Q&A: Best Western – Making progress

Best Western Hotels & Resorts is one of the world’s big hotel groups, with a portfolio of nearly 5,000 properties in almost 100 countries. It also has a long history in Africa and is in the process of slowly growing its presence on the continent, as explained by the group’s Director, International Hotel Services, Karl de Lacy.

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Q: What was the most recent Best Western-branded hotel to open in Africa?

A: We are very happy to say that the Best Western Plus Westlands in Nairobi has opened. We have been looking forward to this opening in the very competitive market that Nairobi is and we look forward to welcoming guests in an area of the city where we have not previously had a property.

Q: What will be the next Best Western-branded hotel to open on the continent?

A: There is a bit of competition on this one. We will open our second Addis Ababa property, the Best Western Azure Airport in Nairobi, and the Best Western Kisumu one after another in the coming months. I would venture to say that the hotel that will get there first will be the Best Western Azure Airport.

Q: Are you planning on introducing any ‘new’ Best Western brands to Africa in the near future?

A: Construction started earlier this year at the Vīb in Cape Town, and it is expected to open in early 2021. This 80-room property is an exciting addition to the portfolio of hotels in the region and will offer a stylish design and a focus on convenience and technology. Of our newer brands, we already have the Executive Residency by Best Western open and look forward to adding to these over the coming months, with active opportunities for Sadie properties in Addis Ababa and Dar es Salaam.

Q: Did you make any notable announcements at the recent Africa Hotel Investment Forum?

A: While there were no announcements this year, we were happy with some of the new opportunities we learned about during the course of the event. We are working to put those agreements in place. The event was also too early to announce our newest addition, SureStay Studio by Best Western. SureStay Studio was designed to compete in the premium-economy extended stay segment.

Q: What are your general views on the African hotel development space?

A: We are very excited by the opportunities that hotel development in Africa has. With continued growth of airlift access, the development opportunities will follow. Our ongoing growth of the portfolio of brand options allows us to participate in various opportunities across the calibre of hotels that owners can chose from, from economy through to luxury.

Q: In which segment do you see the most opportunity in Africa? Luxury, upper-midscale, mid-market etc?

A: With our newest brands, Sadie and Aiden, there is an exciting opportunity for existing hotels to compete with the new-build projects that are coming into many of the cities across Africa. These brands offer hotel owners the opportunity to remodel and create a hip and contemporary product, but don’t alienate any guests. These hotels are a place that is right for so many guest types and travel occasions.

Q: What is Best Western’s preferred model, in terms of hotel ownership, management etc, as it relates to Africa?

A: We offer a very flexible offering to independent hotel owners who understand the value of the brand and what we can provide when it comes to a comprehensive distribution opportunity along with the strength of our loyalty club, Best Western Rewards. Alongside working with the existing third party operators, we have existing owners who are willing to provide management agreements for owners who like the brand option, but don’t want to run their property on a day to day basis.

Q: Where does technology sit in the Best Western strategy and offering?

A: Our focus is on cementing customer relationships from the outset. With more than 4,700 hotels in nearly 100 countries, Best Western’s mobile concierge application, implemented two years ago at select properties, allows guests to customise their stay. It is clear that many customers would rather text than pick up the phone, so the mobile concierge meets their expectations while simultaneously creating better efficiency for the hotelier since responses can be tracked.

Q: What do you think the modern-day business traveller is looking for from a hotel?

A: Based on guest feedback from across the globe, there are three factors that I would suggest that can make or break a hotel stay. These are good wi-fi, a clean and well-maintained property, and recognition of the fact that the guest has chosen to stay with us over many other options. If hotels get those right it allows the visitor to make the most of their stay, whether it be for business or pleasure. Offering an award-winning global loyalty club doesn’t hurt either.

Q: Where do you believe the next African hotel development hot spots are?

A: After a few strong years in East Africa, I believe the pendulum is moving back westwards. We have recently seen an increase in opportunities in Côte d’Ivoire and a slow, but steady level of interest coming back in Nigeria.