LAS VEGAS — Acrobats jumped and danced across the expansive stage, setting a dazzling introduction to an information-packed two days of speeches, education sessions and product showcases at the 2012 Best Western (BW) North American Convention, held from Oct. 10 to 12 at the Venetian Resort-Hotel-Casino in Las Vegas.
Devang Amin, chairman, District III, kicked off the convention with a heartwarming story of personalized customer service he received from a local sandwich shop, which he connected to Best Western’s convention theme, People Who Care. “You don’t sell a commodity,” he began, “you sell an experience.” He explained the company’s vision of leading the industry in customer care, most notably, with programs such as ‘I Care Clean,’ a new housekeeping initiative, which includes the use of ultraviolet technology and black wands to clean 4,200 of its hotels internationally. Meanwhile, he talked about the company’s new redesigned website, bestwestern.com, which now includes detailed room descriptions, better design and Trip Advisor ratings for each property.
David Kong, president and CEO, took the stage next to update the 2,500 Best Western members in attendance about the descriptor program, which divided BW hotels into three categories of service — Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier — in 2011. It’s “essentially a marketing strategy,” he began. “Previously, our diversity was a weakness in that travellers did not know what to expect. With descriptors, we have turned our diversity into a formidable strength.”
Meanwhile, the BW team revealed details about its new extended-stay prototype. Ron Pohl, SVP, Brand Management and Member Services explained how the new model can include between 20- to 100-per-cent of the room mix at a property. The new design fits a Best Western Plus hotel but could be adapted for a Best Western Premier hotel, offering 85 rooms and three-to-four storeys, with about $88,000 per key in construction costs.
The convention also highlighted Best Western’s 2012, with a 6.6-per-cent improvement in room nights sold, globally. In August, the chain boasted a year-to-date RevPAR index of 111.2. “Over the past few years, we have expanded our sales force in North America and have paid particular attention to corporate business. Our efforts are paying off — worldwide sales revenue is up over 10 per cent and the corporate segment is up over 27 per cent,” said Kong. He also explained that the Best Western Rewards program is expected to generate $1.2 billion in revenue by the end of the year.
Best Western has 198 hotels in Canada, but international development is on the rise, with reports that it’s the fastest-growing hotel brand in Asia. It’s undergoing extensive expansion in Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Burma and Philippines.