Best Western International my not be making any wholesale changes to the brand but incremental changes are helping hoteliers run their businesses smarter while also helping to drive more customers to the hotels.
This past weekend the hotel membership
organization held its annual conference for about 2,300 attendees and top executives shared what they were doing to help owners sell more rooms at a higher rate.
“Driving revenue to you is our most important undertaking,” said Ron Pohl, SVP of Brand Management & Member Services. “The lesson of [the now ended] downturn is the importance of relationships so we have made a concerted effort to improve worldwide sales.”
Pohl said the company has upped the number of global sales people by 50 percent since the Great Recession began and will add more during the next year to better connect with large scale companies. The idea here is to drive more business from preferred partners to hotels, something Pohl feels can be improved with mega clients such as WalMart and Siemens. The idea is to visit local offices for the first time as well as regional and global headquarters. By adding more sales people that means Best Western can drill down to the smaller local offices which in turn they expect will garner more mindshare which Pohl said will drive more sales.
He cited the very successful relationship with AAA and CAA as an example as that relationship yields 44 percent share of that organization’s business in the midscale category. When you consider only 8.6 percent of all hotels fall into that category, according to Pohl, it’s easy to understand Best Western new approach.
Customer loyalty is critical for the brand to continue surging and its continuing to emphasize the Best Western Rewards program to help build repeat business amongst owners. Pohl said the program “protects against rate and competition.”
It is expected that by the end of the year Best Western Rewards will have 18 million members and contribute $1.3 billion in revenue while accounting for 36 percent of all revenue. In 2007 revenue from Best Western Rewards was $503 million and accounted for 14 percent of all revenue.
He urged hotels to continue to sign members up because those loyalty club members also book rooms directly through the bestwestern.com
website, the cheapest way for a hotel to book business. Relaying on OTAs cut into profits, he explained. Currently hotels are expected to sign up one new member per day. Some hotels have outstripped that goal by as much as 4,000 percent (that is not a typo).
Dorothy Dowling, SVP of Marketing and Sales shared marketing results from 2013 and share plans for 2014.
“We compete in a highly dynamic environment where change is a daily occurrence. We have thousands of marketing channels that all must fit together,” said Dowling, who added that disruption from technological change and shifts in customer behavior mean the company needs to stay focused on fresh marketing initiatives. “The customer is more educated and empowered than ever before and we must listen to and deliver on their needs.”
In 2014 the company will focus more advertising and marketing on women, said Dowling, because they are the predominant decision influencers in a household. “We need to up our game with women,” she said.
A big business driver to the company is a partnership with Disney. Last summer the brand tied in with the TV move Teen Beach Movie which Dowling said added $110 million in revenue during the campaign.
“Summer is the busy season for many of you,” she told hotel owners, “and Disney recognizes the increasing role of women in decision making.” Dowling added that Disney is one of the most trusted brands in the world, especially when it relates to family friendly. So tethering the Disney seal of approval to Best Western increases the family appeal of the lodging brand.
On television during the fourth quarter 2013 expect plenty of 15 second ads everywhere focusing on a 20 percent discount when booking directly at BestWestern.com.
“We will continue to have a presence everywhere we need to be on television because it is a potent force for reaching customers,” said Dowling, noting that since the most recent campaign started earlier this year visits to the website are up 27 percent while first time purchases are up 42 percent since 2012.
Best Western will also expand its partnership with MLB Networks – that’s Major League Baseball -- to add minor league games in addition to pre-season pro-games. More emphasis will also be placed on the fast rising Hispanic market and Best Western will be an active sponsor for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
A new partnership with Google Search will also add 360 degree views of all hotels including the outside, public spaces and sample guestroom while a new comprehensive military program for active military members in the US and Canada will offer a 10 percent discount and Gold status in Membership