Here’s why one hotel chain is investing in summer road trippers with this new app feature

May 23, 2022

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Hotel companies that displayed the most financial resilience during the worst months of the pandemic — like Wyndham Hotels & Resorts — often chalked up their situation to the nature of their respective businesses.

Their mix of brand offerings, such as Microtel and La Quinta, may not conjure up images of romantic dream vacations like a St. Regis Maldives Vommuli Resort or the Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel in the south of France.

But the fact remains that some of these more affordable brands were the only option for road warriors, those who still needed to travel for work even during the early months of the pandemic, and domestic travelers looking to take a small trip or two over the last two years.

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With domestic travel often the leading option for travelers in light of pandemic-related travel restrictions abroad, road trips became a durable line of business for many hotel owners. Recognizing this, Wyndham launched a feature on its mobile app on Monday that allows users to map a road trip and have the company offer up suggestions for stops and hotels to reserve along the way.

Road Trip Planner may be a Wyndham-led tech offering, but it goes to show the hotel industry continues to see domestic travel as a winning formula for long-term business performance.

“This, to us, was an inherent thing we had to do,” Jessica Davidson, senior vice president of digital at Wyndham, said in an interview with The Points Guy ahead of the launch.

Users can log into the Wyndham mobile app and put where they’re originating and their destination. They can then add various parameters, like how long they want to drive each day, as well as preferred brands. The app will then offer up recommended routes, stops and hotel availability as they go.

Users can pay with cash, Wyndham Rewards points or a mix of the two for their hotel stays booked through the platform.

(Photo courtesy of Travel Lodge Yellowstone/Wyndham Hotels)

The road trip feature comes nearly two years after Wyndham debuted Lightning Book, an earlier tech feature geared toward drive-to travel. That offering would display what Wyndham hotels were available in the area, enabling users to quickly book. But Lighting Book was for last-minute bookers, while the Road Trip Planner function is suited for those who like to plan.

This next iteration of targeting drive-to travel also indicates hotel companies want to continue courting road trippers. These kinds of guests were a financial life raft during the worst crisis to face the hotel industry in its entire history.

“People are already traveling to our hotels by car,” Davidson said. “This amplifies the ease of being able to do it.”

Of Wyndham’s more than 6,000 U.S. hotels, Davidson noted roughly 90% of the portfolio was well suited for road trippers in suburban and small metropolitan areas, as well as near interstate highways.

“We are on the highways and byways, and we’re ready to go,” she added.

When asked what Wyndham’s most popular brand was for road trippers, Davidson said the budget-friendly Super 8 leads the pack. But Wyndham’s other mix of brands like Microtel, Days Inn, La Quinta and Ramada are also popular and frequently found off highway exit ramps.

Road trip bonanza

Wyndham’s mobile app may be one hotel company’s widening embrace on road trips, but it is only the latest in the broader industry’s recognition that this kind of travel isn’t anything to thumb one’s nose at.

Luxury hotels will obviously always bring in higher profit margins because these properties can charge more on everything from rates to services offered at amenities like bars, restaurants and spas. But the pandemic showed just how important reliable streams of business, no matter where guests were checking in, can be.

Hilton even made plans to put more of an emphasis on small- and medium-size companies when it came to business travel demand, as these types of companies typically still needed their workers on the road instead of working remotely.

Executives at Choice Hotels, seen as Wyndham’s direct competitor, frequently tout how the company has more than 4,000 of its hotels within a mile of an interstate highway exit and 2,000-plus hotels near beaches and national parks.

Locations like that, coupled with increasingly flexible work arrangements, can help hotel companies throttle forward in their recovery from the pandemic.

“Consumer trends such as remote work, rising wages, retirements and road trips are all expected to fuel future demand,” Choice Hotels CEO Patrick Pacious said on a recent investor call when discussing the company’s growth outlook.

Featured image courtesy of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

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