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Dimitris Manikis of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts On The Future of Travel in The Post Covid World

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

When the mind eases, the eyes get lost in the horizon and the sounds you hear reflect the peace you feel. Regardless of where and when it happens, once this moment occurs and you fully relax into a destination, you know you are on the perfect vacation.

As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dimitris Manikis.

Dimitris Manikis was appointed President and Managing Director for EMEA in April 2018. In his current role as President of EMEA, he is responsible for the development of all of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ brands in the EMEA region as well as maximizing the performance of all new and existing franchise and managed hotels. He focuses on driving the strategic objectives of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts including quality and technology solutions as well as new business, loyalty, sales and marketing.

Dimitris Manikis has a long-standing career and deep knowledge of the hospitality industry. Prior to joining Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, he spent over 27 years with RCI, the worldwide leader in vacation exchange, across a number of senior roles, and most recently served as Vice President of Business Development for EMEA. Earlier in his career, he also held a number key positions in the region as Managing Director of RCI Greece and RCI South Africa.

A Greek national, Dimitris was born in Athens and holds a Bachelor degree in Tourism and Administration from the Technical University of Patras in Greece, and an MSc Postgraduate degree in Tourism Marketing from the University of Surrey. His passion for people and work ethic comes from his father, who built up a grocery retail business in Athens where Dimitris learned the value of elevated customer service, having a positive outlook and hard work as being the foundations of success in both business and life.

He is based in Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ London office.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I grew up in a family where customer service was at the epicenter of everything that they did. My dad owned and worked in supermarkets alongside running a delicatessen business and working there during the summer holidays I was always impressed by his smile, positive attitude, and his love for the job. Hospitality was the obvious choice for me to then go into, and an industry where the values I was raised with could be put into practice in everything I would do going forward in my career and life.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I was blessed and privileged to be able to start traveling with my job from very early on in my career and there are so many stories and interesting things I have seen and experienced that it is very difficult to choose just one! However, one that I do always especially cherish is from when I visited Kolkata in India. This city is a vibrant melting pot of cultures and religions. I had never realized that in one place so many religions could be present, and I was struck by how the people that live there lived in such peace and harmony respectfully. I have always taken it as a model for how we should base our lives. When you work in travel, meeting new people and experiencing new beliefs and cultures is at the heart of what you do and why you love it. I thought Kolkata was a wonderful example of how the world could be and the embodiment of the wonders of exploration.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The good thing is that I made lots of mistakes and learned from each one of them! One of the funniest mistakes was when I met the CEO of the company that I started my career with, and I mistook him for the security guard. I had a long conversation before he properly introduced himself to me! We had a good laugh afterwards, but it was a nice CLM (career limiting move!) and a reminder that we are all human.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?

Always take time to reflect and recharge, love what you do and find the right people to learn from and use as a reference. In my early years I had the luck of meeting some truly incredible people who acted as my compass, and they taught me the lessons which have shaped my business character and attitude.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The founder of my first job, the late Christel De Haan gave me an opportunity, trusted me, and allowed me to be myself. She was my mentor, my moral compass and her values helped me shape my business life.

Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?

As a global hospitality company, we always strive to innovate and elevate our guest experience. The pandemic has generated significant changes in demand and guest profiles, so we have implemented a variety of new initiatives that have adapted to these changes. For example, we launched our Wyndham Mobile App with features such as a simplified hotel booking process, to meet the demand for low-contact, in-stay functionality for guests. The app has been well received by the corporate events market with guests visiting for conferences able to minimize exposure to hotel staff.

Additionally, we launched our Wyndham Easy Book program and our hybrid meeting solutions to attract travelers to Wyndham properties in this new environment. We recognized that the meetings and events world needed to adapt and provide new solutions due to on-going restrictions caused by the outbreak of Covid-19. To address this, we designed a hybrid meeting concept which enables in-person meetings combined with elements of virtual engagement with attendees off-site. This was initially rolled out at Dolce by Wyndham in EMEA and thanks to its success has since expanded across a variety of our brands and properties globally.

Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?

The pandemic has of course changed the way in which people want to travel and what they will now expect from hospitality. The biggest ‘pain point’ for us has been the new desire for ‘low contact’ stays and meetings which before were practically the opposite of what travel involved. Without a doubt Covid-19 has accelerated the use of technology and increased consumer adoption of these tools, this will continue to evolve over the coming years. We will continue to mold our tools around this pain point, as it will enable more seamless and personalized guest experiences.

Particularly for our MICE and business guests, we recognized their meetings and events world needed to adapt to provide new solutions due to on-going restrictions caused by Covid-19. Our hybrid meeting platform is aimed at accommodating these guests. The new proposition includes a blend of conventional meetings with virtual elements to suit each events’ needs. Highlights include live streaming to separate meeting rooms in the same location, on-site broadcast studios connecting various Wyndham Hotels & Resorts properties in EMEA, and large-scale online conference capabilities. Every event comes with a dedicated Wyndham Hotels & Resorts hybrid meeting expert, state-of-the-art technology, high-speed internet and pre-event technical rehearsals. Businesses booking a hybrid event can also benefit from Dolce’s full project management services ensuring effective event coordination from start to finish. The new concept comes complete with a variety of experiences to keep attendees engaged, including specialised event moderators to promote remote participation, various activities involving live music, yoga, and Tai chi, as well as hybrid team building solutions.

How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?

I would argue that we are not disrupting the status quo, that the pandemic has done that for us! But we are at the forefront of hospitality brands looking to meet these new demands in guest experience. If you look at our hybrid meeting platform specifically, the pandemic caused the disruption, but our innovative technology has left other brands scrambling to catch up. Hybrid meetings are the future. Why spend thousands of pounds flying delegates all around the world, when you can split a conference across a number of venues closer to home using on-site broadcasting studios, state of the art technologies and in-person break-out rooms to connect them all. Like with homeworking, the pandemic has propelled us into a future that was waiting to happen and that benefits us all. We will not return to the old normal now.

As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?

The past 14 months we have learned some great lessons both in our personal lives and in business. The key for us as an industry and as professionals is not to forget these lessons but use them as a reference point as we move forward. Five major areas to look at will be: the way technology changes our engagement with each other and our guests, the way hotels will become part of the living community and not just a place for people to sleep and eat, the mixed use of hospitality spaces, how hotel design will change to reflect to new normals such as social distancing and a renewed focus on wellness as our health becomes ever more at the forefront are some of the things I believe will shape industry changes in the future.

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

When the mind eases, the eyes get lost in the horizon and the sounds you hear reflect the peace you feel. Regardless of where and when it happens, once this moment occurs and you fully relax into a destination, you know you are on the perfect vacation.

Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am honored and privileged to work for a company which values social responsibility, diversity, equality and thrives for sustainable hospitality. Being part of this group of people that share the same core values helps me sleep better at night, knowing that together as a team we add our little brick in building a better future for our industry and the world.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

There are so many great people in the world advocating some amazing causes and ideologies, that I feel that I hold a very insignificant presence in front of them. Being Greek though, if I were ever to choose to start a movement it would be around studying and learning from the classics, and Greek philosophers and their work. There is so much wisdom in their work and I feel that many of the answers we all seek are in them.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow me on my LinkedIn page here.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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