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Mr. David Kong - CEO of Best Western
 
1) What are Best Western's plans to market bestwestern.com on Internet?

Best Western is continuing to grow its online advertising to stay top of mind, drive brand awareness and grow market share. We will be focusing on key targets including our family leisure sweet spot, business travelers and Generation X, while maximizing integration with our offline efforts.

We will use the best blend of sites and ad networks and continue to optimize publishers, placements and creative to surpass our targeted returns. We have also introduced Mobile Search to reach travelers on the go, and will place Mobile Banners during the spring and fall. Sites we specifically target for online advertising include those related to travel, news, and weather, as well as mapping sites.
2) How important is Internet marketing to Best Western's overall strategy?

As the fastest growing booking channel, it’s extremely important. We’re doing a variety of things besides advertising to increase our presence online – including promotions, contests, and a new blog site (www.youmustbetrippin.com), as well as a presence on YouTube (www.youtube.com/bestwesterntv).

3) What do you feel about the contribution of Asian Indian hotel owners towards growth of Best Western?

A large number of our members in North America are Asian Indian. The Asian Indian community has a strong dedication to family, and their hotels are often family businesses that pass from one generation to the next. This results in decades of cumulative operational expertise, deep roots in the local community, and a superior level of customer care.

4) What are your 3 most important priorities that will generate greater value for your franchisees?

Driving revenue to our members is our number one goal. We achieve it in a number of ways.
Best Western’s "I Care" program leverages what is special about this organization, what helps us stand out in an increasingly commoditized industry. While other brands are focused on amenity wars, we are a family of owners that was built on member helping member. Best Western wants to differentiate itself by providing superior customer care and connecting emotionally with our guests. We want to turn mundane everyday transactions into experiences that build genuine and lasting relationships. We have an extensive training program in place to empower hotel staff and inspire them to create the best possible customer experiences.

Sales and marketing are also areas to which we commit substantial resources. In fact, we raised our marketing spend 25% this year to capture share in a flat market. We continue to forge high, wide and deep relationships with AAA/CAA, NASCAR, Harley Davidson, MasterCard, and Disney, among other partners. Our advertising, which portrays our member hoteliers as heroes helping guest, has the highest awareness score in the market. We also rely heavily on public relations as a way to extend our voice and to provide credible third party endorsement of our offerings.

Our loyalty program, which will be relaunched in 2009 as Best Western Rewards, is quickly growing into the rich offering that our faithful guests deserve. This investment has resulted in a 6.5% increase in RevPar over last year. The industry average is 1%.

5) Do you have any plans to launch Best Western procedure manual, quality manual and videos in Gujarati as most of your franchisees understand Gujarati?

At this time, Best Western corporate headquarters provides training materials in English and Spanish; however, many of our affiliate offices have materials translated to their local languages and dialects.

6) Have you been to India? When do you plan to visit India & Gujarat?

Yes, I was in India in 2007 to announce our partnership with Cabana Hotels Management Pvt. Ltd. Through our partnership, Cabana Hotels represents the Best Western brand in India, provides hotel management services and is establishing an advanced hotel management institute in Bhubaneswar. Designed as the first of its kind in the country, the school broke ground in 2007 and will bring world-class hotel management standards to India by providing in-depth training programs for employees working in new Best Western properties.
Development in India is a huge priority for the brand. We work closely with B.B. Patel, co-Chairman and co-founder of Cabana Hotels, to manage progress on a regular basis. B.B. just attended our annual Convention in Hawaii this past week to gather information and best practices for our properties in India.

7) How can Asian Indian Hotel owners take greater part in Best Western's management & policy formulation?

As a membership organization, Best Western has a long and distinguished history of democratic governance. There are many ways hotel owners can impact policies and brand direction. These include:

Joining their local member Co-op. There are 40 Best Western co-ops through the U.S. and Canada. The primary goal for co-ops is to supplement brand efforts to drive incremental revenue to properties. Each member-driven co-op works to develop regionally focused sales and marketing initiatives that supplement brand efforts with a regionalized flair.

Becoming a Best Western Governor. The role of the Governor is a critical one. Governors provide input to the Board of Directors on important topics, including proposed initiatives, prospective and conditional memberships, and state and regional issues. Our Board of Directors relies heavily on feedback from Best Western Governors as an indication of sentiment in the membership at large.

Joining an Advisory Committee. These committees provide regular input to the executive team on marketing, design and technology-related issues impacting the brand.

Becoming a Director on the Best Western Board of Directors. Directors are instrumental in making positive changes both at the corporate and member levels.

8) What do feel are the 3 most important strengths of Asian Indian Hotel owners that make them successful?

Again, Best Western’s Asian Indian hotel owners account for a significant percentage of our overall membership, and good hospitality is an extension of the family dynamic. Also, the drive to succeed and a willingness among Asian Indians to take calculated risks are key factors.

9) What do you feel about mobile Internet? Will travelers start booking hotels through mobile by 2015?

We believe mobile Internet is a very important tool for travelers, and we recently launched Best Western Mobile to cater to them. This new mobile site will extend the full functionality of the Best Western site to our customers on the go, enabling them to reserve a room, check the status of a reservation and get directions.

10) What are your plans to expand Best Western's business in India?

Right now, we have seven properties open in India. Over the next 10 years, we will add about 100 hotels, or approximately 10,000 rooms.

Cabana Hotels is planning a major investment of more than $1.2 billion in Best Western-branded hotels during the next decade, building or converting hotels at 3.5-4 star levels in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Ooty, Rameshwaram, Hyderabad, Kanyakumari and Jaisalmer.
 

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