by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | July 13, 2016

Cheryl-Anne SturkenBest Western Hotel & Resorts turns 70 years old this year. In a global hotel landscape crowded with newcomers jostling for customer attention and grappling for any nugget of distinction, there is a lot to be said for brand longevity. Loyalty and relevance, says David Kong, president and chief executive officer of the Phoenix-based company, are testaments to the brand's staying power.

Best Western Rembrandt Hotel Tokyo"There are too many brands out there today," Kong told me when we recently met for an interview. "If you have to constantly think about what your brand is, then it's not a brand. And if you can't create loyalty, then you are nothing." About Best Western's remarkable evolution over the past seven decades, during which the company morphed from a single roadside motel to a global brand of more than 4,100 properties in 100 countries, he said, "We achieved that by listening to our customers every step of the way."

It also meant taking a good long look in the mirror and seeing a tired brand in sore need of a refresh. Over the past decade more than 1,200 properties that did not meet brand standards were jettisoned. "For us to deliberately lose that many hotels is a testament to our commitment," said Kong. But more than that, Best Western set about creating three new tiers — Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier. Earlier this year, a refreshed logo was rolled out for each, as well as a new master logo for the company. By the end of this year, the chain will have invested over $2 billion on renovations and improvements on its North American portfolio.

Rendering of a Vib lobbyAnd, like many other hotel companies — including Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood — Best Western is paying close attention to the new breed of young travelers, aka Millennials. Since 2014, Best Western has launched two new brands, Vib and Glo. While each has a slightly different concept — Vib (short for "vibrant") is a hip, urban boutique concept focused on style and technology, while Glo is a midscale boutique concept in secondary markets — both have struck a chord with developers, leading to multiple deals stacked up in the company's development pipeline.

Among the five Vib properties scheduled to open in the U.S. are the 74-room Vib Chicago, set to debut later this year, and the 200-room Vib Miami, which is scheduled to open in November 2017 within walking distance of the city's new Expo center, also currently under construction. On the international front, deals have been signed for hotels in Bangkok, Thailand, and Seoul, South Korea. "There are a lot of boutique and lifestyle brands out there," noted Kong, “but what’s interesting is nobody has an affordable boutique concept in the midscale segment. We believe there is a huge market in the broad, upper midscale segment for Vib.”

Clearly, for all its major milestones, Best Western shows no sign of slowing down.