PHOENIX--Best Western Hotels & Resorts has introduced its 11th brand—a collection of upper midscale properties.
The BW Signature Collection by Best Western joins two other “soft brands” that the company has produced in recent years. Once known as an economy brand for travelers, Best Western has expanded into the independent and upscale market with such offshoots as BW Signature.
The company has two other soft brands, which are collections of hotels that don't necessarily have to have the Best Western name visibly attached to it or follow all the company's standards. One is called SureStay Collection by Best Western for upper economy and midscale brands. The BW Premier Collection for upscale and upper upscale hotels. Basically, SureStay handles the economy, midscale and economy-plus market and BW Premier includes Best Western’s most exclusive hotels.
The BW Signature Collection will fit somewhere in between.
“Most of the interest in new hotel construction is in the upscale and upper midscale segment,” Best Western CEO David Kong told USA TODAY during the Lodging Conference at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix last week. “It’s a segment that has a lot of potential for us as a soft brand.”
The first two hotels to join BW Signature Collection are Killington Mountain Lodge in Killington, Vt., and Brooklyn Way Hotel in N.Y.
Hotel companies have been turning to soft brands in recent years. The properties get to use the hotel companies’ reservations and marketing systems while the mega-companies get to increase their scale.
Hilton launched the Tapestry Collection at the start of the year. It already has the upscale Curio Collection, introduced n 2014. Tapestry is meant to be a notch below that. Marriott International, the largest hotel company in the world, has Autograph Collection for luxury brands. After acquiring Starwood Hotels and Resorts about a year ago, it inherited the Luxury Collection and The Tribute Portfolio. Choice Hotels has the Ascend Collection.
There are many more in play but Kong says the difference here is that Best Western is going after the upscale midscale segment. The properties will have to get at least a four-star rating on TripAdvisor. BW Premier hotels, by comparison, must have 4.5 ratings. So in essence, this collection gets closer to Best Western’s original base of luring customers who want good value for their money.
Best Western, originally known for its economy scale product, once consisted of one brand. It had that brand for 65 years. Since 2012, the company has added 10 brands.
Kong, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, explains the reason for such proliferation by pointing out that companies such as BMW, Chipotle and Tide have also provided customers with .
“When I came to this country, there were three models of BMW. Now there are 20 or more,” he says. “People want things their way and they have strong opinions on how they want it … Look at Chipotle’s success. You can have burritos or bowls how you want it. People love it.
Tide now has a variety of cleansing options as do most shampoo companies, Kong points out.
“The hotel room is the same thing,” he says. “People want to experience the hotel room differently.”
Kong says going independent has its advantages but he also makes the case for staying with established brands.
“You lose the reservations system. You lose the loyalty program,” Kong says. “No hotel wants to be too reliant on OTA’s alone. To be able to tap into a different hotel base through a reservation system and to be able to tap into an established loyalty program with a customer base is very advantageous.”
And he points out that having soft brands is a plus for the Best Westerns, Marriotts, and Hiltons of the world.
“You create this synergy and halo effect for these brands and you strengthen the master brand,” he says.