With the launch of a new brand and plenty in its African pipeline, Best Western is one of the more active hotel groups currently. It has also bet big on Africa, with more hotels due to open in 2016. So, it was a good time to get the thoughts of Karl de Lacy, Best Western’s International Development Director.
Q: How close is Best Western to adding to its existing property in South Africa?
A: With the launch of V?b, this has given us a new opportunity for development and we are working on a project in South Africa currently. In addition to V?b, the launch of our soft brand BW Premier Collection will give us new opportunities in the more established markets around South Africa.
Q: What can you tell us about the new V?b brand and where is it going to be rolled out?
a: V?b, our new hip, chic, boutique concept, re-imagines the Best Western hotel experience for today’s traveller who is seeking innovation, technology and style with an authentic; local flavour offered at a great value. The unique signature features within the guest room and public areas add to hotel amenities which include free wi-fi in the lobby and guest rooms, grab-n-go stations serving premium food and coffee, bar and cozy fireplace, gaming pods, fitness centre and more. We have announced projects in Chicago, Miami and Seoul, with agreements signed five more U.S locations.
Q: Nigeria appears to have the largest number of proposed Best Western openings in the coming years. What does Best Western like about the country?
A: The demand for more reasonable international-standard accommodation in the growing African markets has helped deliver hotels in Nigeria and is what is driving our success in Africa. We also have owners who are looking for a global brand that can work with slightly smaller hotels. This has given us the opportunity to add hotels in secondary cities.
Q: You’ve said before that Best Western has its eye on some of Africa’s ‘secondary’ cities, as opposed to just focusing on capitals. Can you expand on that?
A: This goes back to our ability to work with slightly smaller hotels along with a flexibility within our brand standards. This means that local developers can build a hotel to provide services in a particular destination which meet the demands of the traveller going there, rather than a set guideline which must be met, no matter where the hotel is located.
Q: Is the mid-market range the next great area of opportunity in African hospitality?
A: Without a doubt the midscale and upper midscale hotel types, in which Best Western has a very strong presence, are growth opportunities for hotel developers around Africa. Cross border business within Africa will continue to grow and savvy local business people are looking for a hotel that will service their needs while offering clean and comfortable surroundings.
Q: Where else in Africa is Best Western planning to open properties over the remainder of this year and early-2016?
A: We will open our first hotel in Uganda, the Best Western Premier Garden Hotel in Entebbe along with the Best Western Plus Zanzibar, which is located in Stone Town.
Q: Best Western recently took on the Lusaka Grand Hotel in Zambia. What was the appeal for Best Western?
A: Our interest in this property came from the owner making firm commitments to upgrade the existing hotel and as part of this, relaunch the product as a Best Western branded hotel. Having made the necessary improvements we have worked well with the team in Lusaka on the addition of our first hotel in Zambia.
Q: Which of your brands have proved most successful in Africa?
A: Our upper midscale offering, Best Western Plus is our strongest brand offering in Africa. This is reflective of the quality of product which is coming into the market over the past number of years.
Q: How do you see the African hospitality industry changing or evolving over the next 10 years?
A: The skills which are being acquired by the current staff members in the hotels will continue to grow and the level of service offered will improve. The growth of the industry will count on ease of access for cross continent and global business travel. A greater understanding of loyalty clubs like Best Western Rewards will mean that competition for business will increase.
Q: Best Western is currently undergoing a rebranding. Why is it changing its brand image after 69 years?
A: The new corporate name, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, better represents the quality and variety of properties globally and will help change the perception and guest expectations of the brand. While our research shows the current logo is recognisable, visible and is familiar, it does not reflect the transformation Best Western has experienced over the past 10 years.
Q. How will the new logos and branding impact consumer recognition and appeal?
A. These logos bring clear and memorable differentiation between our brands, making it easier for guests to understand the different hotel types Best Western offers. With unique logos for our Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier brands, we are illustrating the value and experience while underscoring the unmistakable Best Western brand family bond.