The Hotel Conversation speaks exclusively with Barry Robinson, President and Managing Director, International Operations, Wyndham Destinations, about the strong growth of the company’s vacation clubs in Asia Pacific and its portfolio of managed hotels. In his role leading the company’s international growth, Barry leads two different types of businesses within Wyndham Destinations: a consumer-facing leisure travel business and a B2B hotel management business.
You have significantly expanded your business in Asia over the past five years. Now that travel restrictions have been lifted, how confident are you about Asian tourism markets?
Overall, Asia has been slower to return compared to other markets like Australia, Canada and the United States, and we won’t see visitor numbers return to pre-January levels. covid until china opens borders to outbound travel. The recovery in Thailand and places like Bali was slower than expected, given that Thailand’s two biggest markets were Russia and China. The war in Ukraine has prevented many Russians from traveling, and China continues to tread carefully in its response to Covid-19.
We expect a strong surge of outbound travel to China to resume in 2023. In Japan, with tour groups now able to travel there, we expect this market to be extremely popular with Australian travelers from the start. complete opening of borders. Just before the pandemic, we acquired 18 resorts in Japan, and while these properties continue to benefit from domestic demand, our international club members are very keen to make it happen.
We took advantage of the calmer period to secure our first-mover advantage. We are renovating our Wyndham Sea Pearl property in Phuket and have significantly expanded our club marketing operations across Indonesia, China, Japan and Thailand. Chinese people are eager to travel abroad and we are ready for the resurgence of Chinese travel.
You have extended the reach of your vacation clubs across Asia. Now that travel is resuming, is the growth momentum for these clubs accelerating?
In 2020, we launched the Innovative Holiday Club (IHC). This is a completely new vacation club model, developed in direct response to changing consumer preferences. It offers the option of joining a club with a much shorter duration and, unlike most vacation clubs, IHC members only pay annual dues if they go on vacation. Another unique feature is that the club’s assets are sold at the end of the club’s term and the net proceeds return to the members. Having prepaid for their holidays, members secure their future holidays at today’s prices and own a share of the assets of the trust, which is a much sought-after value proposition in today’s inflationary economy.
We purchased the Sundance Resort Club in Japan in 2018, and many of these club members are now upgrading to IHC, as it gives them access outside of Japan to a collection of resorts around the world.
Club Wyndham South Pacific, which we established in 2000, is also experiencing strong demand with sales again increasing month on month.
With nearly 71,000 members in our Asia Pacific clubs and dedicated sales and marketing teams now established in Australia, Fiji, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Japan and China, we expect see our membership numbers grow significantly over the next few months.
In addition to your expansion into Asia, I understand you have rolled out a number of renovations across Australia. Can you tell us about these transformations?
Late last year, we completed a $25 million development of Club Wyndham Resort Flynns Beach in Port Macquarie, New South Wales. The resort doubled in size after we added 53 one- to four-bedroom villas, including 20 designated as Deluxe, 25 as Grand and eight as Presidential. The four-bedroom presidential villas in particular are an unparalleled product in the region.
We also recently completed a $16 million upgrade to Club Wyndham Airlie Beach, including the addition of two spectacular 3-bedroom Presidential Suites, each with a balcony spa. This property is extremely popular and operates at over 90% average occupancy.
A $5 million upgrade at Club Wyndham Dunsborough in Western Australia is underway with 85 apartments undergoing a complete overhaul. Additionally, we have other renovations planned for Ramada by Wyndham Golden Beach, Ramada by Wyndham Marcoola Beach and Wyndham Hotel Melbourne for later this year.
To keep them in “like new” condition, we spend nearly $4 million on each of our vacation club properties approximately every five years.
What new properties do you have in the pipeline and where are you looking for new opportunities?
The 124-room TRYP Pulteney Street Adelaide is a brand new building opening later this year. This will be a beautiful property and we look forward to its completion as Adelaide’s first TRYP hotel. The 205-room Ramada Playford in North Adelaide is also under construction. We will manage these two properties as pure hotels under management agreements we have with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts as our preferred management partner.
We are always looking for hotel management opportunities, as well as mixed-use developments to help grow our vacation clubs. We are actively exploring markets where we see great potential, including Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, China and the Middle East.