Bye-bye Best Western, hello Hilltop House Hotel

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Business: Hotelier looks to greater ‘independence’ sans brand

By John Severance

The Best Western and the Hilltop House Hotel are parting ways.


This week, the hotel on the corner of Trinity Drive and Central Avenue is changing its name to the Hilltop House Hotel and Conference Center.

A Best Western spokeswoman at its Phoenix headquarters said, “They are no longer members of the Best Western family.”

When asked why, she said, “You will have to talk to local management of the Los Alamos hotel.”

When asked if other hotels have split from Best Western, she replied, “I don’t know.”

Then she was asked if member hotels have general guidelines they have to follow and she said, “generally speaking yes.”

When asked if the Los Alamos entity had violated a Best Western inspection, she said, “No comment.”

In a prepared statement, owner Ron Selvage said, “We feel that this change better describes the full extent of what our property can do.”

This new direction also supports the owners’ desire to have complete freedom to independently manage the investments and dedicate more investment in the hotel rather than to an out-of-town corporation, he said.

Selvage will continue operating the convenience store/gas station adjacent to the hotel, as well as the Aspen Lounge inside the hotel, he said.

“It is exciting to be an independent hotel with all the exciting plans that are on the drawing board for downtown Los Alamos,” General Manager Denise Smith stated in the release. “We now have the flexibility to tailor our services without an out of town/out of state owner and corporate entity dictating what we can and cannot do. The Best Western Brand didn’t provide the right fit for the uniquely historic property and we are delighted with this change.”

The same “great staff, service and facilities” will be here to support you, she said.

“Our staff is loyal and dedicated, and is working to make this transition as seamless as possible,” Smith said, adding that the average tenure of the employees is more than seven years, so they know the Los Alamos region and are dedicated to providing residents and visitors with a wonderful experience, whether it is for a one night stay or a banquet for 100 people.

“This landmark hotel in Los Alamos knows that guests appreciate the value approach of providing clean, comfortable accommodations and outstanding personal service in the heart of downtown Los Alamos,” Selvage said. “We provide every guest with a more personalized level of service; they are not just a room number or dollar sign to us.”

However, one source close to the situation said the decision to sever ties with the Best Western organization may have been driven more from the corporate side than the local management.

The mother of one former hotel employee claims the operation did not meet the Best Western standards. “They announced this to employees months ago. My son used to work there and told me about it a while back.”

Selvage was not available for comment.

According to its website, Best Western International is based on a simple concept: independent hotel owners united to promote their properties and increase profitability.

“As a membership association, our hotels are independently owned and operated, and each member-owner has a voice in the operation of the company. This exciting strategy is part of our long-term commitment to enhance brand image and drive superior revenue to our hotels. When owners can properly position their hotel and increase customer satisfaction, an improved return on investment isn’t far behind.”

According to its website the advantages of Best Western membership include:
• Shorter contract terms than the industry norm
• The most competitive fees among leading brands
• Unparalleled buying leverage through our purchasing department, which doesn’t sell to our members — it buys for our members

Best Western members benefit from:
• Internationally recognized brand name
• Worldwide reservations
• Global, national and regional marketing services
• Mass buying and bargaining power of thousands of hoteliers
• Experience and services of a professional headquarters staff

Best Western currently has approximately 4,100 member hotels in 100 countries.

Being a Best Western affiliate is not cheap. There’s a one-time minimum $42,000 entrance fee, annual dues, monthly fees and an advertising assessment. A 92-room facility like the Hilltop House could expect to pay minimum annual costs of $66,060 to maintain a Best Western affiliation.