This year has not been a good year for the hospitality industry thanks to the continuing pandemic that is forcing establishments to close, restrict their services and/or hours or even declare bankruptcy.
So when Business Travel News (BTN) released the results of their readers survey on who they think is the number one hotel brand in the country it is good news that needs to be shouted about. For the sixth year running Best Western® Hotels & Resorts (BWHR) have been named as the top Midscale Hotel Brand, while Best Western Plus came in at number two in the Upper Midscale Hotel Brand category. The BTN 2020 Hotel Brand Survey is a big indication on what the mood of the consumer is and with BWHR topping the chart for the sixth year running it is clear that as well as preferring to stay in well run, comfortable accommodation, they also like to remain loyal.
The survey looks at how business travelers rate the different hotel brands that they use, and due to the severe disruption the current health crisis has had on the industry, this year’s survey included extra criteria to ensure a fair result. BTN’s readership is made up of many different types of travelers including over 44,000 travel managers who, between them, look after around $264 billion in travel spending in the corporate sector.
Although brands including Holiday Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Ramada, Wingate, La Quinta and Fairfield Inn all were included in the results, Best Western and Best Western Plus were able to maintain their title as the company business travelers preferred to use.
On hearing the results BWHR’s Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Dorothy Dowling commented, “We are thrilled to once again top the charts of BTN’s annual hotel brand survey. Business travel is a key market for our brands, and during these tumultuous times for the industry, we remain focused on delivering exceptional products, amenities and experiences that today’s business travelers are searching for. We care about the needs of our travelers, so we are proud to partner with buyers – listening and learning from them – as we continue to adapt our offerings for business travelers in today’s unique landscape.”
Categories in the survey included the quality of the hotels as well as their facilities, the levels of cleanliness and the on-site staff. There were also areas including the health and wellness options for travelers, the quality of brand sales and product consistency as well as the overall value travelers believed they were receiving from their stay. While BWHR received the highest recognition in these categories they were also acknowledged for the way they communicate with travel buyers as well as their procedures for managing demanding and often difficult operations. They were also recognized for the way they have reacted to any concerns regarding security, sanitation and safety, something that has proved crucial in the current climate.
BWHR credits their success to the way their staff continues to listen and respond to those who are staying at their locations to ensure they keep up with the ever-changing needs of a hotel guest. This has enabled the company to become a dynamic company within the hospitality world and they now offer 18 different brands to cover each area of the industry, including economy, luxury and everything in between.
The company has also invested over $2 billion in renovations on their properties within North America and has committed to improve and innovate where possible. The survey’s upper-scale and upscale tiers saw only three hotel companies qualify, Hyatt Hotels Corp., Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International with suggestions that the companies loyalty programs potentially being the main factor in business travelers opting for them. Analysts believe that those opting for upper-upscale accommodation “follow in order of the generosity of their loyalty programs.”
Marriott topped the survey this year, an increase of three places from 2019, as their average score was a quarter of a point higher. Out of the criteria, pre-pandemic, travel buyers marked them top for nine out of the 11 areas while during the pandemic they topped two of the criteria. This allowed them to gain average scores of five or above in nine out of 14 criteria. Jason Nuell, Marriott’s SVP for premium brands believes the improved placement can be credited to two elements: the Bonvoy platform and a recent change in their product.
“We’re at about 80 percent of the portfolio in North America that are compliant with those new standards. The other big piece is the Bonvoy focus on the global traveler, elevating their benefits and getting them onto the platform.” As well as adding more practical furniture in the bedrooms to allow guests a more comfortable working environment, the company has also changed many of their hotels’ bathrooms, replacing baths with walk-in showers. They have also introduced fitness upgrades which many business travelers take advantage of.
Nuell continued, “On top of that is the M Club, where we really made sure it was a premium space. It gives the business traveler a place to recharge and focus.” Marriott is also continuing to consult with regular business travelers to ensure that their approach is the right approach. “We’re making sure we’re being transparent with the right hotels, the right markets, cleaning protocols and ensuring flexibility around them as well.”