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Taking The Next Step

Best Western Continues Journey With Brand Extension, Enhanced Technology Initiatives

Monday, October 07, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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During its annual conference Best Western Hotels & Resorts revealed the next steps on its 72-year journey and they included the extension of its SureStay brand, an increased commitment to sustainability and a handful of technology initiatives aimed at increasing profitability for its members.

Taking place this past weekend at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Washington, DC, the Best Western North American Convention & Global Conference carried a theme of “Let’s Continue Our Amazing Journey.”

President and CEO David Kong began by touting the benefits of the company’s growing brand lineup, which now totals 17, and acknowledging the members’ role in that expansion.

“With our diverse portfolio we are able to accommodate our guests’ diverse travel needs. It enriches our Best Western Rewards program with compelling earnings and redemption opportunities. It also gives us leverage when we negotiate with OTAs. I want to thank each of you for your part in developing our company and making it such an iconic brand around the world,” he said.

To reinforce the point, Kong explained the company’s recently completed acquisition of luxury brand WorldHotels, which officially joined Best Western earlier this year.

“WorldHotels has about 280 beautiful properties in premier destinations around the world enabling us to immediately increase scale. With this acquisition our portfolio now includes properties from every chain scale segment from premier economy to luxury,” he said.

Kong continued, “The acquisition provides other key benefits. It will enhance our brand image and create a halo effect for all Best Western properties. It will create synergies and efficiencies with our increased scale and allow us to further grow our award winning rewards program.”

Meanwhile, the company announced the expansion of the SureStay Hotel Group with the launch of SureStay Studio. Competing in the premium-economy extended-stay segment, SureStay Studio was created to respond to the needs of both travelers and hotel developers, according to the company.
According to SVP and COO Ron Pohl, SureStay has grown to over 300 hotels globally in just two years since being launched and has garnered a TripAdvisor rating of 3.75, as well as a RevPAR index of 108.

“SureStay was one of our new entries into the market and it’s an example of where we’re outperforming the competition,” said Pohl, who later added, “the economy segment just recorded the highest occupancies in history at nearly 80 percent so that creates another opportunity for us to build on SureStay’s success.”

Pohl also noted the company is particularly excited about its boutique Vib brand— which in 2020 will open its first property in Europe in Warsaw, Poland—and will add as many as four more in North America.

But Pohl pointed out the company has re-engineered the brand concept based on developer feedback and competition increasing the guestroom size and upgrading finishes.

Pohl also touted the company’s largest global pipeline ever with nearly 600 hotels in development within all of its flags. “You can see the success we’re having across all of our brands. Our core brands continue to be our primary growth engine and our boutique brands are gaining popularity. Globally we are opening a new hotel every 30 hours,” he said.

The company also highlighted some of its technology initiatives designed to increase profitability for its members. For example, Pohl noted Best Western is tweaking its BestRev revenue management platform by increasing the number of email alerts to inform owners “when market conditions change” or “errors occur” with regards to rates. The updated system will also issue alerts when the property’s CRS becomes “unbookable” to ensure that’s not a mistake.

Pohl stressed another area of focus is the collection and retention of guest data to effectively “use customer info to our competitive advantage.” He added that the company’s website and other platforms need to communicate seamlessly with each other to enhance the guest experience. “Our goal is to provide personalized service to them [guests] at every hotel and at every opportunity,” said Pohl.

The COO also emphasized the importance of staff training and providing “new and relevant content.” Technology will continue to play a key role as the company employs the latest online and virtual training tools, as well as avatar training, according to Pohl.

Sustainability has been identified as a key issue for the company going forward for a number of reasons. “We have an opportunity to do the right thing, meet another changing customer expectation and save you money,” said Pohl.

He identified 10 opportunities for hotel owner/operators to reduce their footprint, including used or recycled soap; Hotel Kitchen (reducing the amount of food produced); recycled plastic and dispensers for amenities; cold water laundry; an expanded green towel program to include linens; promoting Best Reward points for consumers contributing; recycled paper products; electric vehicle charging stations; LED lighting; and landscaping that requires no irrigation.

Kong, meanwhile, emphasized the continued growth of the company’s Best Western Rewards loyalty program, which this year contributed to as much as 48 percent of overall revenue.

“It is gratifying to see how well our Rewards program is performing globally and increasing the revenue contribution from the program. A few years ago in North America we set a goal to reach 50 percent contribution. We are almost there,” he said, later adding, “most of our hotels are exceeding the sign-up threshold” to enroll new members.

Kong also underscored a few other areas of progress noting the company’s year-to-date RevPAR index versus its North America comp set is currently over 113. In addition, Kong noted Best Western has generated $2.7 billion thus far this year for its members and expects to achieve a new high of over $3 billion by years end.

Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
Hotel Interactive®, Inc.
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