Barry Robinson, Travel and Leisure Co

In the 22nd edition of the HM Industry Leaders Forum, HM invited leading hoteliers, tourism professionals and suppliers across Asia Pacific and the world to their insights into the hotel landscape and their outlook for the year ahead.

Here, Travel and Leisure Co. President and Managing Director, International Operations, Barry Robinson, reflects on a “tremendous” year and reveals plans to enhance and grow the company’s resort portfolio and geographic reach in 2024.

We were proud to achieve many milestones in 2023. We opened two distinct urban hotels, Tryp by Wyndham Pulteney Street Adelaide in Australia and Ramada Encore Amagasaki in Japan. We consummated a strategic partnership with Hyundai Hotel Development Corporation to manage our first property in South Korea by 2026.

Our Property Development team had an excellent year, concluding innovative refurbishments at our Kalim Bay, Thailand; Melbourne; Dunsborough; Golden Beach; Wanaka; Rotorua and Denarau Island, Fiji properties. Club properties are continually refreshed due to stringent guidelines in the club constitution around refurbishment reserves – unlike the more fluid set-up of pure-play hotels.

In 2023, we saw an elevated interest in vacation ownership and an overall demand for membership travel internationally. Travellers are looking for alternatives in this inflationary economy and this is where vacation ownership shows its strength, as points never change over time. Members pay the same points to stay now as in 2000, which has been appreciated in uncertain times.

Travellers are looking for greater flexibility, and we responded by launching Club Wyndham Asia with more innovative features. These included a shorter term until 2040, a beneficial interest in the club assets and an option for members to surrender their points and avoid paying levies any year they do not want to travel. The result: this club has since experienced over 76% member growth.

Affluence in Asia is growing, with forecasts indicating that by 2030, two-thirds of the worldwide middle class will originate from the Asian region. We are marketing directly to consumers in Asia both for vacation ownership and hotel stays, and we see exponential growth potential in China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia, and other markets are currently under review. We predict high inflation and airfares will continue this year and, while consumers place a high importance on travel, we can see most taking only one or two expensive or indulgent trips before looking at better priced domestic options.

Like many, we have noticed guests desire to explore and be active. Most of our South Pacific properties now offer e-bikes, bikes, e-scooters – or all three – and others are getting creative by providing activities fitting with their nearby environment like surfboards and fishing equipment, and some that have space are adding facilities like a disc golf course, pickleball or tennis court, or croquet green.

A big trend has been inclusive travel and that begins with an inclusive workplace. In 2023, we began our Pride International Diversity Resource Group (DRG), which now has over 100 associates, and the team has done a great job running education seminars and panel discussions business wide. We have launched a First Nations Working Group to create career opportunities for First Nations people through partnerships like the National Indigenous Training Academy, and training for the non-Indigenous workforce.

Our laser-focus this year is entering new countries and markets, expanding vacation ownership inventory through new resorts, sourcing opportunities to manage pure-play hotels, and fostering inclusion and diversity with our people.

Discover more insights from leading hotels in the 2024 HM Industry Leaders Forum.