PHOENIX — When Michael Morton was brought in to oversee Best Western’s North American development team a year ago, the goal was to have the same team respond from the time a hotel applies to become a Best Western until the time they open, including application of the brand, onboarding and opening.
“If I can get development done quicker, smoother and more cost effectively, we can meet expectations of our guests, provide good, consistent quality of product and drive investment by owners,” Morton said.
In his previous role at Best Western Morton had oversight for part of the process — he spent his first five years repositioning the brand and helping to create its descriptors and the new Vib, GLo and extended stay options. “I would help our hotels improve — or leave the brand.” Over the past five-plus years, Best Western has had 700-800 hotels exit the portfolio because they were not willing to meet the standards.
Morton got to meet some Canadian developers at the Western Canadian Hotel and Resort Investment Conference last fall.
“Before, we had a regional sales director assigned to cover Canada. We were very reactive — I found we did not have a sense of connection with developers,” he said.
Three regional directors
In the last six months, Best Western has changed its strategy to become much more proactive, with some new faces on its Canadian development team.
Jack Barry, regional director Quebec and Atlantic Canada, is the one familiar face. During his 36-year tenure with Best Western, he has held various positions within the training, supply chain and development teams.
Both of the new regional directors come to Best Western from La Quinta.
Fran Wagner is an accomplished industry veteran, bringing 20 years of franchising and hotel development experience to the Best Western Hotels & Resorts team. He works with new and prospective Best Western members to grow the brand in the Eastern U.S. and Ontario.
Before joining Best Western, Wagner handled franchising for La Quinta Inns & Suites and, prior to that, played a significant role in helping to launch U.S. Franchise Systems.
Allan Seigel brings more than 25 years of hotel development experience to Best Western. He oversees Western Canada and the territories and parts of the United States, including Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Alaska.
As a regional director, Seigel works closely with Best Western hoteliers and developers to grow the Best Western brand. His role includes identifying prime markets and sites for both new construction and conversion projects, although his primary focus is on new construction.
Seigel has held numerous positions in the hospitality industry, including director of development for La Quinta Hotels, where he focused on the Pacific Northwest and Western Canada, and vice-president of HBR Hotel Group, where he oversaw operations and management of boutique hotel properties across the United States.
New brands in Canada
Canada has 200 Best Westerns open, with 16 approved deals in the pipeline. Most of the approved deals are Best Western, Best Western Plus or Best Western Extended Stay, but there are three Best Western Premiers in Timmins and Toronto, Ont. and Vernon, B.C.
“We know we need more presence in first-tier urban markets with Best Western Premier, Vib and The BW Premier Collection,” said Morton.
The Best Western Extended Stay and GLo brands provide a real opportunity in second-tier and suburban/urban markets.
Morton is looking to aggressively grow GLo, the hip, boutique midscale brand. It is particularly suitable for markets where Best Western has presence, but not multiple hotels.
“Canada is a big reason for the development of GLo — we have already identified the markets, because we believe there is a market for this midscale hotel development.”