Last week, I reviewed the Experience you can expect at Best Western hotels and I mentioned that Best Western was working hard to move their brands into the midscale and upscale segments and has kicked out more than 1,200 properties that do not meet their brand standards. They have also embarked on a redesign of the brands. Given that Best Western started as a cooperative, has some of the lowest membership fees in the industry and had fairly loose standards, that tightening must have upset some of the property owners. Now, they have launched the “white label” SureStay brand of hotels – find out what that is and what it means to your travels!
Best Western is launching SureStay separate from their own branding as an alternative in the economy and midscale segments with three sub brands:
SureStay Hotels are economy hotels, allowing exterior corridors (motel style) and offering basic rooms with wifi and continental breakfast. SureStay Plus are lower midscale hotels and offer hot breakfast, business centers, pool or fitness centers and upgraded interiors and exteriors. SureStay Signature Collection will be full-service, midscale hotels.
Best Western is focusing on conversions of existing hotels, offering a low-fee membership to property owners without requiring a Property Improvement Plan, instead focusing on service aspects, like access to Best Western’s reservation system, sales & customer service, as well as support with digital marketing and a SureStay rewards program! Property owners also can leverage Best Western’s revenue management expertise, training and procurement contracts, helping them run their hotels.
I can see how this might be interesting to hotels that don’t want to invest in brand improvements like Best Western is driving them for their core brands or owners who are struggling to manage the sales, marketing, digital presence or procurement of their property. They get access to the management expertise of Best Western, their systems and sales channels, their training, procurement catalogue and customer service centers – without having to invest into their physical hotel.
Yet, therein lies the problem from a customer perspective: This type of “conversion” may not address the root cause of why a hotel is struggling, for example a bad location, run down building, worn furniture or plain bad management. None of that is fixed with a new logo on the building – which is why I am generally careful with conversion brands and only book after carefully reading online reviews.
To deliver a positive customer experience, BW requires hotels to achieve and maintain a minimum TripAdvisor rating of 3.5 stars as a requirement to join SureStay. While that is a good approach to managing quality standards transparently, the Limitations of TripAdvisor Ratings limit the effectiveness: Fake reviews and the focus on managing reviews actively can significantly change the TripAdvisor ratings – without actually changing the stay experience!
Bottomline: Economy and lower midscale hotels in the US are not necessarily good value, especially when compared to Asia or Europe. You often find old motels with exterior corridors, poorly maintained and managed, making it often worth paying a few dollars more for a midscale hotel. SureStay is offering to bring higher quality standards to this segment via TripAdvisor ratings of at least 3.5 stars – something that neither Wyndham Hotels, Choice Hotels nor Motel6 can offer for their economy brands. You’ll also get a rewards program, quality reviews, professional customer service centers and a more carefully managed online presence – something many independent economy hotels lack. It sounds like a good concept to me and I’m hopeful that it will bring meaningful improvement to the economy hotel segment in the US. But I’ll remain cautious until I can try out a few SureStay properties in real life. Best Western has to prove that this is real step up and not just a collection of tired, old hotels with a new logo on the outside! Stay tuned for more news on the first properties and reviews!
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