Making guests feel safe as they return to travel is critical for any hotel company to succeed in the post-COVID-19 world, but for a large franchise company like Wyndham Hotels & Resorts taking care of their owner partners is equally important.
The company has taken a major step towards doing both with the launch of “Count On Us,” a long-range, multi-faceted initiative designed to support franchisees and make guests comfortable as well. The immediate focus is to further elevate health and safety protocols at Wyndham hotels in the wake of COID-19, shore up critical supply chains and introduce new standards, training, and guidelines grounded in guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Lisa Checchio, EVP, chief marketing officer, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, more than 90 percent of the company’s some 6,000 U.S. hotels managed to stay open during the pandemic. She added that number is now more than 96 percent for Wyndham, which has more than 9,300 hotels globally throughout its portfolio of 20 brands.
Checcio described the driving force for the initiative and helping franchisees. “How do we ensure that the hotels are safe and clean? How do we ensure that our franchisees have what they need to not only take care of our guests but, most importantly, take care of themselves and their staff on site? We wanted to make sure that they have the right equipment, the right cleaning products, the right training. These are the core decisions that led to Count On Us,” he said.
Checcio elaborated on some of the company’s other efforts on behalf of owners. “Our franchisees could count us to be mindful of what they needed to run their businesses. That came really in the form of fee relief as well as us trying to lobby on their behalf to get them the government support that they needed,” he said.
Beginning in March, Wyndham delayed fee payments for its franchisees to later in the fall. The company also suspended revenue management services fees, as well as fees tied to the loyalty programs, according to Checcio. “We were really thinking top of mind how do we help our franchisees to preserve cash? How do we help them put money toward things that are helping them keep the doors open and understanding what it is they’re going through day in and day out,” she said.
Checcio further added the company suspended the traditional breakfast buffet throughout all of its brands until January 1 of next year. “It is to really allow our franchisees to have the most flexibility when it comes to the [breakfast] offerings in hotels. It’s another way not only to reserve cash but also adjust to the changing guest expectations as they come into the hotels,” said Checchio.
She stressed that one of the most important aspects of “Count On Us” is the ability to secure hard-to-source materials for its properties, such as EPA and CDC approved cleaning products, PPP materials, and hand sanitizers. She added through a partnership with Ecolab that materials are being drop-shipped to properties to help them comply with new brand standards.