Shaping Hospitality’s Future with Dimitris Manikis of Wyndham Hotels — Photo by Mews

Dimitris Manikis is the President of Wyndham Hotels and Resorts for Europe, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa. Wyndham is the world's biggest franchise with 25 brands across 9,200 hotels in 95 countries. Dimitris' region includes around 650 hotels in 45 countries.

Dimitris and Matt Welle, Mews CEO, first met in person at Mews Unfold 2023, where, in Matt’s words, it was “love at first sight”. Dimitris will be appearing on stage again at Unfold 2024, where he’ll be sharing his invaluable insights and unfiltered opinions around Shaping Hospitality’s Future.

Ahead of the main event on May 29th, Dimitris and Matt caught up again over a virtual coffee to explore some of hospitality’s most interesting topics, including the balance between technology and humans and whether traveler habits are really changing.

If you’d like to see Dimitris (and a whole host of other hospitality leaders) in person, you can still book your tickets for Mews Unfold 2024.

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What should hoteliers be investing in right now?

It’s a big conversation. Everybody talks about technology and AI, and I think what we should be investing in is a combination of technology and people. We have to find the right balance as an industry to still count on people but at the same time make a huge investment in the future in technology.

Look at Mews, for example. I remember you telling me a couple of months ago how you have progressed from being a small startup to a billion-dollar company, not just because you invest a lot of technology, but because you've invested in people at the same time.

As an industry that is predominantly people-driven, we realized that without people we cannot be where we want to be in the future. But at the same time, we realized that technology is going to be the vehicle, the tool and the funnel that will get us there.

How do we find that balance between people and technology?

We have to be very careful because if we emphasize that the future of hospitality is all about technology, why would a young person work in an industry that’s going to replace her or his job with a robot?

We have to make sure that technology is there as an enabler to give people the opportunity to do so many other things and add to the experience. When your receptionist becomes an experiences officer – when there's no receptionist anymore but someone who welcomes guests and gives them information about the things they can do – that’s how technology is going to make sure that it becomes complimentary and not a threat.

So how can we balance that message?

We use technology to provide better experiences for guests, but at the same time make sure that our staff members actually get empowered to deliver a better experience. That is what we should be investing in.

What can we do to help hotel staff to truly connect with guests again?

The pre-arrival experience is vital. Talk to guests before they arrive and make sure that you know a lot about your guests before they walk through the door.

Use technology to see what their preferences are. Send them a message or an email or a TikTok video about your hotel, so before they arrive, they’ve already received a 30-second video of the five things you can do within 200 meters of the hotel, of the restaurant and bar, or an event that’s happening in the hotel the night that you're going to be there.

If we know who's coming, why don't we make sure that the pre-arrival is as important as the arrival? Why don't we use that technology to make that guest feel comfortable before they even walk into the lobby?

Also, let's be honest: there will be people who don't want to interact with anybody while at the hotel. They want to order room service and thank you very much. But if you give them the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation with somebody, something like: I'm here if you need me; if you haven't got any dinner appointments, this is where I would suggest for the evening. They might not take that suggestion, but it’s nice to have it.

Do you think travelers have actually changed?

I'll take the example from my own family. We haven't fundamentally changed the way we travel. I've got two millennials at home, 26 and 24. Apart from the fact that they expect me to pay for everything, I don't think they've really changed the way the way they travel.

What has changed though, is that do you remember when we used to put travelers into tribes and segments and we’d say Dimitris and his family travels only this way or Matt only travels this way. Now we are all cross borders.

The same guy who goes on a trekking holiday with EasyJet can fly business class to Cape Town six months later. The same guy who goes into a Michelin restaurant in Copenhagen can be on holiday six months later and get a Big Mac somewhere in the city center. We used to put them in tribes and segments and now they interact across the board.

Have you seen any hotel brands or hotels diversifying their offer for hybrid travel?

There are some amazing brands out there that are trying, but the reality is that the majority of hotels are owned by five or six hospitality companies. There are more brands coming in and somebody might say: do we actually need all these brands?

One of the reasons we have all these brands is the constant need of travelers to get something new, which pushes the hospitality companies to create new brands constantly. That's why you see so many brands coming out of the woodwork in the last six months to a year, because travel is changing constantly.

Our business is not different from the automotive industry, for example. Look at companies like Mercedes or BMW and how many different cars they have. Suddenly, electric cars become very popular, and then there are 10 different brands of electric cars, because that's going to be the future.

Everybody is on the quest for the Holy Grail: finding brands, products and services that will appeal to the new traveler or to the way people want to travel in the future.

Are there too many brands now?

We need to be very careful because our industry is getting to be a playground. It’s getting commoditized. For example, you have extended stay versus serviced apartments versus branded residences.

Consumers are going to get confused at some point, and the meaning of hospitality could be lost somewhere in translation. Because how do you choose? It’s an interesting debate, particularly with how co-living, co-working and other spaces are going to interact with each other.

What advice would you give to hoteliers?

A lot of people ask me what it takes to be successful in this industry, and the only thing I have to say is love. Love people. Not love what you do, because I do believe that everybody who works in any industry loves what they do. In our industry, you've got to love people.

If you don't love people, you're in the wrong business. No matter what happens, we show up every single day. We put on a welcoming face for the guests. You can build the best hotel in the world but if it’s full of grumpy people, nobody’s going to stay.

Once you’ve booked your ticket to see Dimitris at Unfold, be sure to check out the Mews Coffee Corner. It’s full of short, insightful conversations (including this one) with hoteliers and hospitality tech partners about what makes remarkable hospitality.

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About Mews

Mews is the leading platform for the new era of hospitality. Powering over 5,000 customers across more than 85 countries, Mews Hospitality Cloud is designed to streamline operations for modern hoteliers, transform the guest experience and create more profitable businesses. Customers include Generator-Freehand, The Strawberry Group, The Social Hub, and Airelles. Mews was named Best PMS (2024) and listed among the Best Place to Work in Hotel Tech (2021, 2022, 2024) by Hotel Tech Report, as well as World's Best Hotel PMS Provider (2023) and World's Best Independent Hotel PMS Provider (2022, 2023) by World Travel Tech Awards. The company has offices in Europe, the United States and Australia.