The addition of two new boutique brands, three new prototypes for existing brands and artificial intelligence solutions were among the focal points of Best Western’s annual North American Convention and Global Conference earlier this week.
Held at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center in Grapevine, TX, the event—which carried a theme of “Today’s Best Western”—played to host some 2,500 attendees, according to the company.
David Kong, President and CEO, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, explained the recent brand extension through boutique flags Sadie and Aiden, which are geared for the upscale and upper-midscale markets, respectively, and were officially unveiled to the industry at last week’s Lodging Conference.
“We must have a diverse portfolio of products with different price points in different markets to hold on to our existing guests and expand our customer base,” said Kong.
He further continued, “If ‘Today’s Best Western’ wants to be successful, we need to think about protecting and growing our market share. If ‘Today’s Best Western’ wants to be relevant, we need to have exciting and contemporary products that enhance our image and broaden our appeal.”
Best Western SVP and COO Ron Pohl, meanwhile, emphasized the shift in the market from “construction to conversion” as he discussed the potential of the new brands. “We intend to capitalize on the opportunities ahead of us and that’s why we launched Sadie and Aiden. It’s an opportunity to repurpose or reposition an older property upmarket and generate very high ROI. We have already generated interest among Best Western members and the industry around the world,” he noted.
The Best Western portfolio now includes 13 brands ranging from the economy to upper-upscale segment, including extended-stay and soft brands. But while Pohl acknowledged further brand extension could be in the offing down the line, he deferred to the economy while pointing out nothing is imminent.
“I think we’re going to learn a lot in the midterm elections. We have to know that if we we’re going to launch new brands they can be successful in a relatively shorter period of time. Eventually we want to have a brand in every box [segment]. Does that mean we’re going to do it 2018 or 2019? I don’t know, but we are focused on having representation in each of those,” he told Hotel Interactive®. Pohl specifically referenced the economy extended-stay segment as a tier that “has seen a resurgence” and where the company is not currently represented.
The COO laid out to attendees three essential objectives for Best Western in 2019, including growing hotels by strengthening development efforts; driving increased revenue to members; and leading industry customer care.
In terms of development efforts, Pohl noted he has expanded the development team by adding 10 regional directors between Best Western and the company’s SureStay brand. He added that the development team will sign 250 deals this year and the company—which has some 4,200 hotels open and operating globally—has a total of 565 hotels in the global pipeline.
In addition, Best Western Hotels & Resorts unveiled three new prototypes designed to modernize its Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier brands. The move comes on the heels of the company’s brand refresh, which began in 2015.
Pohl explained the objective of the new prototypes, which are expected to roll out by the end of 2018. “The goal is not to create a prototypical Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier so that they all are cookie-cutter. But as we entertain new developers, they’re accustomed to a turn-key operation, so we wanted to have that option available to them,” he commented.
The revamped Best Western prototype focuses on smart, modern design with high-end impact and well thought-out rooms for every traveler, according to the company. Simplified furnishings with tastefully blended fixtures and finishes are designed to provide modern sophistication.
Meanwhile, the new Signature Architectural Branding Element is designed to deliver continuity within Best Western’s portfolio for immediate guest recognition and a reduced overall footprint for a cost-effective build.
According to the company, the new Best Western Plus prototype brings affordable elegance to the modern-day traveler with stylish textures and vibrant jewel tones which breathe life into refined public areas and cozy guestrooms. Natural elements and state-of-the-art technology are designed to transform the public spaces into a social oasis.
The new Best Western Premier prototype is designed to welcome guests with a luxurious experience and elegant atmosphere. Upscale amenities include casual dining and Grab & Go food choices, sociable communal seating, as well as collective indoor-outdoor spaces. The stylish interiors envelop guests in plush fabrics, with mixed metals and a well-designed color scheme, according to the company. Guestrooms include upgraded beds and linens, spa-like bathrooms and spacious layouts.
The company also had a number of technology-related initiatives to unveil, including an agreement with a new rate-shopping partner, OTA Insight. Under this new agreement, the amount of rate shopping performed at hotels will more than double designed to help owners make better pricing decisions.
“In today’s competitive environment hotel rates are constantly changing, therefore the frequency of shops has a direct impact on maximizing revenues,” said Pohl.
Pohl also emphasized the importance of artificial intelligence while demonstrating to members an Alexa-type technology for revenue management, which the company is currently exploring.
The company also announced some technology focused additions to its Best Western Rewards program, which has grown to more than 35 million members. The BWR Chat Bot is an artificial intelligence solution which will be used to enhance communication of the benefits to members and raise awareness and visibility of the program. The platform is designed to be an easy-to-reach customer interaction tool on Facebook’s messenger platform.
The company also announced BW Rewards Pay, which will enable members to instantly redeem their points as cash through their smartphone mobile wallets at all merchants accepting Apple Pay/Google Pay. BWR is also introducing Points for Dining, which allows member to earn points while dining at more than 11,000 restaurants.
The privately-held company in August filed with the SEC to change its legal structure from a “not-for-profit” to a “for-profit” organization. While Pohl couldn’t comment directly on the current status of the filing, he explained what some of the benefits could be for the company if it were to achieve such a designation.
“That minor change just gives us the ability to go out and partner with private equity and say ‘hey, do we want to buy a brand together and move it into Best Western.’ That’s how we’d switch from growing organically to like other [companies] growing through mergers and acquisitions,” he said.