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Best Western Adds New Sub-Brands to Fix Customer Confusion

Best Western will now call its 4,000 properties Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier, divided by amenities and Automobile Association of America diamonds, so dim-witted customers are no longer confused about price -- or the lack of amenities in their rooms.

According to David Kong, chief executive of Best Western, the chain often confused customers:

"Because we don't describe hotels properly, that diversity has become a liability," he said. "An analogy is if a hotel has three different room types, but they don't tell you which one you're going to stay in.

"One day you stay in a deluxe room, and you like it a lot. You return the next week, and they give you a standard room. You are going to be disappointed. The next time you get another room. Over time you are going to say, 'Forget it, I am going to try someone else.' "

When I read this I think I rolled my eyes. Who is stupid enough not to look at the hotel amenities online when making a reservation? Since online reservations have risen exponentially, there's really no reason not to look the hotel up. And since when has any guest thought, "Oh my God, this room is too cheap! I will never stay here again." or "Only 150-count thread sheets! I would pay $40 more for 250-count, Egyptian cotton." (According to Kong, the class divisions will be made on thread count and bathroom amenities.)

The truth is likely that Best Western is letting business (and increasingly leisure) travelers know that some of their properties are above-budget properties and while inexpensive, will give you a fancier night's lodging than the local Motel 6. Perhaps it's because the brand Best Western, in most people's minds, tends to mean a decent room, but certainly nothing luxurious - the tier known as midscale. (How can a place be luxurious when customers can buy membership into a Harley-Davidson riders group with hotel reward points?)

It's worth noting that 84% of Best Western's 2,200 North American properties weighed in on the name changes, and of those, 55% voted for the tiered system. Only time will tell if customers will want the higher-end properties at a time when business and leisure travel budgets have been slashed.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this story, we cited a report from Carlo Woolf which said 84% of Best Western's North American properties voted for the tiered naming system. We later learned that Woolf misquoted a Best Western executive, and that the correct figure is 55% of the 84% of properties that voted on the change. BNET's story has been revised to reflect this.

Photo: Best Western

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