Rob Paterson, CEO of Best Western GB joined the company in early 2018. The group offers a brilliantly different collection of over 260 independent hotels and has been proudly giving a personal welcome to guests for over 70 years.
Can you tell us about your career history and how you came into your current role?
I have spent my whole career to date in the hotel industry. After school, I spent two years at Hospitality College in Australia while working in various Hotels. I learnt so much in that time and worked in roles ranging from housekeeping to Night Audit.
My professional career really started after College when I joined Accor Hotels in Australia. I was initially employed in distribution, which at the time, was heavily led by GDS and Call Centres. I can recall the very first website for Accor in Australia which was the birth of real-time pricing. From there, I had the technical knowledge of managing rates in an online environment coupled with Hotel experience so, by default, I landed in this new field called Revenue Management.
I spent ten years with Accor living in different countries and being a part of establishing Revenue Management in the organisation. It was sometimes very challenging and not always successful but it was a tremendous learning ground. With that experience, I was fortunate to be given an opportunity with DeVere Hotels. I met some talented and inspiring leaders at DeVere, which led to subsequent Commercial roles working under Private Equity ownership.
Almost two years ago, I joined Best Western GB. Since I joined BW, I have been immensely proud of the team I have around me and the shared direction we are heading in. Best Western has been a successful brand in Britain for over 40 years. My job has been to build on the success of what those before me were able to create. To honour the founders who had the foresight of coming together as a cooperative of likeminded independent hoteliers. My goal is to ensure BW remains an attractive and competitive brand for the next generation. Encouragingly, our hotel pipeline shows no signs of slowing down. The team and I are extremely proud of that.
What have you achieved in the last year at Best Western?
Over the last year, we’ve made significant steps forward as a brand adding record numbers of new Hotels joining us. Fuelling our expansion is a range of brand options, from Economy to Luxury, providing owners and developers with a lot more design flexibility than our competitor global brands at a more cost-competitive price and on less rigid terms.
During 2019 we launched our two new boutique brands, Aiden and Sadie and our brand owner, BWI, acquired WorldHotels to add luxury to our product offering. With that acquisition, we became BWH Hotel Group to reflect the growing nature of the business. The 2 Boutique brands launched offer developers and investors the opportunity to reposition existing hotels and differentiate themselves from a very busy and squeezed mid-market sector. They also provide the perfect opportunity to re-purpose existing buildings such as the vast amount of retail space opening up on the British High Streets.
Despite challenging conditions, such as the ongoing Brexit uncertainties and various cost pressures, we see this period as a real opportunity for businesses to review what they invest with the large brands. There is a genuine alternative competitor with the range of brands to deliver strong ROIs for investors. Our existing collection independent hoteliers are also very optimistic. Over two-thirds of our owners have confirmed plans for significant investment to their properties over the next 12 months. That investment is in addition to the £65m invested across the Best Western portfolio throughout the last year.
We hear a lot of doom and gloom around Brexit and the associated uncertainty, but from where we sit, and from the conversations we are having, we are not experiencing that. If anything, the Brexit backdrop has been a positive for us in terms of recruitment of new hotels and providing investors with a genuine, price-competitive alternative. Brexit has also driven staycation numbers boosting domestic bed nights in our hotels and a lower currency driving inbound traffic. There is a lot of room for optimism.
What plans do you have over the next couple of years?
While this year has been great for us, we’re ambitious about the future as we aim to recruit hundreds of new properties over the next few years. Under the banner of BWH Hotel Group, we are no longer only a mid-market solution. We have branding solutions for all sectors that allow, and encourage, local, independent flair. We want to explore new opportunities for Hotel development and you can expect to see/hear more about that in the next 12 months. We also have a strong focus on technology and have invested capital over the last 18 months. We intend to continue that journey and create some unique and innovative solutions for our owners. It’s an exciting time to be part of the organisation.
What are the biggest challenges that you face in your current position?
The emergence of new players in the industry and the collapse of established names such as Thomas Cook and Superbreak are lessons to us all. We must keep evolving but not lose sight of our original purpose. We are an organisation that is run by hotelier, for hotelier. Our board of directors are made up of existing hoteliers and key decisions are made by people close to the operation. That ethos protects us from the, often removed, decisions taken by other Exec and Boards purely in the interest of profits. We are committed to that founding purpose being at the heart of our future success.
Despite a rapidly changing environment, new competitors and uncertainty create opportunity for the brave and I welcome that.