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BW Outpaces Industry in 2009 Despite Recession

11/16/2009

BEST WESTERN OUTPACES INDUSTRY IN 2009 DESPITE RECESSION

World’s Largest Hotel Chain Sets Sites on Growing Market Share in 2010, 2011 Through Improved Customer Service and Harnessing Diversity as Strength

PHOENIX (Nov. 16, 2009) — More than 2,000 hoteliers from across the United States and Canada gathered in Phoenix in late October for Best Western International’s North American Convention to recap 2009 and preview 2010.

Among the topics addressed by executives from the World’s Largest Hotel Chain: capturing additional market share and strategies for rebuilding business lost during the current recession, growing the Best Western Rewards® loyalty program, education and training initiatives to reinforce employees’ superior customer service skills and garnering member feedback on a new product descriptor strategy to help travelers find the right hotel among Best Western’s diverse properties.

Best Western president and CEO David Kong said that although the impact of the recession over the last 12 months has been the industry’s worst in recent history, signs of improvement are ahead. Best Western’s drop in revenue per available room, or RevPAR, during 2009 was less than the dramatic declines experienced by the hospitality industry overall. Not only has the chain consistently outperformed the industry since 2005, but it’s on tap to do so again by four percentage points in 2010.

One key growth area was the chain’s Web site, www.bestwestern.com, where number of room nights booked improved by nearly four percent compared to 2008. According to Scott Gibson, Best Western’s CIO and senior vice president of distribution, the number of unique monthly visitors also increased 19 percent this summer compared to a year prior.

Best Western Rewards, the company’s most important marketing vehicle, is expected to reach 10 million members by the end of 2009. Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of sales and marketing, said the evolution and growth of the program is the company’s number one marketing priority.

“Loyalty programs have become a differentiator in winning new customers and holding onto high value customers,” said Dowling. “We need to execute an all out drive toward acquiring our guests as loyal Rewards customers because if we don’t sign them up, surely our competitors will.”

A key component of Kong’s vision for the brand, to lead the industry in superior customer care, began more than two years ago with the chain’s “I Care” training initiative, a comprehensive program designed to improve customer service and address complaints. At Convention, Best Western unveiled the next evolution of this program; “I Care 2” will train general managers to be more effective in their leadership role, to focus on preventing problems before they result in complaints, and to enhance cleanliness and opportunities for guests to customize the hotel experience.

Best Western is also exploring partnerships with Cornell University on an e-learning and certification program, as well as with the American Hotel and Lodging Educational Institute to develop Web-based training programs that will be accessible to properties across North America.

“We’re committed to bringing a range of accredited courses and education programs to our Members to help them provide heroic hospitality to our 400,000+ nightly guests,” said Ron Pohl, vice president of brand management and member services. “Internet-based training programs are cost-effective and convenient at the same time, and we’re confident these offerings will be a welcome addition to properties’ educational repertoire.”

Still under discussion among Best Western’s executive team, Board of Directors and North American Membership, is a proposed marketing communications strategy that would assign descriptors to various property types, with the goal of helping travelers navigate the diverse range of mid-scale hotels that fly the Best Western flag.

Implementation of such a program, if approved by Best Western Members, would involve:
•Sourcing an outside organization to recommend descriptor nomenclature
•Defining precise assignment processes and design requirements
•Bringing all facets of the proposed initiative to ballot for Members to vote

“Properly setting guest expectations before they arrive at a property will ultimately result in higher satisfaction,” said Kong. “This marketing communications strategy will help the brand win more business and also lead to increased brand loyalty.”

ABOUT BEST WESTERN INTERNATIONAL
Best Western International is THE WORLD'S LARGEST HOTEL CHAIN®, providing marketing, reservations and operational support to over 4,000* independently owned and operated member hotels in 80* countries and territories worldwide. An industry pioneer since 1946, Best Western has grown into an iconic brand that hosts 400,000* worldwide guests each night. Equally committed to the business and leisure traveler, Best Western recently embarked on a mission to lead the hotel industry in customer care. World Vision is the charity of choice for Best Western in building the world's largest family, with our hotels and staff sponsoring children in need around the globe. Our partnerships with AAA/CAA, Michael Waltrip Racing and Harley-Davidson help guests make the most of every trip. For the fastest way to a free night, join Best Western Rewards®, the only hotel frequency program that's truly global. For more information or to make a reservation, please visit www.bestwestern.com

*Numbers are approximate and can fluctuate.