Imagining Best Western's future

Winners of Best Western's Got Talent and key executives sing John Lennon's

Winners of Best Western's Got Talent and key executives sing John Lennon's

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By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — New at Best Western's Convention 2017: guest communication that renders the smartphone app unnecessary, streamlined loyalty … and now 11 brands plus a development incentive for existing owners.

The theme of this year's convention was Imagine, with John Lennon's tune by that name featuring prominently in the event held at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, Tenn., last week. Once again, four Best Western's Got Talent contest winners performed at the convention, joining company leaders in a rendering of that iconic tune.

Amazon Dot being tested at over 300 hotels

David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

David Kong, president and CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts.

Best Western president and CEO David Kong stressed that the company's brand strategy has many components, including a comprehensive view of the customer journey. 

Kong told the 2,600 attendees that the company has been testing a messaging platform with over 300 of its hotels, including mobile check-in and
check-out.  

“We have also started to
integrate the Amazon Dot to better connect with our guests,” Kong noted. “Imagine what our guests can use the Dot for –
like, “I have a compliment.  What is David
Kong’s phone number?”  Seriously, imagine
our guests using the Dot to leave wake up calls, request additional towels or
ask common questions like “what are the hours for breakfast”.  This
technology is empowering to the guests.  It creates a special connection with
them and it will also make things more efficient for us.  Look at the early results of the messaging
platform.  We are definitely enhancing
the guest experience.

“But nothing beats service from the heart,” Kong continued.  “We count on each other and our team to make
the special emotional connection with our guests.  Each day, there are acts of heroic
hospitality taking place at our properties and many of these stories go untold.”

Streamlined loyalty program

Dorothy Dowling pays tribute to her Best Western colleagues, The Tonight Show style.

Dorothy Dowling pays tribute to her Best Western colleagues, The Tonight Show style.

Dorothy Dowling, Best Western's SVP and chief marketing office reported back on the refresh to Best Western Rewards announced at last year's convention. 

In the winter, the company offered a ten dollar Best Western Travel
Card as an instant rewards to their Rewards members for each stay. “That promotion was so successful, we kept it going
throughout the spring and summer,” said Dowling.

In the fall, they started offering double rewards points to valued Best Western Rewards members members.

And, said Dowling, “At no cost to Best Western members, we lowered the threshold
needed for a free night's stay to 10,000 BWR points, just in time for the
holidays.”

By the end of year, the Best Western Rewards program will have more than 33 million members globally, up nearly 14 percent year-over-year. The revenue contribution is forecasted to be 44 per cent by the end of the year, an increase of five percentage points over 2016.

Like Kong, Dowling is excited about the advances Best Western is making using artificial intelligence. “Customers are in the artificial intelligence space already and we know what kinds of questions customers ask,” she told CLN in an interview.

Pohl announces a development incentive

North American and International numbers for each Best Western Brand.

North American and International numbers for each Best Western Brand.

SVP and COO Ron Pohl said Best Western's focus is  to have all of the BW brands represented in every primary and secondary
market, and grow SureStay where appropriate. 

“In
the past three years we have introduced more new brands than ever before,” said Pohl. 

A couple of weeks ago, Best Western Hotels & Resorts  announced its eleventh brand – and newest soft brand – BW Signature Collection by Best Western. With the arrival of this new product, Best Western now offers soft brand options to hotel owners in most chain scale segments — upper economy and midscale (SureStay Collection by Best Western), upper midscale (BW Signature Collection by Best Western) and upscale and upper upscale (BW Premier Collection). 

“Michael
Morton and his teams have opened more new hotels, signed more quality hotels and have more new construction hotels in our pipeline than ever before,” said Pohl.

“We
sign a new BW or SS deal every 2 days, and open a new BW branded or SS hotel
every 4 days. Did
you see other brands are following our lead First,
Red Roof followed by creating Red Roof Plus… then
Hilton added Tru, copying Glo… now they are adding Hilton
Plus. IHG
added Avid — looks a bit like Vib?”

Far from resting on their laurels, Pohl told existing owners and developers that he was offering a limited time incentive for those who would commit to building a Best Western hotel by the end of the year.

He said he would have blank letters of intent forms. “On the form, you tell us what city or cities
you would commit to developing a hotel, the brand, and submit before year-end; our
development team will begin to source opportunities for you,” Pohl added.

“The limited time offer applies to Canada,” he told CLN in an interview. “We need to grow quickly. To be competitive you have to grow as fast as the competition — and we don't have $13 billion to buy Starwood!”  He added that Best Western would love to have a new-build property at Toronto Airport — new construction because that's how to compete with Fairfield and Hampton.

He said the Best Western development team currently consists of 14 people, and that he would like to add six to ten more. He is particularly looking for a Canadian sales person who speaks French. 

“We have more than 200 hotels in Canada — it's a key market for us. We have focused on secondary markets and would like to get more people with expertise in primary markets.” 

Key brands for Canada include Vib, GLo, Best Western Premier and Best Western Plus, Pohl said.

Corporate hotel to be built in Phoenix

Artist's rendering of Best Western's new corporate hotel.

Artist's rendering of Best Western's new corporate hotel.

Pohl mentioned that Best Western often has developers visiting their corporate office, who expect to see all
of their brands, and expect to stay at their flagship hotel. “Similarly, when new voting members and GMs join the
brand, we want them to experience the latest in brand offerings,” he said.

To meet this need, Best Western will be building a corporate hotel on or
near its headquarters in Phoenix. 

“This beautiful hotel will consist of 138
guestrooms… including
innovation rooms for each of our brands, a full
service restaurant, lounge, pool and
7,500 sq. ft of meeting space.

“How exciting is this?!” he said.

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