It was a deal that faced its fair share of naysayers when Best Western
Hotels & Resorts (BWH) acquired WorldHotels collection of
independent properties in February 2019.
for BWH Hotel Group President and CEO Larry Cuculic, who was part of
the due diligence team behind the acquisition, the WorldHotels deal was a
"perfect fit" that expanded the company's global offerings and reach,
adding brands in the upper-upscale and luxury segments in key
"We saw the potential for creating a tremendous success story. We're
very dedicated to growing this WorldHotels brand that has been in
existence for over 50 years," told Travel Weekly Asia on the sidelines
of the recent WorldHotels conference in Bangkok.
Four years on, Cuculic stated that BWH's "smart financial decisions
and strong leadership" during the pandemic accelerated the integration
of WorldHotels under the BWH Hotel Group umbrella and showed that the
acquisition was the right decision.
BWH's membership structure, which allows
owners and operators to keep most of their profits while paying a
licensing and membership fee, was a key driving force for the
acquisition and remains a shared ethos across the group's three hotel companies –
WorldHotels Collection, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, and SureStay
"We don't have shareholders that we report to; we don't have equity
investors that we have to worry about leveraging our balance sheet,"
Cuculic said. "Last year, we returned about US$20 million worth of
financial relief to our members. We have established their trust that
even in hard times, we stick together."
‘Putting the puzzle together’ for WorldHotels
The 160-key Villa Fontaine Grand Haneda Airport, located next to Terminal 3 of Haneda International Airport, is one of the newest properties in Asia Pacific to join WorldHotels.
While the pandemic had stalled some of the growth momentum BWH had
originally envisioned for WorldHotels, Ron Pohl, who assumed the dual
role of WorldHotels president and BWH Hotel Group's president of
international operations in March 2022, is eager to put WorldHotels back
on the expansion track through renewed partnership and collaboration.
"We're smaller than we were when we purchased the organisation four
years ago, but we are poised for growth," Pohl remarked. WorldHotels'
current size of 170 hotels, compared to other hotel chains, still makes
it "significantly larger than Ritz Carlton or Kimpton hotels and almost
the same size as Marriott's Autograph Collection."
Under Ron Pohl's charge as WorldHotels president, the WorldHotels portfolio is steadily expanding across the world.
WorldHotels has since reverted to growth mode. "When I look at 2022,
we had a pretty good year with development. We added 21 properties
representing over 10,000 keys to the WorldHotels portfolio. We also
increased our room count in North America by almost 100% North America,"
Asia Pacific also saw a record signing of 28 deals for the BWH Hotel
Group last year, including Villa Fontaine Grand Haneda Airport (1,553
rooms) in Japan, and Vin Oasis Phu Quoc (1,399 rooms) and Sunshine
Diamond Project (3,125 condos) in Vietnam under the WorldHotels
Besides Villa Fontaine Premier Haneda Airport that opened in December
2022, other WorldHotel properties launching in Southeast Asia this year
are La Green Resort in Phuket (Q3) and MW Luxury Halong in Vietnam
Rewriting the future for BWH Hotel Group
Scheduled to open in Q3 this year, the 300-room La Green Resort in Phuket will be WorldHotels' second property in Thailand.
Coming out of his “freshman year” as the company CEO, a role he
assumed in December 2021 after succeeding David Kong, Cuculic said that
scalability is key as BWH looks to put the right brand in the right
markets to meet today’s consumer demands and drive revenue to hoteliers.
global vision is to inspire travel through unique experiences,” said
the hospitality chief. “Every guest who stays at one of our hotels
should be inspired to stay at another of our WorldHotels because they
had a unique experience at the hotel.”
To cement its reputation as a hospitality powerhouse with offerings
that resonate with today’s experience-oriented travellers, Cuculic said
the group is now focused on growing the group’s boutique brands such as
Vib, GLo, Sadie and Aiden, as well as the soft brand portfolio under
WorldHotels, BW Premier Collection, BW Signature Collection and SureStay
brand awareness on the digital, mobile and social media platforms is
therefore a key area to attract new guests to the group’s diverse
portfolio of brands, both executives pointed out.
“We need the industry to know about WorldHotels – it's almost like a
well-known but well-kept secret sometimes,” said Cuculic. “And so we're
focused on building the brand name, which we can develop and then drive
revenue to the hotels because consumers will recognise them. It's all a
big puzzle, but Ron’s got his arms around that.”
With the BWH Hotel Group’s portfolio now spanning 19 brands from
luxury to upper economy, including the new midscale extended stay brand,
Home by BWH, Cuculic believes that the company has all segments of the
hospitality market covered.
these 19 brands as of now I think we’ve captured the needs of guests
with an appropriate brand in every segment,” said Cuculic. “We have
4,500 hotels, and that's a lot of hotels. We will thoughtfully grow."
In an ever-growing sea of hospitality brands, is BWH Hotel Group
looking at launching any new product? Cuculic doesn’t foresee any in the
“But never say never to anything in life,” he said.