HB Exclusive: Best Western launches new Vīb prototype

TEMPE, AZ—It makes sense that Best Western Hotels & Resorts would choose its home base to relaunch its upscale, boutique brand, Vīb, and it makes even more sense that the opening comes with a new, modern prototype.

Vīb Tempe (pictured above) has opened today, here, just minutes from Best Western’s global headquarters. Calling Phoenix home for more than six decades, leadership couldn’t think of a better place to reintroduce Vīb to the world.

“It’s not your typical hotel,” Larry Cuculic, president/CEO, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, told Hotel Business. “It’s one that’s trying to create that excitement in a shared space. People enjoy working in that type of environment where [they] are going to enjoy themselves and have that energy.”

Vīb Tempe

There are two major changes to Vīb’s prototype: A larger guestroom size (the new rooms are now more than 250 sq. ft. for a king room and more than 300 sq. ft. for a double queen) and there are now suite options (three suites per floor), which offer up a more boutique experience for guests.

Originally designed for urban markets like New York City and San Francisco, Vīb has now positioned itself as a brand that can thrive in suburban markets.

“Ironically, we built our first one in Springfield, MO, which is not [urban] at all,” Ron Pohl, SVP/chief operations officer, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, told Hotel Business. “The developer there saw it and said he needed larger guestrooms in the market and he built it larger. When we redesigned the prototype, we said that’s one of the things we had to incorporate.”

Another enhancement was done in the lobby, removing “gaming pods” to allow for more social interactions and a sense of community, something that’s vital to the Vīb DNA.

Vīb Tempe
Vīb Tempe

“Boutique is important to today’s travelers because they really want to have a unique experience when they travel, and the soft brands are attractive for hoteliers because it allows them to maintain their independence but still have accessibility to our revenue-driving engines and platforms,” Cuculic explained.

The Vīb brand, particularly, allows independent hoteliers to make decisions about what will make them successful in the local market and what will create that unique experience.

“Maybe they rely upon a food product that’s unique to that area, and I think our hoteliers, especially the developers, as we move to a younger generation, like to be able to think for themselves, outside the box and what they think their peers would like for a local hotel experience,” Cuculic added.

It may seem counter-intuitive to add lobster rolls for local flair at a hotel deep in the desert, but, Vīb Tempe has added a Cousins Maine Lobster outpost in its lobby for lunch and dinner offerings.

“It’s very difficult to have food and beverage concepts in a hotel that attract people from outside; it’s tough enough retaining the customers you have for a meal,” Pohl said. “We looked around the Phoenix-Tempe market [at] what’s not offered in the market—you cant find lobster here.”

Unique F&B offerings at Vīb hotels allow them to look and feel different Pohl added, and will also bring in foot traffic, especially for this location, which sits in college country.

Vīb Tempe

However, Vīb Tempe isn’t just going after students; in fact, it’s focused on students’ parents and business travelers in an area that’s seeing tech triumph.

“The city of Tempe is more vibrant and faster-growing than Phoenix,” Pohl said. “It’s a tech center for the country. It’s intended to cater to all aspects of business travelers.”

The Tempe location is a proof of concept for Best Western, designed to show developers that its continuing to engage and improve the product.

Pohl explained that while they build these hotels, they keep detailed notes of the design, as to where they can cut costs when they build the next one and are always keeping the developers in mind.

“The concept is that we want to be able to show developers how successful this brand can be,” Cuculic said. “Not just from a development but from an operating, cost-efficiencies perspective and what it can mean to a community that it’s not just a hotel but can be a part of that community.”