Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Future of Best Western

We were interested to read about what came out of the Best Western convention held in Vancouver this week.

Best Western is the world's largest hotel chain with over 4,000 properties in 80 countries. They have been steadily reestablishing themselves in New Zealand after the local Best Western franchise company ceased trading several years ago. The New Zealand franchise is now managed from Sydney and we note that the initial flurry of property recruitment has plateaued with 13 motels and hotels now listed.

So, what will be the future focus for Best Western?

We see that Best Western will continue their initiative of self-monitoring the quality standards of their properties and will be segmenting its properties into three distinct branded-tiers:  "Best Western," "Best Western Plus" and "Best Western Premier."

The Best Western Rewards program has been described by Best Western President and CEO David Kong as “arguably our most important marketing program.” There will be improvements to streamline the Rewards card sign-up process and a push to add to the existing pool of 12 million card members that generated $770 million this year.

The global website, has contributed $520 million in revenue in 2010 and the site will be given a complete revamp in 2011 with the aim to generate further online sales. Improvements will include redesigned navigation, streamlined booking, enhanced hotel and room descriptions, new photo and video galleries. A new compliant online payment process will also be implemented. 

Best Western’s summer buy-two-nights-get-one-free promotion has been hailed as a success and it looks likely that this promotion will be repeated again and funded from an additional marketing fee impost on member properties in 2011.

Although it was reported that Best Western offers free high-speed guest Internet access at all properties, complaints about Internet access rank as the 6th most contentions issue for guests. It is interesting that Best Western are recognising that the guest internet experience is becoming extremely important and will be setting minimum requirements of bandwidth and signal strength for its properties in 2011.

Another added guest service item that Best Western have identified for improvement is the breakfast offer. There will be new guidelines introduced to differentiate breakfast offerings based on property quality levels.

One interesting difference between North American and Kiwi accommodation culture is the acceptance of pets at motels and hotels. The "travellers with pets" is a market that hasn't been hotly pursued by mainstream New Zealand accommodation businesses. Most accommodation owners here are comfortable with not having to endure the additional management, clean-up and stigma of accepting pets. It is also assumed that the majority of Kiwi motel and hotel guests are comfortable in the knowledge that their rooms have not been previously occupied by someone's beloved pet.

At their Vancouver convention, Best Western reinforced its commitment to travellers with pets by announcing a continued partnership with cable television’s Cesar Millan, known as the “dog whisperer.” 

We will be interested to see if Best Western operators in New Zealand will be opening their doors to the family pet this summer;-)

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