Shooting for the Moon

CEO Eric Danzinger plans to lead Wyndham Hotel Group to new heights.


Looking and sounding like a hotel company is one thing, but the challenge for Wyndham Hotel Group will be acting the part. “Before we thought of ourselves as a franchise company,” says Keith Pierce, who heads all non-Wyndham brands in the Americas and has been with the company since it was Hospitality Franchise Systems. “As we opened more rooms, as our RevPAR increased, we were growing our revenues. The sea change is really as you begin to focus more and more on providing a higher level of service to licensees, better support systems in terms of technology, distribution channels and revenue management, you continue to improve your product and drive occupancy and ADR.”

Cendant's evolution, from its early days as HFS, and expansion to the dozen brands it now includes, helped foster more individuality than a sense of one. Legacy brands — like Super 8, Howard Johnson and Days Inn — and just one home-grown brand (Wingate) added to that mentality. One of Danziger's first major moves was planning to bring together all 12 brands with the company's first joint conference in September 2010 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Six thousand people coming together sends a powerful message about the strength of a company, but there are other ways to take advantage of the sheer numbers. “Procurement is a good example,” says Duane Elledge, who was promoted to chief retention officer. “Let's use the leverage of Wyndham Worldwide to provide power and not have three different procurement departments. When we buy mattresses, let's look at it overall.”

Elledge is an example of the new focus on customer service. In his newly named position, he oversees eight departments, all related in some way to keeping licensees successful and satisfied.

With the addition of the Wyndham brand in 2005 and the purchase of U.S. Franchise Systems (Microtel Inn & Suites and extended-stay Hawthorn Suites) last year, Wyndham Hotel Group now has an offering for nearly every consumer and owner. Creating more clarity in those 11 brands (AmeriHost Inn is being phased out) is an immediate goal for Danziger.

Danziger separates the brands into three categories: optimize (Super 8, Days Inn and Knights Inn), reinvigorate (Howard Johnson, Ramada and Travelodge) and growth brands (Wyndham, Wingate, Microtel, Baymont and Hawthorn). The ‘optimize’ brands are already established and highly successful, while the reinvigorate grouping may require significant changes before going forward. “What are those brands, or what should they be, and then let's go and get that done and then grow them,” Danziger says. The growth brands are well positioned and primed for immediate expansion.

To this point, Wyndham Hotel Group has not done much cross-selling or cross-marketing among the brands, but both Danziger and Pierce hint that could change. What does tie all the brands together is one of the strongest loyalty programs in the industry: Wyndham Rewards, which combines Cendant's Trip Rewards and Wyndham ByRequest programs, has over 7.6 million active members.

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