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By Colleen Isherwood, editor
TORONTO—Best Western International is entering the boutique hotel space with the announcement of Vib—short for vibrant and pronounced the same way—at their annual conference in Toronto this week. They also announced the BW Premier Collection, their first soft brand offering.
Western’s newest hotel offering, Vib, is a
stylish and technology-centric hotel concept created to meet the needs of millennial travellers, but not so trendy that it alienates Best Western's core customer base of boomers and gen Xers. Vib, which is
short for “Vibrant,”
is a hotel prototype designed for urban markets. Its high-density concept will be cost-effective
to build and operate, making it an attractive option for owners and developers.
Western has a unique advantage in launching a new boutique concept,” said David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western for the past 10 years, as the 2,300 conference attendees watched a video unveiling the new concept. “We are known to be a value brand and we
can also be stylish. The lobby is designed to be
a vibrant and dynamic gathering place. You see the different zones, the
work and relax spaces. The “be
with others” gaming zone or bar and food area. I love the excitement in
the lobby created by bold colors,
layers with textures, LED mood lighting that changes throughout the day,
unique signature items such as our bar stools or grid chairs and the
tape soffit band.
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“Because of the
spacious and inviting lobby, we can afford to have smaller guestrooms.
The guestroom is less than 200 square
feet and yet very functional. It
has minimal furniture, but high quality furnishings. Check out the LED
lit shower head with mood lighting. The room reflects thoughtful
design. There is room for two suitcases. There are elegant fold down
of closets. The desk is also the
headboard and the bathroom has lots of shelving. I love this boutique
concept!” Kong said.
In a media Q&A session on Thursday, Kong stressed that the concept of big lobbies with smaller guestrooms is the future, and that the impetus for Vib came from board chair Danny Patel and key Best Western developers. It's a concept that has worked in many of the great cities of Europe. It lowers the cost per key from $100,000 to $60,000, it's cost effective to run since it requires minimal staffing, and it incorporates green initiatives. The footprint of the building can be as little as a quarter of an acre.
Another plus is that it helps minimize amenity creep, where midscale and upper midscale hotels are giving away amenities for free. “There's a breakfast experience, but it's a la carte, with high-end coffee,” said Roh Pohl, senior vice president, brand management and member services. “There's a bar and food, which can be highly profitable if done right. There's a lobby bar, which could serve only beer and wine so you don't need a bartender. And there's potential for a rooftop bar.”
Pohl added that the concept is suitable for new builds or conversions, but believes most will be new builds. Several Best Western members have already expressed interest in conversion, but the configuration must be able to accommodate the huge lobby space so essential to the concept's success.
Best Western has identified 20 major North American markets for Vib, and yes, Pohl confirmed, some of them are in Canada. The first ones should start rolling out a few months from now.
BW Premier Collection
announced at the conference was Best Western’s first soft brand offering, the BW Premier
Collection. The BW Premier Collection will consist of carefully selected
high-quality hotels in primary markets. All of the soft brand properties will
be required to maintain a TripAdvisor rating of four or above and AAA/CAA
rating of three Diamond or above.
within the BW Premier Collection will not be part of the official Best Western membership but they will be listed,
and can be booked, on the Best Western website. Guests will be able to
earn and redeem Best Western Rewards points at all BW
Premier Collection hotels. BW Premier Collection hotels will also have the
option of purchasing additional Best Western brand services such as design and
“Independent hotels have a real need to become less dependent on OTAs,” Kong told the media. “At the same time, Best Western.com attracts several hundred thousand people a day, many of whom are looking in primary locations where we are under-represented. We are wasting our efforts to drive traffic we can't fulfill.”
The BW Premier Collection will enable participating hotels to drive business through bestwestern.com. He added that Best Western will be looking at a commission fee structure of around 15 per cent, much lower than the OTAs.
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