Looking ahead: trends and forecasts that will shape hospitality in 2023 and beyond

Written by: Dimitris Manikis, President, Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA), Wyndham Hotels & Resorts

Like every company and business in hospitality, all of us at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts EMEA have been recently discussing the trends and topics which will shape and take center stage for our industry in 2023.

We all agreed that five topics would continue to shape the direction of travel for the hospitality industry, and therefore our own business.

Inflation, energy crisis, labor shortages, technology, sustainability – it is a heady mix of challenges, trends, priorities and imperatives that will define 2023 and perhaps even beyond that into 2024 and 2025.

At the same time, we all agreed that it is our role to do all we can to change the narrative. We need to turn challenges into opportunities and ensure any chance to grow is maximized to its full potential and build in the momentum we have seen the last year or so once travel rebounded.

As an industry, we also need to learn from misjudgments made during the height of the Covid crisis.

In May 2020, hotels were reduced to offering the barest of bare bones. Business travel was deemed to be dead in the water, and the sector as a whole was written off in terms of recovery until at least 2025.

At the same time, we all thought buffets, breakfast as we knew it, room service and room cleaning would either be over or change for ever.

Fast forward only two years, and business travel has clearly fallen into the trap of catastrophizing. Because of this, challenges which have seriously hampered the trade have been exacerbated. Chaos at airports, airlines cancelling unprecedented amounts of flights, staff shortages – these issues could have been prepared for so much better had the industry not been consumed by so much pessimism. After all, we do not know what we do not know, and we realized that we can only control the controllable.

Making sure we do it right in 2023
Fortunately for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts EMEA, we head into 2023 in robust shape. As a franchised business, our model is naturally agile, and we have a multi-brand portfolio catering to the needs of every type of traveler and every type of budget.

As of September 2022, approximately 60% of the company’s growth pipeline resides in international divisions, including EMEA, for which I am responsible. This is of huge significance to us – it proves we are a diverse, global company that has a proven track record of investing in new markets and with new partners.

In 2023, our job is to keep the momentum building across all areas of our portfolio.

The extremities of the market – upscale/luxury and economy – have proven to be the biggest winners since the bounce back from the pandemic, and we will naturally target growth in these segments throughout the course of the year.

For example, our Super 8 by Wyndham brand is building strongly in key European markets such as Germany, while we also have particularly high hopes for growing our Days Inn by Wyndham and Ramada by Wyndham presence across the likes of the UK, CIS and Turkiye. The Ramada brand, incidentally, accounts for around 50% of our EMEA portfolio.

In terms of our upscale brands, I am excited about the forthcoming opening a brand-new Dolce by Wyndham property in beautiful Versailles, and we have an ambition to bring the brand into new markets altogether in 2023. Meanwhile, our curiosity-inspired Vienna House brand will also be introduced to new destinations after us buying the brand at the end of 2022.

Our focus in 2023 is equally varied from a geographical standpoint. We are about to open our 100th hotel in Turkiye, while emerging markets such as Saudi Arabia and India provide cause for extreme optimism.

For us, what is important is that growth is not forced for growth’s sake. My motto has always been that whatever we do, we need to do it right – that takes time, diligence and attention. And with a tough and competitive year upon us, not least because the market is consolidating and segmentation crumbling, it is vital that we ensure any new brand expansion is a good fit for the destination, the physical asset and the franchisee.

Putting people first
The latter is especially important, and for Wyndham our Owner First culture is key to our success. We are a people business and a people industry after all, and the sector is all too aware of the threat posed by a shortage of talent and businesspeople who want to be part of our amazing industry.

Wyndham has a tremendous pipeline of motivated and highly skilled hotel owners and franchise partners – the real challenge lies in shifting the dial on the acute labor shortage that is debilitating so many companies in the hospitality trade.

The situation is extremely serious. The labor market has not recovered from the pandemic, but the problems stem far deeper than the Covid crisis which only served to add speed to the prevailing wind.

Hospitality desperately needs to reposition itself and make a much stronger and more positive case for being a career path of choice. Too many graduates from hospitality schools and courses do not stay in the sector, and too much of the talent we do have working with us do not see enough of the career progression or longevity that they crave to stay for the long term.

While good pay is important, especially during these inflationary times, it is not the silver bullet. We must present a better corporate offer and provide clear career paths for people to enjoy a long and rewarding tenure in hospitality. This is a huge priority for us in 2023, and we’re already arming our franchisees with several tools and incentives to help alleviate some of the labor pressures they are facing up to.

The fact the spotlight is firmly on the labor crunch is certainly a good thing, as we are forced to talk about it and take action – if we don’t, the hospitality sector does not have a sustainable future.

At Wyndham Hotels & Resorts EMEA, a key part of my responsibility will be maintaining our hiring momentum. Promisingly, a quarter of our workforce was hired during 2022 – a foundation we must continue to build on.

This will be key to achieving our various growth objectives, not just in terms of financials, but how Wyndham evolves as a business.

Growth, to me, is encompassed by a duty of care. As we expand, we will continue to look out for our people who have endured hardship in recent years. Duty of care also extends to the natural world around us, and our growth path will be aligned with objectives relating to ESG and sustainability as our Wyndham Green program rolls out across our franchise ecosystem.

There is a lot to look forward to. Yes, times are and will continue to be challenging, but Wyndham has and always will be one of hospitality’s most optimistic cheerleaders.

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