Wyndham Hotels

It is said that Tormund Giantsbane could laugh the snow off of mountain tops. It is also said that he once cut open the belly of a sleeping giantess and slept in her for warmth during a winter storm. For Kristofer Hivju, who plays the famed wilding raider in the uber-hit Game of Thrones, the prospect of getting a good night’s sleep on some crisp linen is materially enhanced by the ambassadorial role he plays for Wyndham Hotels, the largest hotel franchise operator in the world and self-styled champion of the everyday traveller. Wyndham, like many, has been hit hard by COVID. Lockdowns do not sit well in the hospitality space, but Wyndham is a muscular operator that is likely to power through the crisis and emerge stronger on the other side. Indeed, the crisis has forced the hand of management, to brainstorm, to reshape and refine operations. Costs have come out, many which will be permanent. Marketing spend has been clipped, but support for franchisees has not. Where Hivju comes in, is to juice the loyalty of the clientele. About half of those checking in do so with a suitcase in one hand, a loyalty card in the other. With Hivju’s help, management hope to push this through 60%. More loyal customers, means more direct bookings, and less pay away to the online travel operators; pay aways that come in the shape of anything up to a full fat 25% commission rate. Indeed, recessions often play into the hands of market heavyweights, as small independent operators eye up the central support and marketing power of a global brand. An acceleration of new franchisee deals, as was the case in 2009, is likely. More deals, more market share. And Wyndham is hardly exposed to business travel. The offer is sparse, there are no Jacuzzis, croquet lawns or welcome buckets of ice-cold Bollinger. Indeed, there are no restaurants. Hungry guests instead, have grab and go bags, and everything that Doordash (the Stateside version of JustEats) has to offer. The relationship with food delivery services has exploded. The COVID pandemic has wrought havoc on many in the hospitality space, but for some, for those with nimble management and an attractive offer; the current crisis is a significant long-term opportunity.