HB EXCLUSIVE: SureStay enters economy extended-stay segment

CHARLOTTE, NC—Best Western Hotels & Resorts’ (BWHR) SureStay Hotel Group has grown to more than 300 properties globally since it launched in October 2016. It’s extended-stay economy brand has made its debut here with the SureStay Studio by Best Western Charlotte Executive Park. The 116-suite property, operated by San Diego-based HMG Hospitality, recently completed a  $1.8-million renovation and conversion from a first-generation Residence Inn.

According to Brad LeBlanc, SVP/CDO, BWHR, the first three SureStay Studio properties are converted first-generation Residence Inns, with hotels in Livermore, CA, and Pensacola, FL, to follow.

“As the larger brands build newer generations of their prototypes, these older prototypes move down. It’s a perfect home,” he said. “STR has said for a long time that the golden child of the industry is extended-stay. It’s held up really well through this downturn, and it doesn’t matter where you are on the threshold. We’re happy to be there with SureStay Studio.”

The property wasn’t always earmarked as a SureStay Studio, however. “Prior to the recent conversion, the hotel was undergoing a renovation and operating as a Cloverleaf Suites, which was already in the extended-stay segment,” said James Otto, ownership representative of SureStay Studio by Best Western Charlotte Executive Park and president of HMG Hospitality. “We were pleased to stay in this market segment, and have already seen a positive impact on our business since converting to SureStay Studio.”

The property offers all of the brand’s signature amenities—suites with full kitchens; a fitness center; an outdoor patio and barbecue; free WiFi throughout the building; and complimentary breakfast. It also has an outdoor pool and hot tub, as well as a basketball court and guest laundry.

Otto noted that the conversion to this brand was “easy overall,” adding, “The conversion team was professional and supportive.”

SureStay Studio joins the rest of the SureStay family—SureStay, SureStay Plus and SureStay Collection—which recently ranked No. 1 in the economy segment in the J.D. Power 2020 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Survey. The properties and segments may be different, but there are some similarities.

“They’re all different asset types. You’ve got some exterior and some interior. You’ve got some three-story and some two-story,” said LeBlanc. “But the thing we did very right is on the onset of this, we put a measurement against the consumer, which was Tripadvisor. So, you can’t even open in our system unless you’re a 4.0 on Tripadvisor. You’re going to find as we get through the extended-stay segment with Studio—as we get our third, fourth and fifth open—it will be a premium to any other economy segment because of that measuring stick.”

For owners, the attraction of SureStay Studio is the value proposition, said the Best Western executive, who used the Charlotte property as an example.

“He gets to leverage the BW platform and its resources, whether it be national sales, the distribution system or OTA discounts,” said LeBlanc. “He’s stepping into a very large distribution system, so it’s not a free fall. We’ve got a nice landing spot for him. And then we’ve got a full set of services alongside that. So, it’s not so foreign where he steps out of Marriott and into a very familiar setting. You take that, combine it with a brand team that is dedicated to SureStay, and then add the fact that we’re a proven commodity at generating $75 price points.”

LeBlanc also pointed out what makes SureStay Studio attractive to guests. “[There are] similar services and similar product types [from other extended-stay brands], but what’s different is we’re going to create a pretty nice experience in that economy segment.”

SureStay Studio suites are equipped with full kitchens.

The brand already has a robust pipeline, as does SureStay in general. “When we rolled this out, which was pre-pandemic, we actually had 16 commitments for multiple projects from 16 developers,” said LeBlanc. “That has taken a pause, but we don’t believe the industry is going anywhere. The lenders are going to be more attracted to this industry coming out of this pandemic, and I do believe that I’ll rebuild a very epic pipeline with the team over the next 12 months. There’s about two dozen right in the pipeline in the SureStay system set to open, and about six to 12 of those are extended-stay.”

LeBlanc sees the brand as having a bright future ahead. “There’s a lot of runway for opportunity with SureStay,” he said. “A lot of our BW members are saying, ‘Inside my area of protection (because each of them get an area of protection), I’d like to own the economy segment.’ So, whether they’re acquiring an asset or they’ve got an existing asset in their portfolio, they’re seeing the strength of SureStay and they’re saying, ‘Hey, I want to own that in my particular market.’ It would be the same thing as a BW member saying, ‘Hey, I want to own the boutique segment.’

“We’ve seen everybody move out of the two-story product in the mid-1980s, move out of the three-story product in the ’90s and, in the mid-2000s, everybody wanted to be four-story,” he added. “But, there’s still a home for that two-story product. There’s still a home for that asset that’s performing in the market that’s got some life left to it. So, if you’re a two-story product today, where else are you going to land? You get this national platform at Best Western and a SureStay by Best Western sign. It’s recognizable to the consumer, and you’ve got a measuring stick in Tripadvisor. So, now I say to everyone that I go to, ‘It’s not a brand-new product and it’s very well done. Oh, and by the way, it’s got the stamp of approval from J.D. Power.’” HB

Alabama SureStay wins Tripadvisor award

SureStay by Best Western Tuscaloosa is the top-ranked hotel on Tripadvisor for the market.

TUSCALOOSA, AL—This town is known for the University of Alabama and its Crimson Tide football team. The squad has finished No. 1 in four of the last 10 years. But the Tide is not the only team that has ranked No. 1 in this city. Located about six miles from the campus, SureStay by Best Western Tuscaloosa recently earned the Traveler’s Choice 2020 award from Tripadvisor for holding the top ranking in the market.

DK Patel purchased the 58-room property, which was a Centerstone Inn & Suites, in 2017. He said he tried to convert to a SureStay, but was denied at the time since “there is a Best Western about three miles from us.”

Upon conversion, the hotel rocketed from No. 24 in Tuscaloosa to No. 1, thanks to its focus on providing top-notch customer service. “Everybody who walks through the door is greeted with a smile. We’ll lay out the red carpet for you as if we’re the Ritz-Carlton,” said General Manager Huey Harris. “People expect more now that we’re No. 1. That’s why we have brand-new furniture for all of the rooms. We switched more than 20 rooms to hardwood floors, and the others have carpet that’s only three years old. It’s all about satisfying the guest with some old-fashioned, genuine customer service.”

Harris noted that the property is following Best Western’s We Care Clean protocols established during the pandemic. “I personally went through that training, and it was awesome,” he said. “We have hand sanitizers at the front desk, and I inspect every room to make sure the housekeeping staff has properly cleaned the room. We are constantly wiping down everything, from door knobs and fitness equipment.”

Patel said he was attracted to the brand because “Best Western looks out for the owners. It’s a member organization. When they make any decision, they email the owner and make sure the owner likes it. If the owner does, then they move forward.”
—Adam Perkowsky

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