At Best Western’s annual North American Convention, executives said the company is launching brands, rolling out new loyalty perks and integrating new technologies to keep up with changing guest expectations and to compete within the industry.
NASHVILLE—If Best Western Hotels & Resorts wants to continue on a path of success, complacency isn’t an option, brand President and CEO David Kong said during a general session Thursday at Best Western’s 2017 North American Convention.
“Best Western is doing well, but we also need to be careful that we don’t fall into the trap of complacency and lull ourselves into thinking our future will take care of itself,” he said. “Our future depends on our imagination, and our continued motivation and passion.”
Kong added that staying competitive in an industry that continues to change requires imagination.
“In a world when everything is evolving so fast—when consumer expectations are being reset all the time and our competitors, (online travel agencies) and disruptors, are all trying their best to take our market share, we must use our imagination to compete,” he said.
One way Best Western is doing that is by introducing and rolling out new brands. Kong said one of Best Western’s brand strategy components is enhancing brand image.
“Bringing in high-quality hotels in high-profile locations is a key part of this effort,” he said. “With our renewed focus on development, we have upgraded our talent, become more selective and are offering competitive incentives. As a result, we have brought in some wonderful properties.”
Kong added that the company has added several brands to “appeal to the new generation of travelers and developers.” Some of those brands include Vib, GLō and the company’s latest soft brand, BW Signature Collection, which was announced last month at The Lodging Conference.
The BW Signature Collection has “a healthy pipeline of applications,” four of which have been approved, he said.
At last year’s convention, Best Western launched economy brand SureStay Hotels, the strategy for which was refined during district meetings this year, Kong said.
“In North America, we have 25 (SureStay properties) already open and 19 more in the pipeline to be activated,” he said. “SureStay Hotels enable us to offer a more broadened portfolio of options. They also provide additional funding for much-needed investments in our sales and marketing efforts.”
The brand was initially introduced as a set of three “white label” franchise brands in 2016. Now the three SureStay brands—SureStay Hotel, SureStay Plus Hotel and SureStay Collection—carry the “by Best Western” naming.
Dorothy Dowling, SVP and chief marketing officer at Best Western, said the industry is changing, and brands need to adapt to it to remain relevant. If they don’t, they “run the risk of becoming obsolete,” she said.
“Things are changing at an alarming rate, and the only thing we can expect is more change, more competition and more disruption,” she said.
Dowling said this change is being driven by what she referred to as “the next revolution.”
“The next revolution is the massive shift we have made to digital—from the internet to Apple watches, tablets and smartphones,” she said. “More and more, people are seeking out technological solutions to life’s challenges and daily routines.”
This shift has had a big influence on the marketplace, she said, with the biggest being a customer-first economy, meaning customers are more informed than ever before.
“By increasing our advertising presence, relying on the strength of our sales team and leaning into partnerships, we are going to start that journey off on the right foot in the travel inspiration, planning and booking reservations touchpoints,” she said.
To keep up with technological advances in the industry, Best Western is working to launch things such as 360° videos of properties that will show up in Google search results and Google My Business, a co-innovation advertising partnership with IBM and a Best West Rewards chatbot.
“Coming in the spring of 2018, Best Western is proud to announce BWR Bot, a conversational agent for Facebook Messenger that will help our rewards members get the most out of their membership,” Dowling said.
Executives added that loyalty continues to be an important growth element for Best Western.
The Best Western Rewards program will have around a 44% revenue contribution from the program by the end of the year, Kong said, and “the program is driving an average of $850,000 in revenue per hotel.”
The brand launched “Experiences by Best Western Rewards” during the convention, which will allow members to “experience travel beyond the ordinary by using their points on rewarding experiences,” according to a news release.