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Industry Leaders Address Recession Impact

2/17/2009

INDUSTRY LEADERS FROM BEST WESTERN, SOUTHWEST AIRLINES AND MASTERCARD ADDRESS RECESSION’S IMPACT ON BUSINESS TRAVEL

Industry’s “New Normal” Leads to Increased Usage of Loyalty Points, Expense Management Programs, and Value-Added Goods and Services that Help Curtail Costs

NEW YORK (February 17, 2009) – Travel industry executives representing Best Western International, Southwest Airlines and MasterCard Worldwide recently convened for the third annual Business Travel Summit for a discussion of the recession’s impact on business travel. The roundtable, moderated by business travel expert Chris McGinnis, also provided tips for companies and individual business travelers to reign in expenses in a down economy.

According to Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western, though business travelers are employing a number of techniques to control costs and reduce spending, they are opting for shorter trips rather than canceling travel across the board. In addition, more companies are looking to mid-market hotels for corporate travel to streamline costs, where chains including Best Western incorporate all-inclusive pricing.

“Business travelers who have been nickel and dimed at upscale and luxury hotels for amenities such as Internet access, breakfast and parking are now coming through our doors more than ever before,” Dowling said. “This positions Best Western favorably with corporate travel managers and individual business travelers who are looking to aggressively cut costs any way possible.”

BUSINESS-TO-BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS
Travel brands are using the economic slowdown to grow business-to-business relationships in an effort to provide new value-added services to their customers. Southwest Airlines and Best Western recently announced a partnership that provides Best Western Rewards members the opportunity to earn Rapid Rewards credits for each qualifying hotel stay.

“Our partnership with Best Western comes at an ideal time for travelers eager to control spending while still hitting the road to maintain personal relationships with their clients,” said Linda Rutherford, vice president of communications and strategic outreach for Southwest Airlines.

EXPENSE MANAGEMENT TOOLS
Rutherford said Southwest’s corporate booking tool SWABIZ continues to attract business travelers. SWABIZ offers Customers a wide range of tools that help road warriors efficiently plan, book and purchase business travel.

George Zilvetti, vice president, co-brand development for MasterCard Worldwide, said even though the weak economy has led to a smaller number of people to view business trips as perk-filled experiences, several simple steps can be taken to minimize inconveniences.

“Small business travelers can reduce costs and receive perks such as rental car upgrades and cash back for purchases, while also eliminating certain fees for checked bags that some airlines have implemented,” he said. “Some of these cards also provide the technology which eases the expense management process, thereby giving travel managers better control over their employees' expenses.”

LOYALTY PROGRAMS
Increasingly, business travelers are taking advantage of loyalty programs and associated benefits, which allow them to take business trips that might have otherwise been cancelled. Best Western has tracked record numbers of loyalty point redemption in the past several months, with a 23 percent year-over-year increase in 2008. Free night award redemption jumped to a 36 percent year-over-year increase during December 2008 and January 2009 alone.

Companies continue to work hard to provide business travelers with more convenience and rewards when on the road. For example, Southwest Airlines introduced Rapid Rewards Dining, which gives business travelers more ways to accrue and use credits when flying on Southwest. The airline recently added the enhancement to its loyalty program, allowing its Members to earn credits when dining at more than 9,000 restaurants, bars and clubs across North America.

To receive a podcast of the session, send your name, organization and return email address to krista.hinz@bestwestern.com.

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. Best Western's diverse property portfolio, its greatest strength, stems from a business model designed to give owners maximum flexibility to address market-specific needs. Equally committed to the business and leisure traveler, Best Western recently embarked on a five-year mission to lead the hotel industry in customer care. Since 2004, Best Western has served as the Official Hotel of NASCAR®. For more information, visit www.bestwestern.com.

*Numbers are approximate and can fluctuate.

ABOUT SOUTHWEST AIRLINES
Southwest Airlines is the most productive airline in the sky and offers Customers a comfortable traveling experience. Southwest offers a very comfortable ride with all premium leather seats and plenty of legroom with a young all Boeing 737 fleet. Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV), the nation's largest carrier in terms of domestic passengers enplaned, currently serves 64 cities (with service to Minneapolis/St. Paul starting in March 2009) in 32 states. Based in Dallas, Southwest currently operates more than 3,200 flights a day and has more than 35,000 Employees systemwide.

ABOUT MASTERCARD WORLDWIDE
MasterCard Worldwide advances global commerce by providing a critical economic link among financial institutions, businesses, cardholders and merchants worldwide. As a franchisor, processor and advisor, MasterCard develops and markets payment solutions, processes approximately 21 billion transactions each year, and provides industry-leading analysis and consulting services to financial institution customers and merchants. Through its family of brands, including MasterCard®, Maestro® and Cirrus®, MasterCard serves consumers and businesses in more than 210 countries and territories. For more information go to www.mastercard.com.



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