuous improvement across Wyndham branded properties.
Wyndham Green Toolbox
The Wyndham Green Toolbox – an online environmental management system – is specifically designed to track, measure, and report on global performance in energy, emissions, water consumption, and waste diversion. The Toolbox provides visualisation to analyse franchisees’ footprint at the macro and micro levels, while scaling to the company’s goals. Data-driven insights allow Wyndham to identify risks and challenges in various markets to help ensure that all are striving toward the company’s performance targets. Wyndham-branded properties can also track and measure the impacts of efficiency measures that have been implemented, and Wyndham can monitor and benchmark their progress, helping them to reduce operating costs and the company’s collective environmental impact.
Wyndham Green Certification
Wyndham Green Certification is Wyndham’s internal certification programme, composed of five progressive levels, with five to seven elements per level that address goals including energy and water conservation, waste diversion, and operational efficiency, as well as guest, team member, and franchisee education and engagement. The certification aligns with popular external programmes, such as TripAdvisor Green Leaders and Green Key, which provide common sense initiatives that parallel building certification programs such as LEED. The first three levels prioritise quick-payback efficiency measures, some of which are no-cost to low-cost.
Source: Wyndham Hotels & Resort 2022 Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report