Western hospitality has really spread. Begun in 1946 by hotelier M. K. Guertin and named for its California origins, Best Western has more than 4,000 independently owned and operated hotels throughout the globe (including nearly 2,200 in North America), making it the world's largest hotel brand (by number of rooms). Hotels sport its flag in about 90 countries and territories; Australia and the UK have the most outside the US. The company has more than 80 Best Western Premier luxury branded hotels, which offer upscale amenities and services, in North America, Asia, and Europe. Best Western is organized as a not-for-profit membership association, with most of its sales coming from monthly fees and annual dues.
While the travel industry has been facing hard times as a result of the economic downturn, Best Western claims that its hotels benefited from companies looking to cut costs by moving their hotel business to the mid-market sector. For example, Best Western requires its hoteliers to provide complimentary Internet and local phone calls. The company also attracts travelers through its marketing efforts. In 2010 it launched a program to reward members of its global Best Western Rewards loyalty program by matching the elite status of other hotel loyalty programs free of charge.
In 2011 the company introduced its latest brand -- Best Western Plus. Included in the launch are approximately 800 Best Western Plus locations in North America, which feature upper midscale hotels offering a more premium experience than regular Best Western hotels, including updated furnishings, bedding, and bath amenities. Best Western Plus joins the company's Best Western (midscale) and Best Western Premier (luxury) brands, giving the company a three-pronged approach to target travelers in different market segments.
Another major part of the company's strategic plan is ongoing global expansion. In 2010 it added to its portfolio in Eastern Europe with its first hotel in Ukraine, the Best Western Sevastopol Hotel. And through a licensing agreement in India, Best Western plans to add about 100 new hotels per year in that country through the next decade. In addition to Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe, the company is targeting emerging markets such as Africa, New Zealand, Russia, and South America for growth.
These efforts are being lead by longtime hotel executive David Kong, who has served as CEO of Best Western since 2004. He has prior experience at Hyatt Hotels, Omni International, Regent International, and Hilton Hotels. – less