Best Western launches boutique and soft brands at conference

TORONTO – Best Western International is the latest brand to announce a new prototype for the growing “boutique lifestyle” segment. Company president and CEO David Kong shared some details about Vib (pronounced “vibe”) at Best Western’s annual conference kicking off today in Toronto.

But that’s not the only new offering members heard about: Best Western SVP of brand marketing Ron Pohl referenced a “soft brand opportunity” called The Premier Collection, which will launch in 2015.

While more information will be released about both new offerings in the coming days, Kong and Pohl shared some details of what members can expect from Vib.

“It’s evident the boutique lifestyle hotel trend is not a fad, and in many ways it’s the future of our industry,” Kong told members. “Our brand has enjoyed a long relationship with baby boomers and now we must think of how we’ll appeal to the next generation without compromising. We’re known to be a value brand—we can also be stylish.”

He hinted at Vib being a value-priced offering, intended to appeal to the emerging millennial traveler. Some amenities will include automated check-in, bluetooth connectivity, a virtual concierge, green and energy-efficient features, state of the art fitness centers and a boldly design lobby.

“The lobby is designed to be a vibrant and dynamic gathering space,” Kong said. Other communal elements will include grab-and-go food and drink options and high-end vending—think electronic and tech gear available via vending machine.

Guestrooms will be less than 200 square feet and will include dual-flush toilets, an LED lit shower, hooks, storage space and a workspace that serves dual function as a headboard.

Kong compared the design of the brand—which has a completely new exterior as well—to the West Elm home goods retail brand. “We want this concept to have broad appeal,” he said. “It’s not just for millennials, but also for Gen X and baby boomers. It’s inexpensive to build and cost-effective to operate, yet highly stylish.”

While no details are available regarding specific markets or properties that will join the brand, Pohl said the company has identified 20 markets “where the concept can be successful.”

He said 2015 will be a landmark year for Best Western as the company undergoes many firsts. The first Best Western Executive Residency will open, in Canada, and four more are in the pipeline.

The company’s new soft brand will consist of carefully selected hotels in primary markets that will be required to maintain a TripAdvisor rating of four or above and AAA/CAA rating of Three Diamond or above, according to the company.

Hotels within the collection will not be part of Best Western membership but they will be listed on for booking. Guests will be able to earn and redeem Best Western Rewards points at all BW Premier Collection hotels. BW Premier Collection hotels will also have the option of purchasing additional Best Western brand services such as design and sales support.

“We recognize that travelers’ preferences are evolving and it’s our job to keep up. The launch of Vib and the BW Premier Collection represents a major move by our brand to meet the growing and shifting needs of our customers and travelers in general,” Kong said. “These two initiatives will allow us to reach a new customer base and developer audiences, while still maintaining the unmatched value and customer care that everyone has come to expect from Best Western.”  

The company also is redesigning new-construction prototypes for Best Western and Best Western Plus hotels, which Pohl said “will be architecturally enhanced on the exterior and have contemporary lobbies, communal elements and improved technology.” Those plans will be introduced by the end of the year.

Other goals for the company include the roll out of its new revenue-management tool, BestREV, and plans to improve service at hotels by focusing on the arrival experience, staff interaction, breakfast and the departure experience.

Stay tuned for more from the Best Western convention this week. Follow editor in chief Stephanie Ricca at @HWN_Steph for breaking news updates.