RIYADH: In alignment with Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ strategy to expand its midscale offering in the Middle East, the company has reintroduced direct franchising and management rights for the Ramada brand in Saudi Arabia.
This announcement by the world’s largest hotel franchising company, with approximately 9,100 hotels across more than 95 countries, replaces exclusive master license agreements for the brand in the Kingdom.
With more than 900 hotels globally, Ramada is Wyndham’s largest brand in Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa, with over 200 hotels in approximately 40 countries in the region, of which over 30 are in the Middle East and Africa alone.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News on the sidelines of the recently held World Travel and Tourism Global Summit in Riyadh, Dimitris Manikis, president EMEA at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said: “With this announcement we, as Wyndham, are 100 percent responsible for the development of the Ramada brand in Saudi Arabia. It was the right time for us to step in and take the destiny or the future of Ramada in our own hands. It’s a major step for us.”
He added: “This signifies our belief in the future of the Kingdom and that we want to have a direct relationship with our partners here.”
Going on to explain that Wyndham was in the franchise business where they worked with local partners, Manikis said, as a company, they are “asset light.”
“Just to give you an idea, out of the 9,000-plus hotels, we don’t own any hotels,” he said, adding: “We give our local partners the brand, we give them the technology, the distribution, and we support them through a franchise agreement.”
As part of the company’s expansion plan in Saudi Arabia, Wyndham has recently opened Ramada by Wyndham in Riyadh's King Fahd Road, its 13th hotel in the country.
According to Manikis, the real strength of Wyndham was in economy and midscale offerings, and that is where he believes the future is for Saudi Arabia.
“We are committed to contributing to the development of the Kingdom’s tourism through the expansion of our mid-market and economy presence, to help bring even more accommodation options to suit all visitors to the Kingdom,” Manikis said.
He added: “Five percent of the world travels luxury, 95 percent is ordinary people like me that want to travel and have a great and affordable experience.”
“Hospitality is not just about stay at the hotel. It’s about the restaurants. It’s about the theme parks. It’s about a holistic experience,” Manikis continued.
Not surprisingly he said that, from an investment perspective, Wyndham is working with the Saudi government to look at the midscale and economy sector.
“I believe there’s a huge future for that sector in Saudi Arabia,” he reiterated.
Manikis was also very optimistic about the future of the hospitality sector in the Kingdom. “Saudi Arabia is on the map,” he said.
“You would be crazy not to have Saudi Arabia as one of your top three destinations for the next five years in terms of arrivals, in terms of adding your brands, investments and bringing people in. You cannot close your eyes to what is happening in Saudi Arabia at this point, you just cannot ignore it.”
Moving on to talk about the hospitality industry in general, Manikis said it was one of the most resilient industries in the world. “We survived COVID-19 but we lost valuable people, we lost enormous talent,” he said. “Our number one priority now is to bring the talent back,” he concluded.