Dimitris Manikis, President and Managing Director (EMEA) for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts chats to Bill Grieve about his role, future plans and… funky specs.
How many properties are in your portfolio?
We have more than 470 properties across Europe, the Middle East, Eurasia and Africa (EMEA), Overall, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has more than 9,200 hotels in over 80 countries. We are the world's largest hotel franchising company. The EMEA region accounts for about 55 per cent of the world's population, including India with 1.2 billion people, so, it’s an incredibly diverse portfolio.
Every time I talk to my US colleagues about our portfolio, I highlight the diversity of locations, languages, religions and currencies, in this fantastic region, and this is what makes it so exciting.
You’ve been in your current role as President and Managing Director (EMEA) for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts around 18 months. Briefly, what’s your previous experience?
Before joining Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, I spent more than 25 years with RCI – part of our former parent company Wyndham Worldwide we span off from in 2018 - So I had familiarity with our brands and the hospitality industry. I’ve been with Wyndham since Worldwide was founded and even before with Cendant. It has been an amazing experience.
I grew up and studied in Greece before moving to the UK for a master's degree. I simply applied for a role in the company, and what a journey it has been. It has given me the opportunity to travel the world. I have lived in the Middle East and in Africa. I have met amazing people. I grew in the business and I am so proud of the people I worked with, the teams that I've got to know through the years. I'm mostly grateful to Wyndham for giving me the opportunity to do all this.
When I joined Wyndham Hotels & Resorts in 2018, I was however conscious that I wasn’t hotelier. My boss said: ‘Dimitris, you don't have to be a pilot to run an airline. As long as you know that the cockpit is at the front of the plane and not the back’. All jokes aside, it’s has been an incredible opportunity.
What did you set out to achieve in this initial period? And, have you managed it?
Wyndham includes 20 hotel brands and a lot of people are familiar our individual brands. They will know Ramada, Days Inn and Super 8, but Wyndham is a relatively new company in EMEA. Therefore a key focus is continuing to drive awareness. Whether is participating at conferences, talking to press, we focus on showing who we are and what Wyndham stands for. What are our values and objectives are as a company. As I joined Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, a key priority for me was to meet most of our partners, owners and GMs in the region.
18 months on, we have made some great progress. I have had the pleasure to meet owners and partners, I have travelled to most of the places in EMEA. Given the size of the region, there is certainly more to do and we have exciting plans in place.
Another key focus is to make Wyndham a household name in the hospitality industry. But I think we still have some way to go. We've only been around, formerly as Wyndham Worldwide - for about 12 years; we've achieved a lot in this short period of time and we're all proud of that.
There are several Wyndham properties in Bahrain, any further developments planned in the kingdom and the wider region?
We've got five properties – one Wyndham Grand, one Wyndham Garden and three Ramada hotels. We are one of the biggest hotel companies in Bahrain. We have great teams, we are working with very good owners we continuously listen to and learn from. Bahrain has been good to Wyndham, very good in terms of revenues, welcoming us, giving us opportunities to grow, welcoming our guests, welcoming our brands. And, of course, we want to do more. That's what we're here for today. We want to do more business in Bahrain.
Saudi Arabia is another key market for us. More chains have established a presence in the Kingdom than in the last year, than in decades. Saudi is the biggest market and young people make up the biggest percentage of the population. They are people who are eager to travel. They are people who are also eager to welcome guests. You said it yourself, you took seven minutes to get an online visa. With the announcements about the upcoming infrastructure plans and new projects I think Saudi Arabia has incredible potential and is going to be the biggest surprise of all.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your job?
Storytelling and meeting interesting people. Every time I meet somebody, there's a new story. There is a new, exciting world that opens up. Every time you meet somebody, you gain an insight into another perspective on life.
Wyndham Garden Manama is (or was, on opening) the biggest hotel in this brand worldwide – what drove the decision for such a significant investment in Bahrain’s relatively small market?
The owners, Mannai Properties, saw in Wyndham a good partner to do business with. I think the European and US business in Bahrain is very important, especially with the base been here. Wyndham is a brand that everybody knows and recognises in the US. If you look at the numbers, the occupancy, it has proven to be a very successful move. Despite being perceived like a relatively small market, Bahrain has fantastic potential.
The final question and being cheeky, your quirky glasses are a trademark across the industry. What's the story?
It’s a story that just a few people know. When I was 25 I started losing my hair and I panicked. It was 1986 and being bald was not so trendy back then.
I was paranoid and didn't even want to leave my room. My roommate, tired of listening to me complain, asked me to seek help from a doctor.
So, I went to the doctor and told him my story. I told him how horrible I felt about losing my hair. He listened patiently then told me: ‘I've got the answer. Go back to your room, shave your head, shave your hair completely, go back to London and buy a pair of bright red frames.’
I used to wear boring black glasses back then.