CEO Interview on Success of Wyndham Vacation Ownership

The University of Pennsylvania's online business journal, Knowledge@Wharton, interviewed Wyndham Worldwide Chairman and CEO Stephen Holmes, on the changing nature of leisure travel. Holmes discusses what changes he has witnessed in the industry and why timeshares have done surprisingly well during the economic downturn.

Below are excerpts from this interview which was posted January 6, 2011.

KW: Steve, could you briefly describe the scope of Wyndham Worldwide in terms of the timeshare brand?

SH: Wyndham Vacation Ownership is a traditional timeshare business, in which you build or develop timeshare units, market them, sell them to consumers and provide financing for the purchase. Then we manage the resorts as well.

KW: How has the recession impacted that part of your business?

SH: The timeshare business, which many people think would have been very impacted because consumers might be pulling back and spending less money to buy timeshares, performed exceedingly well.

KW: To what would you attribute the up-tick in timeshare purchases?

SH: There are a number of reasons why the performance was enhanced. One particular reason would be that because there was so much uncertainty in the marketplace and people were wondering "What's my future going to look like?" consumers may have been a little turned on to, "I wouldn't mind having my vacations assured. If I don't know where the rest of the world is going, I can at least know that I am going to be able to go on vacation

KW: Have you seen the needs of your average customer change over the time that you have been with Wyndham?

SH: Yes. One shift would be the sociology of who is traveling. You see more families traveling together -intergenerational travel has become much more popular. That trend that has been in place in Europe for some time is now coming to the U.S.

KW Have you had to implement internal strategies to beef up customer service over the course of the past few years in light of the economy?

SH: We have, but I think it was coincidental because we launched it before 2007, before things started really getting rough. We had launched something called Count on Me, which is our rallying cry for service -- to be responsive to your needs, be respectful, and deliver a great experience. Those are our three pillars of Count on Me.

Service is critically important. Like I said, the impression you get from the person at the front desk or the person who cleans the rooms walking down the hall. Do they greet you? Do they look you in the eye? Do they say good morning to you? That's very important. That leaves you with an impression of how much people care about you in the facility.

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