Exclusive: BWH broadens scope to build growth

by Ruth Hogan

BWH Hotels is looking to hotel management agreements (HMAs) to build growth in Australasia with the recent appointment of Rod Munro as Managing Director of the region.

Having spent 20+ years in global hospitality operations – including as Vice President of Operations – Australasia for Stamford Hotels and Resorts, and over 15 years with Accor in a variety of positions – Munro is eager to put his hotel management expertise into practise to build the presence of BWH Hotels’ brands including Best Western, Aiden, Home and WorldHotels.

With 64 hotels In Australia and six in New Zealand to date, primarily operating under a franchise-based license model, BWH Hotels is changing tact to grow its presence.

“Growth is the number one goal,” Munro told HM. “We want to add 20 or 30 more hotels which will get us to that 100-hotel mark.”

Aiden by Best Western Woolloongabba

The new approach is all about offering greater flexibility, according to Munro, while giving owners access to BWH Hotels’ distribution, sales and rewards program.

“If an owner wants to sign with us, of course we do the franchise arrangement, but we can do more; we can offer a ‘manchise’ arrangement or even a full hotel management agreement,” he said.

“There’s a rise in third party management at the moment, we can do that as well; but we’ve got our own brands, so we are a one-stop shop.”

Munro says its new territory for the Best Western brand, which doesn’t offer HMAs “anywhere else in the world”.

“We just do it here because there is demand for the hotel management agreement,” he said.

“Of our 65 hotels in Asia, 20 of those are under a hotel management arrangement, so that’s our plan here.”

Opportunities for growth

A strong player in regional areas, BWH Hotels is now looking to major gateway cities and secondary cities, which are now offering more opportunities across various segments.

“Predominantly [these secondary cities] have been economy or midscale, but we see some opportunities now coming out for the signature brands, the collections, and some of those soft brands also,” he said.

Executive Residency by Best Western

“Brisbane has some good opportunities. We would like to do more in Adelaide, the Northern Territory; there’s also a lot of inquiries about Perth – that’s quite a hot market.

“There are some pretty good opportunities in New Zealand, whether it’s in Auckland, Christchurch, Tauranga, Rotorua or Wellington.”

While corporate and leisure travel have boomed in recent times, Munro is mindful that travellers are feeling the pinch of a cost-of-living crisis.

“I think we’ve got to consider the economy and be cautious of that,” he said. “We understand that leisure travel may slow down a little bit.

“Businesses are doing it tough; people are doing it tough because of interest rate increases, and I think we’ve got to be sensitive to that. We’ve got to be adding value to the guests.

“When it comes to corporate travel, we’ve never seen numbers like we have in Queensland – well ahead of where they were in 2019. Is that sustainable? Is that the future? I think we have to be cautious because the market could change.”

While domestic travel remains strong, Munro is hopeful that Chinese New Year will bring more international travellers Down Under.

“We’ve got to be very, very mindful that we need to balance between domestic and international,” he added.