Best Western Hotels & Resorts President and CEO David Kong said he expects his company’s acquisition will allow WorldHotels’ membership to double, while offering a positive “halo effect” to current Best Western members.
PHOENIX—Best Western Hotels & Resorts President and CEO David Kong is confident his company’s recent acquisition of WorldHotels Collection will leverage that company’s presence among its competitors, while giving Best Western exposure in the upper-upscale and luxury segments, along with better negotiating power that comes with a larger footprint.
WorldHotels, which bills itself as a “curated global offering” of 300 independent upper-upscale and luxury hotels and resorts worldwide, markets its member hotels to leisure and business guests who can book stays on the company’s website.
Acquiring the company was “something we couldn’t pass up,” Kong said, adding that it plugs the holes Best Western had in the upper segments. Best Western made the acquisition for an undisclosed price from Orlando-based Associated Luxury Hotels.
“It’s a great fit (in regards to segments served),” he said. “Then we looked at locations and price points, and those are great fits as well. It provides a complete solution, which makes our brand gain traction.”
In a similar move aimed at growing its loyalty platform, Hyatt Hotels Corporation in August 2018 announced an alliance with luxury hotel collection Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
More power for WorldHotels
Kong said he’s convinced Best Western’s ownership can help WorldHotels “double their size in a few years because of the compelling proposition we’re going to make.”
That will happen via integration of Best Western’s technology and sales and marketing platforms, and access to Best Western’s regional offices and relationships, Kong said.
He pointed out WorldHotels’ competitors, including Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Leading Hotels of the World, and said that what Best Western brings to the table from the technology, sales and marketing and loyalty standpoints will give WorldHotels an edge.
WorldHotels properties will have access to Best Western’s regional offices, Kong said, as well as resources to supplement revenue management and sales and marketing efforts, as well as OTA negotiations.
Companies stay separate
While Kong pointed out the many ways the collection company complements Best Western, he said “it’s very important to keep WorldHotels separate from Best Western.”
He said it hasn’t been decided yet whether WorldHotels properties will be listed on Best Western’s website.
“There are pros and cons,” he said. “On the pros side, that’s an additional channel, and we have a lot of traffic. On the cons side, some hotels may not want association with Best Western.”
Over the next few months, Kong said Best Western will be reaching out to all WorldHotels members to get their input on the matter.
Current Best Western owners “will be happy because (this deal) is enhancing the halo effect” of having that upper-upscale and luxury presence, Kong said. In addition, members will benefit from other synergies, such as increased negotiation leverage that comes with having a larger, more diverse company.
WorldHotels will continue to operate under the leadership of CEO Geoff Andrew, with all employees remaining, Kong said. Member hotels won’t see differences in their contracts, contacts or reporting, he added.
Kong said most current WorldHotels member properties use many different distribution channels, including the WorldHotels website reservations system, which is powered by Sabre. Kong said Best Western is in talks now to evaluate the pros and cons of keeping WorldHotels reservations on that platform or moving it to Best Western’s infrastructure.
Kong said Best Western will launch a new loyalty program, “a sister program to Best Western Rewards,” this summer for WorldHotels.
Down the road, he said it’s possible Best Western may integrate the back ends of both loyalty programs, but cross-marketing likely will never happen.
“Back-end integration is good because we’d provide more earnings and redemption opportunities,” he said. “When people join WorldHotels’ (loyalty program), they can earn points and redeem at 4,500 hotels and benefit from our retail and other corporate partners.”