Kong - CEO of Best Western
What are Best Western's plans to market bestwestern.com
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
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
|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
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
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.