Best Western in advertising blitz as group aims to outdo its rivals

THE head of Best Western, the Yorkshire-based group of independent hotels, said he wants to take its number of members to 300 for the first time as it launches a £1m promotional campaign.

David Clarke, the chief executive, said the firm also expects to grow sales this year as they seek to differentiate themselves from "run of the mill" hotel chains.

The York-based group has 275 hotels, including 26 in Yorkshire, and Mr Clarke said they want to take the nationwide total to 300 by 2011.

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It also aims to increase room revenues through a bounceback among business customers, which so far has been gradual, and by attracting more leisure travellers, on the back of 'staycationers' who holiday in Britain during the recession, he said.

Mr Clarke said: "We have a vast number of independent hotels in Great Britain that we work with. They stand out from the run of the mill. Increasingly, hotel brands have become somewhat samey."

Best Western's campaign, Hotels with Personality, seeks to exploit the individuality of the group's members.

Mr Clarke said he would not comment on rivals directly but the promotional push could be seen as competing with the more generic offer of Travelodge and Holiday Inn.

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He said the chain hotels had done much to open up the market and got more travellers to stay in hotels who would not have done so previously.

"They have got more people to stay in hotels in the same way early budget airlines brought destinations to people who would not have travel-led."

Mr Clarke said the group, which has 170 staff at its York base as well as four hotels in the city, could increase its sales despite Britain's emergence from recession, which had been seen as a major reason for more people holidaying at home.

Central office turned over 89m last year.

"We believe that 2010 will be another year of more people staying in the UK for their holidays and we're targeting growth in the leisure sector, but with over 15,000 bedrooms and 1,200 meeting rooms in the market, there is certainly scope to capture more of the corporate market too.

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"Although business sales last year were relatively poor we are seeing that coming back – but not quickly."

As part of its promotional blitz Best Western is advertising on television for the first time in its history, with the first 30-second clip appearing initially in the break in Coronation Street on Thursday, as well as launching a social networking campaign, advertising in news-papers and relaunching its website.

"We want people to be Twittering and Facebooking about us. The people who do that are a younger potential market for us. We also have the market we are well established in (older leisure travellers) and without doubt the TV does work.

"I am very excited. It is not my ego that runs things, there is a business reason. My goal is to sell more bedrooms." Mr Clarke said Holiday Inn was the most recognisable mid-market brand but he was "determined" to make Best Western more prominent than them.

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Best Western is also partnering with Visit England to promote the rebrand to the 600,000 people on their database who are interested in travel, and is putting on a roadshow in five cities, including in York on Saturday.

Yesterday it marked the start of the campaign by dressing its head office as a circus tent with clowns and ringmaster.

Hotels across the group will host their own personality events this week.