It never ceases to amaze me how paths cross and opportunities arise. A few months ago we were invited to the Due by Dolce Biscotti event in London where I met Patrick Divall, Regional Vice President for Western Europe, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts (the brand owns Dolce Hotels and you can read our review of the Dolce Sitges here). After a few conversations it was evident he’d be a perfect pick to share his story in our Q&A. Read on to find out more.
Tell us more about your career and the journey to your current role.
I joined Wyndham Hotels & Resorts as Regional Vice President for Western Europe in September 2016. I am responsible for Western Europe, a very exciting region where I oversee approximately 130 hotels spanning from upper upscale to economy offering, so a really interesting and diverse range of options to suit any traveller’s needs.
My role is about working closely with our hotel partners and ensure they take full advantage of Wyndham’s tools and resources available to them, so that operations are running smoothly, with service levels up to scratch. Supported by a team of Operations experts, we work together with our hotels to deliver the great experience our guests deserve, and continue to drive good engagement with Wyndham Rewards, our loyalty programme that brings all our brands together.
I can proudly say that I have been in this incredible industry for 30 years. I have a true passion for the hospitality sector, which saw me start my career at Gatwick Hilton International, originally specialising in hotel finance. I then continued working for the Hilton Group for approximately ten years in various hotels in the UK including London Hilton on Park Lane. I moved to Starwood Hotels & Resorts for twenty years working in various countries including Portugal, The Netherlands and Ireland, and then of course Wyndham, where I am having a fantastic time strengthening our hotel representation in Western Europe. The joy of our industry is that every hotel brings unique challenges and experiences so you feel like you’re in a new role continuously!.
Please provide an overview of the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts– for those readers who are not familiar with the Group.
Well, to put it simply, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is the world’s largest hotel franchising company and a leading provider of hotel management services. We have approximately 9,200 hotels across more than 80 countries, with approximately 812,000 rooms.
We have 20 brands in total – some that you may be very familiar and include Ramada by Wyndham, Days Inn by Wyndham, Dolce Hotels and Resorts by Wyndham, to name just a few. We offer our guests from upper-upscale to economy accommodation. This supports our mission to make hotel travel possible for all, with a portfolio of brands that suits every kind of guest, wherever and however they want to travel around the world.
All our brands are part of Wyndham Rewards, our award-winning loyalty programme that offers members the opportunity to redeem points at thousands of hotels, resorts and holiday rental properties globally. Earlier this year we introduced a number of great features. Following our recent acquisition of La Quinta, a well-known midscale hotel brand in America, we added an extra 900 hotels where guests can earn and redeem points. Plus, the ability for members to redeem free stays starting from just 7,500 points per night, as well as new and expanded partnerships to offer our loyal guests new ways to earn and redeem points. We are so proud to have over 75 million enrolled members, and we always look at ways to evolve our Wyndham Rewards further to stay relevant to them.
Which is your favourite Wyndham brand and why?
Every brand has something unique to offer. Actually my favourite thing about Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is that we have such a broad selection of strong brands. Each and every one has something special about it and is great for a different reason. Across our portfolio we have a brand for every traveller, whatever the trip type or price point.
Tell us more about the Dolce brand (which TLE has stayed at)?
Dolce by Wyndham is a collection of upper upscale hotels set in stunning locations from Napa Valley to Provence, or the breath-taking Greek coast. The brand is a big hit with business guests as all Dolce hotels offer slick meeting facilities and creative spaces, state-of-the-art technology and engaging activities. Whether you’re planning a conference or the wedding of your dreams, Dolce by Wyndham has it all. The idea is that whether guests are in a meeting or relaxing on the golf course, in the spa or at world-famous wineries, Dolce by Wyndham is the ideal, inspiring backdrop. Here in Europe alone, we have Dolce by Wyndham hotels in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Germany, France and Belgium so I definitely recommend trying them out.
What are the plans for the Dolce brand over the next 5 years?
We are really looking forward to the opening of Dolce by Wyndham Versailles in France next year. The hotel promises to be really special, with 15 luxury suites and apartments as well as 148 rooms, two amazing restaurants, a bar, a spa, indoor and outdoor pools, all of this set in a lovely 14-hectare park. We believe the Dolce by Wyndham brand has a really strong potential and are in continuous talks with partners to explore opportunities to continue to expand the brand further.
We have also just announced the launch of Due by Dolce, a signature biscotti amenity crafted by Dolce’s expert chefs. The launch followed a bake-off, where two Dolce by Wyndham chefs – Chef Aleece Alexander of Dolce Aspen Meadows Resort and Chef Adrien Clauwaert of Dolce by Wyndham La Hulpe Brussels – went head-to-head to create the winning biscotti. The bake-off was so much fun. A major highlight for me was that we were joined by stars from The Great British Bake Off (GBBO), Benjamina Ebuehi and Selasi Ghormittah, who were on hand to mentor and coach each team. It was surreal baking with them having seen them do a similar thing each week on the show!
The winning recipe has become the brand’s signature biscotti offering, guests can expect to see it in Dolce hotels later this year so keep an eye out for it!
Which is your favourite destination in which the group has a presence and why?
It is really tough to narrow it down to one place! I work across Western Europe, which in itself is so diverse, with such a range of countries and destinations offering such different travel experiences. From city breaks to seaside escapes and countryside getaways, we are so lucky to have Europe on our doorstep.
On a personal level, I have enjoyed many family holidays in Greece, both in the islands and the mainland. I love the simplicity and the beauty of the country, along with the generosity of spirit of the Greek people. We recently had our Executive Team meeting at the newly opened Wyndham Grand Crete Mirabello Bay, which is a beautiful hotel and location – definitely one to revisit on a personal basis!
What would be your key piece of advice to a newbie trying to forge a career in the luxury hospitality sector?
Follow your passion and keep an open mind. The hospitality sector has a diverse and ever-changing landscape and is witnessing exciting trends. Newbies in the industry need to be nimble and open to changing with the market, which is affected by seasonality, local travel patterns and source markets, all of which keep moving. Keep learning, follow your passion and remind yourself each day of the bigger picture – you work in one of the most exciting sectors out there!
Luxury means different things to different people, what epitomises luxury travel for you?
To me travel means meaningful experiences, authenticity and relevance to the local culture and destination. This is something that Wyndham Hotels & Resorts tries to make happen at every property.
Hotel design is an important part of this and our team is always focused on creating interesting twists for our brands and destinations within them. This means guests really know where they are when they stay with us and get a taste for the locale, even if they are on a business trip and don’t make it beyond the hotel and boardroom- I’ve been there.
You have over 30 years experience in the hospitality sector. What has been the most significant changes you’ve observed in the last 5 years and what do you predict for the next five years?
Where to start? There have been so many changes and I can’t wait to see what is in store for the sector over the next few years.
Technology has certainly changed everything. Today’s travellers make their plans on the go, on their phone, tablet or computer, and social media plays a huge roles when picking one place. This also means that they expect a personalised and streamlined experience, whether they are booking a stay with us. That’s why technology is so important to us to ensure that the digital experience is as good as it can be.
Democratisation of travel – This defines a new type of traveller, particularly millennials with more disposable incomes who look for experience to discover the world, but with value and accessibility above all else. These guests see destinations on Instagram and want to go whatever their means. Our economy and midscale brands offer them the chance to do so and the experience they want.
Business and leisure travel have completely blurred for many digital nomads and other travellers out there and hotels need to recognise this. Offering flexible work and public spaces are a good starting point and I am sure we will see much more in this space for this new generation of traveller and way of life.
Today consumers are very sophisticated, much more open to new brands on the market. However, with so many options available, guests are more interested if there is an overarching connection between the brands. This is why our Wyndham Rewards loyalty programme and the recent addition of our ‘by Wyndham’ hallmark is so important for our business.
What is your life motto? (if you have one)
“Life sometimes give you opportunities that you never knew existed”
By this, I mean be open to everything and grab the chances when you see them! When I look back at my career I can see that sometimes the best events were linked to being prepared to listen to others, see potential opportunities and takes risks, whether that included moving to new countries with a six- month old baby, or making that career jump from finance to operations. Now my life approach is to always be open to those unexpected and unknown opportunities – you never know where they can lead you – and it’s always exciting to find out!