While Best Western International’s annual convention this week in Kissimmee, Florida, was lacking in big news announcements, there was a lot of information presented that would likely pique the interest of hoteliers.
Here are my 10 key takeaways from the convention:
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• President and CEO David Kong echoed the sentiment uttered by countless other hotel executives during the past six months when he said the company is “cautiously optimistic” about 2012, though the overall business climate is still uncertain. “Standing still is not an option” given the economic environment, he said.
• September year-to-date, Best Western’s occupancy is up 5.7%, average daily rate increased 3%, and revenue per available room is up 8.8%.
• The company got away from its property-improvement-plan initiative during the downturn, but plans to more vigorously enforce standards, chairman P.G. West said during Monday’s general session. “We need to let properties know what needs to get done; give them the time to budget for it; give them the time to work their plan; and then leave it in their hands,” he said.
• Adding on to that thought, Kong said: “When someone looks at the outside of the hotel, they are forming a value perception of the hotel. Especially if we count on walk-in business, we will want to make sure our hotel has curb appeal.”
• The company’s www.bestwestern.com website contributed US$427 million in revenue to Best Western members, said Scott Gibson, the company’s CIO and senior VP of distribution and strategic services.
• Best Western is working to expand rate parity across channels.
• On the subject of online travel agencies, Kong said: “We all recognize OTAs are here to stay and they are an important travel partner to us.”
• Considering all the different distribution channels, rate parity is more important than ever, executives said.
• President Obama’s administration is using regulation to enact a “pro union” agenda, Kong said. For instance, he said if a company and bargaining body are unable to reach an agreement, the government can mandate how a labor contract will appear.
• In addition to Asia, Brazil and Turkey are hot hotel development spots, Kong said.
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