As Best Western celebrates its 60th anniversary, its association model is being challenged as never before by the globalization of the hotel sector and competitive challenges from chains with company-owned hotels and franchises.

Today, the brand is positioning itself to expand in the U.S. and elsewhere with new strategies, including a move into master licensing deals in emerging markets. Historically a midscale brand, Best Western is also adding more premium properties to its portfolio.

Raymond Johnson, Best Western’s chairman, said the brand is concentrating on emerging markets. “We have already penetrated India, China, Thailand and Taiwan,” Johnson said. “We are now [looking into] Russia.”

But company-owned and franchised hotels are moving into the same territories, and in order to compete with them, Best Western has decided to alter the nonprofit association model that has long been its way of doing business. Until now, all Best Western hotels have been independently owned and operated members of the association.

“Going into countries such as India, which are so large and so vast, we realize that we need to expand rapidly,” Johnson said. “So we need to set up a master licensing organization that will be for profit. We need to go in and set up a network with good government relations, good financial strength and good networking capability with the hotels that are there.”

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