IN ANTICIPATION of the changing preferences of a new generation of travellers, Best Western International (BWI) yesterday introduced its new chic boutique hotel concept, Vib, to international developers and media in Bangkok.
“It is widely forecast that Millennials will account for a third of all travel spend in the very (short term) and 75 per cent of travel spend in 10 years’ time,” said BWI president & CEO, David Kong, on the company’s motivation to develop a new product.
“They look for new experiences that are not cookie-cutter, and want hotels to be engaging and empowering. And today’s travellers are looking for different experiences as well.
“While the economy is recovering in most parts of the world, value is still king – many people are looking for affordability, coupled with stylish design and experience,” he said.
To stand out from competitors in the boutique hotel market, Kong added that BWI has done extensive research on existing boutique and lifestyle brands to come up with a different product, and as a result, Vib hotels will highlight features such as a big and vibrant lobby, smaller rooms and functional technology.
He elaborated: “From a developer’s (point of view), hotel investment is an expensive undertaking and they want to be ahead of the curve, so (Vib) is not just for today’s travellers but selling for success in the future as well; they want a hotel that will be inexpensive to construct but also cost-efficient to operate.”
When asked about the Vib expansion strategy, BWI senior vice president, brand management & member services, Ron Pahl, commented: “We are hoping to sign three Vib projects this year and grow five projects a year. Bangkok is a key focus and we will consider all urban markets with high foot traffic and population.”
He also shared that Vib is envisioned as an “upper middle (scale) project” and will be positioned closer to Best Western Plus. “We don’t see a lot of middle to upper-midscale products, not just in Bangkok but also other cities, so we see opportunities.”
The first Vib hotel is expected to debut in Seoul’s Gangnam district in 2017, featuring 150 rooms, a bar, F&B outlets and a swimming pool.
Meanwhile, BWI is keen to grow its Asian portfolio from the current 128 hotels to 200 properties by end-2016. In the development pipeline are Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Bhutan.
During the press conference, BWI’s senior vice president, marketing & sales, Dorothy Dowling, also announced new strategic partnerships with Agoda.com, Ctrip.com and UnionPay – the latter two being critical to tapping the potential of the immense Chinese outbound market.