GRAPEVINE, TX— During the 2018 Best Western North American Convention and Global Conference, held here at the Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, the company expanded on plans for its two new brands, Aiden and Sadie; unveiled three new hotel prototypes; introduced additions to its loyalty program; and held its first-ever women’s leadership forum.
“I love the theme of our Convention: ‘Today’s Best Western,’” opened David Kong, president/CEO, Best Western Hotels & Resorts. “This theme gives us the opportunity to reminisce about our endearing and colorful past; celebrates the excitement and vibrancy of our brand today; and speaks to the bold and exciting dreams of our future.”
Turning to the industry at large, Kong said, “Our industry has changed over time, but the changes in the past few years have been fast and dramatic. Hotel companies have launched many new brands. Many have also grown through mergers and acquisitions. As they grew, they expanded their presence in different markets and raised their brand awareness. Through their increased size, they have gained other competitive advantages. They have more favorable OTA terms and more compelling loyalty programs. Increased scale also allows them to create tremendous synergy and cost efficiencies. This, in turn, promotes more frequent and more substantial investments in sales, marketing and technology.”
He continued, “Through these competitive advantages, they gain market share at the expense of those who don’t have scale… Today’s Best Western faces an increasingly fast-changing and hyper-competitive environment. We have to be nimble. We have to adapt and change. We have to be innovative in driving our success.”
Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier are getting a redesign, with a new prototype for each. The move comes on the heels of the company’s brand refresh, which began in 2015 and unveiled a fresh new look for the hospitality giant, along with an extensive brand portfolio.
“We’ve added new brands, such as Vib, Glo, Sadie Hotel and Aiden Hotel, to our portfolio, but as part of our ongoing evolution, we also knew that we needed to take a look at ways to revamp our core product offerings,” said Ron Pohl, SVP and chief operations officer for Best Western Hotels & Resorts. “We have had many members and developers ask for turnkey packages within these brands. We’re excited to answer that call, offering cost-effective yet elevated, up-to-date properties with refined, modern-day class that delivers on the expectations of today’s travelers.”
The revamped Best Western prototype focuses on smart, modern design with high-end impact, according to the company. It’s defined by simplified furnishings blended with fixtures and finishes designed to add a modern sophistication. It also includes a new Signature Architectural Branding Element and offers a reduced overall footprint, which will make it a more cost-effective build. Multipurpose spaces along with integrated technology are provided to enhance the guest experience.
The Best Western Plus prototype includes stylish textures, vibrant jewel tones, natural elements and state-of-the-art technology.
The all new Best Western Premier Prototype includes upscale amenities—casual dining and Grab & Go food choices, sociable communal seating, as well as collective indoor-outdoor spaces in a cozy atmosphere. The interiors envelop guests in plush fabrics, with mixed metals, and a well-designed color scheme, according to the company.
The new prototypes are expected to roll out by the end of this year.
Aiden Hotel & Sadie Hotel
Speaking more specifically about the company’s recently announced brands, Sadie Hotel and Aiden Hotel, Kong said, “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… 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.
“As we all know, at this point in our industry cycle, new-construction will become more difficult,” Kong continued. “Cost of land and cost of construction have both escalated tremendously. It’s also more difficult to secure financing for new projects. Therefore, if we want to grow our scale, we need to focus on conversion… We have concluded that to help us grow scale, we need to develop a pair of boutique brands specifically aimed at repositioning conversion opportunities in the upper-midscale and upscale segments. We have created Sadie for the upscale segment in primary markets and Aiden for the upper-midscale segment in secondary markets.”
In the hotel business today, it’s all about loyalty. Best Western Rewards (BWR), which has grown from 180,000 members to more than 35 million since its launch in 1988, introduced a few new perks and enhancements for its loyal guests at this year’s conference.
First among them is the BWR Chat Bot, an easy-to-reach customer interaction tool on Facebook’s Messenger platform. “The on-demand economy has shifted consumer expectations of brands,” said SVP and Chief Marketing Officer Dorothy Dowling. “This shift requires brands to be accessible through channels that customers prefer, such as mobile messaging applications, which are taking the lead on how consumers prefer to communicate.
“Using BWR Bot, I can use messaging to access my Best Western Rewards account and receive special offers and information. Members can check their Best Western Rewards point balance, and it even answers free-form questions about all our amazing membership perks,” she added.
The company also revealed that members will be able to earn BWR points while dining at any of the 11,000 plus network restaurants in the U.S.; this will soon extend to Canada as well. “This enhancement allows Rewards members to earn points by eating at participating restaurants in their home communities,” said Dowling. “As some of our competitors have shown, local rewards matter. And with this new partnership, Best Western Rewards members will earn while they eat. Best of all, they’ll stock up on Rewards points and free nights—even when they’re home.”
Additionally, BW Rewards Pay will enable BWR members to instantly redeem their points as cash through their smartphone mobile wallets at all merchants accepting Apple Pay/Google Pay. Members will be able to instantly redeem BWR points for the things that today’s travelers want most, including purchases made at Starbucks, The Apple Store, Best Buy, Macy’s, Walgreens and Trader Joe’s. “With almost every major retailer accepting Apple and Android Pay, Best Western Rewards points becomes an anywhere, anything currency,” said Dowling.
Today’s Women in Leadership Forum
On Saturday, Sept. 29, leading into its 2018 North American Convention, Best Western Hotels & Resorts hosted its first-ever “Today’s Women in Leadership Forum.” The all-day forum was led by Dowling, who created the forum as a place for women and men to gather and discuss ongoing challenges, celebrate successes and learn from each other in a collaborative and motivational environment.
“This is truly an extraordinary time for women in leadership—not just in business, but across all sectors,” said Dowling. “Inspired by the female and male mentors I’ve learned from throughout my career, the ‘Today’s Women in Leadership Forum’ was designed to empower women, providing tools and encouragement for their success across the industry.”
“Best Western is a forward thinking company in so many ways, and this is largely due to the leadership of our President and CEO David Kong, who is a true champion of diversity and a strong supporter of initiatives that foster professional development at every level,” continued Dowling. “I am thankful to lead this march for such an iconic brand, and to continue fostering a generation of strong female leaders both within Best Western and beyond.”
Speakers included female executives who are at the top of their industries—from AAA/CAA, Google, Best Western and other leading advertising and marketing firms. The forum also featured educational workshops, including presentations from Dr. Lalia Rach, founder of Rach Enterprises, and sales expert Tammy Gillis, founder of Gillis Consulting Inc.
For more coverage of the Best Western conference—including exclusive coverage of the Today’s Women in Leadership Forum—see the Oct. 21 issue of Hotel Business.