Best Western International has taken the next—and most crucial—step in its descriptor program by officially launching a promotional campaign to make consumers aware of the changes.
Categorizing Best Western hotels was a no-brainer and will benefit all parties involved. Best Westerns run the gamut from off-the-exit, value-oriented boxes to modern and elegant spaces in urban markets. Without having been to the property before, guests can’t exactly be sure they will get what they were looking for. Sales associates trying to book corporate business get pigeon-holed into selling a certain property. In my opinion, other franchisors in similar situations should follow suit.
Now it’s time for Best Western to start educating the consumer. As of 1 February, the company produced and began running a commercial and revamped their brand homepage, among other things.
The latest 30-second Best Western spot features a new, easy-on-the-eyes spokeswoman and piles in a handful of messages Best Western is trying to convey: 1) A new logo displaying the three types of Best Westerns now available; 2) the brand’s new slogan emphasizes it is the biggest hotel chain ranked by number of properties; 3) a new promotion for spring 2011 that offers a free night after three separate paid visits.
Interestingly, the spokeswoman also points out that “each hotel is independently owned,” although I’m not sure how greatly that differentiates Best Western from its competing brands.
Best Western also revamped its website to clearly show the three different types—Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier. Users now will know how to go about getting the kind of hotel they are looking for.
There are 427 Best Western Plus properties, 368 of which are in the United States. Most of those have spent approximately US$20,000 and are fully converted, with new signage installed.
There are five Best Western Premiers open in the U.S.: Best Western Premier Ivy Hotel in Napa, California; Best Western Premier Crown Chase Inn & Suites in the Dallas suburb of Denton, Texas; Best Western Premier Miami International Airport; Best Western Premier Eden Resort in Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Best Western Premier Central Hotel & Conference Center in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A sixth Premier in Alberta, Canada, is experiencing its soft opening now.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with a GM and part-owner of the Best Western Plus in Duncanville, Texas, just 10 minutes south of downtown Dallas. Pankaj Ladd’s hotel opened as a Best Western in August 2007 and converted to the “Plus” descriptor in September 2010. He said the conversion was primarily based on his competitive set.
“The purpose was to better position the property in its comp set,” Ladd said. He said since the hotel was rather new, featured a modern design and competed primarily with a Holiday Inn Express, the “Plus” descriptor fit best. If his main competition was a Hilton Garden Inn, he said he would’ve chosen the “Premier” descriptor and added amenities such as a full-service restaurant; if he competed with a Super 8, he wouldn’t have changed.
“How cool is it to be part of a brand that lets you pick your comp set?” Ladd said.
He said guests question the “Best Western Plus” sign when they arrive. But when they step inside the lobby, they understand the difference.
“It’s a very difficult problem to solve overnight,” he said. “It’s difficult to make big changes with consumers. Just because we change the sign doesn’t mean they understand.”