Despite its senior status — the Phoenix-based hotel brand turned 60 this year — a Best Western is not your grandmother’s motel.
Check out the new fivestar luxury resort in China, the logo on NASCAR giant Michael Waltrip’s race car or the high-tech amenities in guest rooms if there is a question about how the chain is positioning itself.
“We want to be contemporary, current and relevant,” said Best Western CEO David Kong. “We don’t want people to ever think of us as a 60-year-old brand.”
Best Western dropped the word “motel” from its name in 1974 and soon after started its international push. American travelers probably wouldn’t recognize the brand in Europe and Asia, Kong said.
While most U.S. Best Westerns are smack in the middle of the road as far as price, amenities and decor are concerned, the brand’s foreign hotels could compete easily with Scottsdale’s top luxury resorts, Kong said.
Kong said that won’t change. In Asia, especially, hotel building is so expensive you need a luxury property to command a luxury price to pay for the place. In North America, the brand is perfectly positioned, with more value for less price, he said. “We want people to think of our brand like Target (stores) — discount but with style,” he said.
The company uses partnerships to pitch its virtues. One of the most productive, Kong said, is with NASCAR.
Best Western just reupped as the official hotel of the racing circuit.
“NASCAR is the fastestgrowing spectator sport, and we want to position our brand that way,” Kong said. “These people travel. We know they are loyal, and they tend to buy sponsors’ products.”
Best Western also is wooing the lucrative business travel market. It is among the first hotel companies to get tech-savvy, Kong said. The company launched its own Web reservation system 11 years ago. Now it gets more than seven out of 10 bookings through the Internet, Kong said.
And all North American hotels in the chain have provided free wireless or highspeed Internet access in guest rooms since 2004.
To further woo wired travelers, the company offers virtual Web tours of most of its properties.
By midsummer, potential guests will be able to technologically tour all U.S., Canada and Caribbean Best Westerns before making a reservation, Kong said.