NASHVILLE — Best Western Hotels & Resorts welcomed more than 2,000 members to its 2017 Best Western North American Convention at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Centre in Nashville, Tenn., last week.

The event’s general session was filled with announcements from the company’s top executives, who outlined recent performance and provided a glimpse into the future of Best Western. During the session, top Best Western executives, including board chairman Terry Bichsel, president & CEO David Kong, SVP & COO Ron Pohl, VP & CDO Greg Adams and SVP & CMO Dorothy Dowling, made speeches littered with new announcements.

Two of the company’s largest announcements pertained to its Best Western Rewards (BWR) program. The brand unveiled Experiences by Best Western Rewards in addition to temporarily lowering its points threshold for a free night’s stay — allowing BWR members to earn a free night’s stay at any Best Western-branded property in North America for only 10,000 points until Jan. 31, 2018.

The new Experiences by Best Western Rewards initiative introduces a selection of exclusive travel experiences to BWR’s roster of reward-redemption options, including a trip to the Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.; an adventure to the Grand Canyon National Park; a trip to New York City to see a Broadway show; a trip to Paris, France for the ultimate culinary experience; and a trip to Las Vegas, Nev. to enjoy premier gaming and entertainment.

“Experiences by BWR is unlike any other promotion in our industry,” said Dowling. “Each experience will feature our highest-performing hotels. They will also be carefully crafted based on our guests’ requests and high destination bookings from our rewards members…Best of all, Experiences by BWR was created with a special emphasis on attainability.”

Dowling also announced that beginning in 2018, the company will begin “creating eight to 10 videos per property that will be integrated into Google’s search results and Google My Business. These videos will highlight different areas of the hotel, with professional voiceovers, and will be available for all properties by the end of the year.”

The general session also featured several announcements on the technology front, including artificial intelligence (AI) powered advertising in partnership with IBM and its Watson technology. Additionally, the company has officially launched it Best Western Mobile Guest Engagement Platform, has begun integrating Amazon Dot into guestrooms and is launching the BWR Bot — a conversational agent for Facebook Messenger — in spring of 2018,

Best Western Mobile Guest Engagement Platform, which was developed in partnership with Runtriz, provides web-based guest communications tools pre-arrival, on property and at check-out, without the necessity of downloading a smartphone application. The platform was originally tested at 360 properties, which have reported significant increases in guest satisfaction, overall experience, and increased room revenue through native upselling and advertising functions.

“This technology is empowering to the guests,” said Kong. “It creates a special connection with them and it will also make things more efficient for us.”

“The brands who lead through technology will win,” Pohl stressed. “Today, the guest experience has shifted from people providing service through technology to technology providing service supported by people.”

Pohl also revealed details on a new corporate flagship hotel at its head office in Phoenix, Ariz., which is set to begin construction in 2018. “This year, we will be building a corporate hotel on or near our headquarters. This beautiful hotel will consist of 138 guestrooms, including innovations rooms — each brand will be represented — a full-service restaurant, a lounge, a pool and 75,000 sq.-ft. of meeting space.”

In addition to the general session, the convention also featured a variety of education sessions, full-day workshops and a tradeshow. Session topics included cybersecurity, revenue management, customer care, human resources, legal issues and technology. The convention’s four full-day workshops focused on training on the company’s BestRev tool, leadership and leveraging strengths, sales leadership and women’s leadership.

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