Best Western goes mobile
Best Western Mobile is powered by Usablenet, New York. The service enables the hotel’s customers to access all of the features of the Best Western Web site from any Web-enabled mobile device. Users simply type http://www.bestwestern.com into the phone’s Web browser to access the site.
“Our strategy is to position Best Western in a growing channel now to take advantage of current and future opportunities,” said Karmela Gaffney, managing director of advertising and ecommerce at Best Western International, Phoenix.
“Use of mobile devices is growing at an exponential rate and it makes sense to give Best Western a brand presence in that space,” she said.
“This is also a key marketplace for two of our key target audiences where we want to achieve further growth – among business travelers and with the tech-savvy Gen X and Gen Y consumers.
“Although we don’t expect sales to be statistically significant right off the bat, we believe it’s best to establish ourselves here now and generate learnings for future success.
“We have already started to test mobile banner and search advertising and we will continue to invest in those efforts and refine our methods.”
Best Western International is one of the world’s leading hotel chains. It provides marketing, reservations and operational support to more than 4,000 independently-owned and operated member hotels in 80 countries and territories.
The hotel chain has been around since 1946 and it claims to host 400,000 guests worldwide each night.
Best Western has a strong focus on marketing the brand.
Airline partnerships are also critical to the brand’s success.
Best Western partners with a number of major airlines around the world including Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Alitalia, America West Airlines, Asiana Airlines, American Airlines, China Southern, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Lan Chile, Northwest Airlines, SAS, TAM and Thai Airways.
“The mobile Web provides more self-service options for Best Western customers, including the ability to book a room or check the status of their a reservation,” said Nick Taylor, president of Usablenet.
“The mobile site offers all the same features and functionality as BestWestern.com, while providing additional value for customers, especially business travelers, that want the convenience of accessing the site while on the go,” he said.
This new mobile site will extend the full functionality of the Best Western site to its customers, enabling them to reserve a room, check the status of a reservation and get directions.
The mobile site also has a Trip Planner functionality that lets users select their travel route and map the Best Western locations along the way.
Usablenet Mobile is a fully managed service that leverages the features and functionality of a company’s existing Web site and extends it to all mobile devices worldwide in less than six weeks, requiring no client IT or Web design resources, the company claims.
“Many business travelers today are equipped with Web-enabled mobile devices and can now access a fully-optimized mobile version of BestWestern.com while in between meetings, waiting at the airport or during other down times,” Mr. Taylor said.
“The new site allows them to access all Best Western services quickly and easily 24/7,” he said.
Recently, Starwood Hotels & Resorts also went mobile to extend the value of its online services to business travelers who are Preferred Starwood Guests.
SPG Mobile, also powered by Usablenet, is a mobile site that lets Starwood Preferred Guest members find and book hotel reservations by destination or hotel directory, manage their reservation profile, contact customer care and read The Lobby blog (see story).
Eyeing more business, Marriott International Inc. began to let travelers reserve hotel rooms using their mobile phone.
“Best Western was one of the first hotel companies to launch with a mobile/PDA friendly version of our site back in the early 2000s,” Ms. Gaffney said.
“However, we pulled out while we retooled our Web site and also because mobile devices at the time did not make it easy to use for some consumers,” he said.
“With the improvements we’ve seen over the past few years in devices like the BlackBerry and iPhones, it has made it much easier for consumers to truly accomplish tasks on the go. This will only continue to improve and should serve us well.”