As part of the Americas Lodging Investment Summit’s Patron sponsorship program, ALIS organizers asked Best Western’s Larry Cuculic eight timely questions as we prepare for the 21st annual event January 24-26, 2022, at the JW Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles L.A. LIVE. Following are his responses.
Congratulations on becoming President & CEO of Best Western effective December 1. You are no stranger to Best Western, having served as an SVP and general counsel for the company for the last 12 years. What specific aspect of your knowledge of the company will have the most impact for you in the new role, and why?
During my time as General Counsel the past 12 years, I have been very involved in the Company’s strategic initiatives. As such, I was able to develop a deep and wide understanding of the organizational structure, the needs of our hoteliers, and how our Company can best drive results to our hoteliers. In addition to my role as General Counsel, I oversaw the Call Center, led the Human Resources department, supported our development efforts, and gained international brand-level experience. I am also fortunate to have been an advisor to the Board of Directors and the executive team during my tenure. I am grateful that the Board recognized that this diverse experience across our organization has provided a solid foundation for my new responsibilities.
How does Best Western’s unique membership model continue its path as it begins to look ahead to its 80th anniversary in 2026?
Best Western Hotels & Resorts is an association of members united for the benefit of the Best Western family. It is built on the principle of “member helping member” and, as a result, we have established a truly unique culture centered around our spirit of caring. I firmly believe that our membership structure is our greatest strength, and it’s something we will continue to lean into in the years ahead.
One of the promises you made to members during your address at the brand conference in October is to strategically grow the Best Western brand through measured development that does not negatively impact members’ hotels. How do you foresee that company growth occurring while the industry is recovering from a global pandemic, and how does that compare to your expectations for overall industry growth over the next 24 months?
Scale is certainly important. However, being as efficient and effective as possible, ensuring there is appropriate return on investment, and being good stewards of our members’ fees are also important. We will grow responsibly while respecting the important protections that our members enjoy.
We are fortunate that leisure travel has recovered more quickly than business travel. As a result, we are experiencing record levels of RevPAR – especially regarding rate. As business travel returns, we will focus on the needs of mid-week travelers and further grow our brand revenue delivery.
How do you see the global supply chain issues affecting growth opportunities for Best Western, its members, and the industry as a whole?
The hotel industry continues to experience supply chain challenges. Fortunately, we anticipated potential obstacles our hoteliers might face and advised them to plan accordingly. We remain focused on communicating with our hoteliers in a timely manner and ensuring they are well-informed when it comes to purchasing availability and shipping times. In addition, we continue to grow and evolve our Supply team with new offerings to streamline the process for our members, providing improved access to goods and eliminating the strain associated with operating with reduced staff.
Best Western has grown from one brand to 18 (Aiden, Best Western, Best Western Executive Residency, Best Western Plus, Best Western Premier, Best Western Signature, Glo, Sadie, SureStay, SureStay Plus, SureStay Signature Collection, SureStay Studio, Vib, WorldHotels Collection, WorldHotels Luxury, WorldHotels Distinctive, WorldHotels Elite, WorldHotels Crafted). Why is it important for Best Western to have multiple brands under its umbrella, and do you see all of these brands having global footprints in the future?
It is important to have “multiple brands under our umbrella” because we recognize that guests and developers have diverse needs and expectations and, as such, want choices across the varied market segments.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts offers 18 distinct brands, from economy to luxury, including lifestyle and extended stay options. We have established each of these brands globally through focused, thoughtful, measured growth. We will continue to grow each brand based on traveler and developer demand across these segments.
What advice do you give to members when it comes to addressing the current labor challenges most companies and individual hotels are facing?
The labor challenge presents an opportunity for the industry to come together and rebuild our image as an employer of choice. The industry’s reputation was damaged by the pandemic due to the significant job loss we experienced, which, according to AHLA reports, totaled nearly 500,000 associates. Nonetheless, I believe that people who have a caring spirit and attitude will return to the hospitality industry because it is aligned both with what they are good at and what they like – taking care of people.
We are providing human resources training and best practices to improve retention and recruiting. Compensation is important, but retention is equally important through recognizing the changing needs of the workforce stemming from the pandemic. Being as efficient as possible and increasing flexible scheduling are also important objectives.
Best Western hoteliers are hard-working individuals who are committed to providing a quality stay and meeting guest expectations. The pandemic has created hardships – but every challenge presents opportunities. We are focused on providing great stays that differentiate us from the competition. Now is the time to be the best we can be and to lead by example.
What do you view as the most important indicator of success for a brand company in the hotel business?
We have a well-established program of annually setting and measuring goals, to include revenue delivery, guest satisfaction, a remarkable loyalty program, development, and support of our members. That will certainly continue. I will work collaboratively with our Board of Directors and executive team in setting our strategic initiatives and associated Key Performance Indicators in the years ahead.
What’s the one takeaway people should know about Larry Cuculic?
I am honored to be chosen as President and CEO for Best Western Hotels & Resorts – a trusted, iconic company. I am immensely grateful to be a part of its continued progress and success.
As a member of our hotel family for many years, I have a deep sense of caring for our associates and hoteliers, and I hope to bring this caring to life through open, frequent communications. I strive to help my colleagues live a happy and healthy life. My goal and commitment are to help enable the success of our hoteliers and associates alike, while challenging our entire team to always do their best.
* As of December 20, 2021