By Barbara De Lollis, USA TODAY

Would you ever guess the hotel guestroom shown in this photo is a Best Western?

Many of you probably wouldn’t. When I posted this photo on my Facebook page earlier this morning and asked frequent-traveler friends to name that chain, they guessed Hilton, Hyatt and Crowne Plaza.

But, in fact, it is a Best Western.

Specifically, it’s Best Western’s first “Premier” hotel in the USA, which marks the hotel giant’s first stab at grabbing a portion of business travelers who favor chains like Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn and Hyatt Place.

At this hotel in Denton, Texas, you’ll find complimentary Wi-Fi, higher-end bedding, contemporary colors, eclectic lobby, less rigid design, flat-panel TVs, a modest restaurant and other touches that have taken hold at the bigger chains.

“With ‘Premier,’ it sends a signal that they are different than the typical Best Western,” Best Western CEO David Kong told me the other day from the newly opened hotel in Denton, Texas, near the University of North Texas.

“It’s very much along the same caliber as Courtyard or Hyatt Place. When you walk in, there’s a wow feeling right away,” he says. “It’s really our lifestyle hotel.” The Denton hotel’s opening comes five months after Best Western announced it planned to differentiate its 2,200 hotels in the USA into three tiers so that guests can better understand what to expect from a particular hotel. The three tiers: Best Western Premier, which will signify the highest-end hotels in the chain; mid-priced Best Western Plus, and regular Best Western.


Of course, it’s going to be hard to find Best Western Premier properties in the short term.

 So far, Best Western’s approved a dozen hotels for “Premier” status, and about 40 more have applied mostly in primary and secondary markts, Kong says. About 100 “Premier” hotels already operate outside the USA, mainly in Europe and Asia. By February, some 800 “Plus” hotels in the USA will have hung their new signs.

 In the next few weeks, two more Best Western hotels will add the “Premier” title: the Best Western Premier Eden Resort and Suites in Lancaster, Penn., and the Best Western Premier Atrea Colonnade Parkway in Woodway, Texas, outside of Waco.

 According to Kong, the new tiers are being well received by corporate travel managers as Best Western enters the annual request-for-proposal competition for corporate accounts, as well as by travel agents and tour operators.

 ”They all have different customers with different travel needs,” he says. “It makes it easier to pick the right Best Western for their customers.”

Best Western acted after noticing the hotel industry being to shift in recent years.

 ”If you look back three years ago, there was Marriott Courtyard but Hilton Garden Inn wasn’t as strong as it is today. Hyatt Place wasn’t even known at that time,” he says. “It wasn’t well known to the public that there was this segment. The industry has basically defined itself, and consumers are understanding that.”

The descriptive names will also help Best Western combat the perception among travelers that it’s primarily a chain for leisure travelers, Kong says. Systemwide, Best Western hotels generally fill rooms with 60% leisure travelers and 40% business, he says.

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