When Best Western International announced the launch of Vib (pronounced vibe), it wasn’t surprising. The type of product is on par with Millennial-focused brands from Carlson Rezidor (Radisson Red) and Commune Hotels + Resorts (Tommie), and the just launched lifestyle brand Canopy from Hilton Worldwide. What do all of these new brands have in common? The idea of offering hotels that are more localized and unique to their surroundings, allowing guests to have one-of-a-kind experiences every time they travel whether for work or play.
It’s still interesting, though, when a well-established company like Best Western takes a leap like this. When I see hotel companies catering to Millennials, I know it’s because the younger demographic is driving design trends, and determining what everyone else will be doing six months from now.
“We’d be foolish if we didn’t pursue Millennials,” Ron Pohl, senior vice president of brand management and member services for Best Western, told me yesterday during a phone interview. “We certainly want something that’s attractive to them when they’re looking at hotels and destinations. We know they like value, and we’re known for value. [Vib] shows that we’re moving in that direction to attract that demographic,” while still being on the radar of Gen Xers and baby boomers.
What Millennials expect more than anything is a social setting that highlights connectivity. And Vib’s focus on technology as its crucial design element is admirable, enviable, and perfect for the urban markets the company plans to establish its footprint. I can see why Best Western is highlighting the video walls, gaming stations, electronic kiosks, and smartphones that can control lighting, temperature, and the TV in the guestroom. For a hotel industry that faces a lot of pushback from guests who expect free broadband when they travel—and get very disgruntled when it isn’t available—Best Western offers this in spades.
“We’re trying to build in the mobile activity so it’s gangbusters. We want to connect with the customer differently,” Pohl says. While guests won’t get complimentary breakfast, they will get all the broadband they like. “The only thing that is complimentary is high speed,” he adds.
The lobby, which will have a “finished, unfinished feel” with polished concrete floors is the hotel’s epicenter. Broken into pods of quiet areas and more high-energy ones, all Vib’s must have a bar, a café offering, a signature front-desk area, and a signature sitting area with a fireplace and water feature. Pohl says because the rooms are only 200 square feet, guests are encouraged to spend their time in the lobby.
As for design elements, each hotel will offer local flavor, whether that’s in F&B offerings or local artwork. And the smaller guestrooms will have a bed-desk combination that sit in the center of the space, making the room feel spacious with a mostly glass window wall, and a bathroom area that features etched glass for privacy.
While there’s no announcement yet of where the first Vib hotel will be, Pohl says Best Western is interested in Southern California, New York, Austin, Atlanta, and Chicago.