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Best Western Extends Dog of a Deal

At the brand’s annual convention they unveiled an expanded partnership with the Dog Whisperer and reveled other 2011 strategies.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
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Best Western is going to the dogs. Well, not literally. The company is actually looking to connect with the pet set and has expanded a deal with The Dog Whisperer Caesar Millan to get the message to consumers that Best Western hotels is a pet-friendly brand.

The announcement was made as part of Best Western’s annual owner conference, which is being held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada this week. Brand executives also discussed additional plans to boost business in 2011 including the company’s new descriptor strategy.

Though the relationship originally launched last year, in 2011 Millan will take a more active role as a spokesperson.

“This relationship put Best Western on the leading edge of pet travel and aligns us with a Hispanic thought leader who links us to family,
empty-nester and Gen X pet lovers,” said Dorothy Dowling, SVP of Marketing and Sales with Best Western during yesterday morning’s general session.

Dowling said Best Western has signed an exclusive three-year publicity and tour sponsorship agreement that will introduce Best Western to new audiences, and generate more buzz. Dowling said Millan will make
live appearances and perform in shows and appear in advertising in print and online channels. Millan will also link his website to Best Western and participate in seasonal promotions.

Dowling said appealing to the pets market made smart business sense since over 40 percent of homes have at least one dog and more than 29 million people travel with pets in the United States every year.

“That's a huge potential market and we can't afford to lose this business, and our relationship with Cesar is designed to ensure we get our fair share,” said Dowling.

Probably the big news for Best Western in 2011 is the official rollout of its product descriptors. Best Western executives have been touting this plan for more than a year which when complete will clarify with consumers what they can expect to experience at any given Best Western property.

Essentially, Best Western’s eclectic mix of properties can be somewhat confusing for potential guests so last year Best Western members voted to put into play three classifications for hotels: Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western PREMIER.

These new classifications will begin appearing in February and initially launch with about 15 PREMIER properties and more than 800 PLUS hotels.

“I am convinced the Descriptor Program will have a profound Positive impact on Best Western. We have already seen an uptick in RFP requests,” said Best Western President & CEO David Kong. “Thank you for the opportunity to take this brand to the next level through the Descriptor Program.”

According to Best Western’s Board Chair Beth Campbell, the PLUS designation is the only mid-market descriptor that 100 percent of its hotels have 3 diamond status from AAA or CAA. “We will take this out with a bang,” she said.

Kong also pointed to Best Western Rewards as a key business driving strategy. He said there are about 12 million Best Western Rewards members and revenue driven by this program this year is expected to be $770 million.

Kong urged members in attendance to put more emphasis on signing up guests to the loyalty program. “We need to have scale. We need to have a lot more Best Western Rewards members. This is where we need your help. Just think about all the guests that go through our hotels. What if we all signed up at least one guest per day? If you consider the average revenue of a Best Western Rewards member, the math works out to be about $100,000 in revenue per hotel just for the first year, and it will continue to grow every year thereafter. Isn’t that smart business?” he said.

Promotions is also a big business driver for Best Western, said Dowling. She said in the last year revenue from promotions was more than $145 million. This past summer, the brand partnered with Disney on its TV film Camp Rock 2.Best Western was promoted on Radio Disney and there was a Camp Rock 2 Sweepstakes microsite as well as a buy 2 nights and get one free deal. The program was attributed with more than $80 million.

Best Western is also putting its ad dollars behind internet service such as
Hulu. “Hulu is heavily used by travelers and is the next big iteration in television as it's really Internet TV,” said Dowling.
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