HT EXCLUSIVE: Best Western Chats with HT About Its New Tech Focused Brand: Vīb
Best Western’s upscale urban-hip hotel brand – Vīb – is an innovative new concept that recently opened its first U.S. location in Springfield, Missouri. Soon the hotel brand will have locations in hotspots such as Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, Denver, Orlando and Calgary. Said to be a place wither originality is celebrated, innovation is a given and connectivity is a must, Vīb features unique services and guestroom novelties such as: a virtual concierge, electronic locks – Bluetooth or RFID technology, and even an LED rain showerhead.
To find out more about these guest facing technologies, we interviewed Ron Pohl, senior vice president and chief operations officer for Best Western Hotels & Resorts.
HT: What type of check-in technology do you offer guests?
POHL: We are promoting a mobile check-in using the guest’s personal device to communicate with the hotel about arrival time, pre-registration forms, purpose of trip, room and parking upgrades and any other additional requests. This enables us to offer the guest the option to use a digital key to bypass the Front Desk.
HT: What is the virtual concierge? How does this technology improve the guest experience?
POHL: The Mobile Guest Engagement Platform is simple and easy to use for guests and hoteliers. It is designed to create loyalty, increase bookings and raise overall satisfaction. The guest has the ability to get access to express check-in, checkout, view local attractions and request hotel services. From great restaurants to local site seeing, the mobile guest platform puts the guest’s destination right at their fingertips enabling guests to have the ability to look up local things to do based on TripAdvisor ratings and reviews, instantly book tickets and make reservations, and download e-tickets. The Mobile Guest Engagement Platform has proven to have a significant impact on guest satisfaction scores for all participating test hotels. Being able to have a direct form of communication with our guests before and during their stay has allowed us to tailor each guest experience.
- The virtual concierge is a touch screen large format unit in the lobby that provides information to guests on demand. Local happenings, area restaurants, transportation information, even flight information, can be found on the virtual concierge.
- Best Western® Hotels & Resorts is no stranger to combining virtual reality with hospitality. The Best Western Virtual Reality Experience (BWVRE), which uses virtual reality to reinvent the way guests view and shop for hotels; and its I Care® Every Guest Every Time employee training, which leverages virtual reality to transform communications between front desk staff and guests. These initiatives positioned Best Western Hotels & Resorts as the first company of its size and scale to utilize this cutting-edge technology in these ways.
HT: Tell us more about the electronic locks and why BW implemented this technology at Vīb.
POHL: We are working with ASSA ABLOY and our Mobile Engagement Platform provider, Runtriz, to provide an optimal digital key experience for our guests. The guest will register their personal device using their Best Western Rewards Loyalty account and be able to choose a digital key option prior to arrival at the hotel. If the guest encounters an issue with their mobile device, they can elect to issue the key to alternate device or visit the front desk for a key card to enter their room. We recognize that many of our Vīb customers are digitally savvy and looking for efficient check in methods that allow them to get to their room accommodations faster.
HT: What type of guest do you hope to attract to Vīb? How do you think these technology innovations will help attract that type of guest?
POHL: We are hoping to attract modern, fiercely independent travelers who engage both in person and online. With our upbeat social engagement and located in the heart of key urban destinations around the world, guests will experience a vibrant and modern design with a focus on convenience, technology and social engagement. Chic, modern guest rooms provide comfort as well as signature design and technology elements such as easily accessible USB and power ports, free high-speed internet, work stations, and smart TVs to stream custom content. Earth-friendly features will provide the comfort you expect, while keeping the surrounding environment in mind.
HT: What are some of the main ways that Vīb differs from other BW brands, and why did BW feel that now was the right time to debut Vīb?
POHL: Vīb® has a unique personality – it is vibrant, sophisticated and highly creative; culturally sensitive and able to adapt; dynamically engaging and informed; confident, modern and easy to be with. It is a masterpiece of affordably hip design that places variety, comfort, wellness and fun in an exclusively-urban experience – all backed by global powerhouse Best Western Hotels & Resorts.
Guests are looking for the reliability of a brand, but want a unique and different type of accommodation. Boutique hotels are a great opportunity to differentiate in the segment. Vīb provides food and beverage offerings, and a feel that is distinctive and provides guests with a truly unique and exciting option. Vīb compliments the other brands in the Best Western family, providing an option for every occasion.
Guests will have the opportunity to relax at one of the thoughtfully designed social spaces throughout the hotel, including a Zen Zone, gaming pods, and Grab & Go food and coffee stations.
HT: What innovative guestroom technologies will become popular in the near future (1-2 years) at all hotels that are not available to guests at most hotels today?
POHL: Best Western Hotels & Resorts continues to keep our focus on improving the guest experience with technology and service. We believe that personalizing the guest experience will be next in consumer expectations. To collect and record the guest’s preferences, which in turn enable us to identify additional products and services that will enhance their experience.
HT: Looking further into the future (5-10 years), which "Sci-Fi for now" guest-facing technologies would you love to see implemented at Vīb?
POHL: Intelligence built into our mobile devices that allow us to offer specific product and services based on the current location of the guests. For example, if they are at the airport, we would offer them a shuttle or ride share service to the hotel. When on-site, offer a personal concierge through artificial intelligence technology. This would be experienced as a robotic butler/maid that you could wake up and put to sleep on demand and would be personalized based on a stored guest profile.