Best Western's Ron Pohl talks dual-branded development

Best Western Elk City, Okla. (The property was developed by Elk City Joseph Investments and consists of a 10-room Best Western Plus and 60-room Executive Residency.)

Best Western Hotels & Resorts has been watching other hotel companies find success with dual-branded properties, and bided its time until the right opportunity came about to throw its hat in the ring. Now, the Best Western Plus Elk City/Executive Residency is open in Elk City, Okla., marking Best Western’s first ever ground-up, dual-brand hotel.

The property is located halfway between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, Texas, and according to Ron Pohl, SVP and COO of Best Western, the decision to drop a dual-branded property in the region came about after meeting with owner Joshua Joseph of Elk City Joseph Investments.

“We chose Elk City… but the owner came to us after we started construction and said he wanted to build a hotel that was attractive to the area,” Pohl said.

The property was developed by Elk City Joseph Investments and consists of a 10-room Best Western Plus and 60-room Executive Residency, giving the hotel an extended-stay mission statement with the capability of doing strong transient business on the side. The hotels share a lobby, as well as food-and-beverage offerings, a fitness center, an outdoor pool and communal areas. All told, the approximate hard-build cost of the hotel was $5 million, with $700,000 spent on furniture, fixtures and equipment.

According to Pohl, Best Western saw a gap between economy and upper-midscale hotels in the region, particularly for extended-stay concepts. It was this observation that informed Best Western’s desire to develop in the area.

“There is a lot of extended-stay supply in many of the hot markets in the area, but the differentiator lines in what segment you are building these hotels,” Pohl said.

The hotel was built for roughly $5 million.

Divided Together

Best Western jumped at the chance to provide two sets of guestrooms under one roof, particularly for an extended-stay hotel that would also be tasked with pulling in additional transient bookings. To streamline that process, Pohl said Best Western derived the unequal distribution of guestrooms (60 to 10, in the Executive Residency’s favor) to allow for booking flexibility on the owner’s behalf. In addition, the property’s large amount of shared space is intended to cut down on development costs while taking into account the smaller overall size of the Best Western Plus component.

“We thought about how we could make the hotel more different and more profitable for our owners, and in many dual brands they share a lobby but have two towers,” Pohl said. “We wanted to share more.”

“The design aspect allowed us to have the best of both markets,” said Gregg Wahlers, GM of the Best Western Plus Elk City/Executive Residency. “Elk City is more of an oil field market, so the Best Western name has a lot of weight there. The intention was to do a dual-branded property to keep the name recognition behind Best Western Plus intact while also providing an extended-stay brand for all of the operating efficiencies that provides.”

According to Wahlers, the hotel is the first extended-stay hotel in the market, with no others in its direct competitive set. It is also the only hotel in the area with outdoor space, a covered grill area and a fire pit, allowing it to stand out to both extended-stay and transient travelers.

“Extended-stay is a highly sought-after component right now,” Wahlers said. “Almost every franchise company has one in their portfolio now, and developers like it for its operating efficiencies when compared to transient hotels. There are some challenges you face in a dual brand, such as balancing how you operate, but since we are attached to a transient hotel we provide equal amenities to both guests such as a full breakfast and outdoor living space, so here we treat them both the same.”

Both hotels share a lobby and a host of amenities.

More More More

According to Pohl, this is not a one-off project. Best Western has an additional 26 Best Western Plus/Executive Residency projects in its pipeline, and that number is expected to grow quickly before the end of the year.

“We do have to Executive Residency hotels that will be tied to the Premier brand, but we are also working with our first property right now that will be a combination of Plus and Premier, and that will be located in New Orleans,” he said.

Pohl said that while Best Western is new to the dual-branding concept, the company has yet to encounter any challenges because developer interest remains high and customers understand the divide.

“We’re open to [developing] more of these depending on the market,” Pohl said. “Vib may work well in an urban market when combined with another brand, such as Premier. It would place two high-end properties in one place and may be more attractive to a different kind of customer. We’ll have to wait and see.”