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Best Western launches lower-priced boutique hotel brand for young travelers

Best Western launches lower-priced boutique hotel brand for young travelers
Best Western Hotels & Resorts has announced the launch of a new brand to reach out to millennials on a budget. (Best Western Hotels & Resorts)

One of the nation's largest hotel companies hopes to cater to traveling millennials and others by launching the latest twist in boutique lodgings - a hip hotel brand with low rates.

Best Western Hotels & Resorts announced Wednesday that it plans to open a new brand, dubbed GLo, with small rooms, extra-roomy lobbies, high-speed Internet and a place for a "selfie moment."

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The Phoenix-based company expects to have 50 GLo properties in the pipeline in the next three to five years in midsize suburban cities, including locations in Southern California. No more details about the locations have been released.

Ron Pohl, senior vice president for brand development at Best Western, said the brand will be attractive to millennials but should also draw in other age groups.

"We envision this to be very attractive to all travelers," he said.

Best Western is following the lead of other hotel giants, including Marriott International and Hilton Worldwide, which have already launched millennial-oriented brands such as Moxy, AC, Edition, CitizenM and Canopy. Even billionaire Sir Richard Branson has a new chain, dubbed Virgin Hotels.

Millennials number more than 75 million in the U.S., and this year the Census Bureau projects they will surpass baby boomers as the nation's largest generation. U.S. millennials also plan to spend about $226 billion this year on travel, according to a Harris Poll survey.

What is different about Best Western's brand is that it plans to offer a lower-priced boutique hotel, with an average nightly rate of about $90 in the U.S. The average hotel rate in the U.S. in the first six months of the year was $137, according to the latest pricing report from Hotels.com.

The GLo hotels will be newly built four-story structures with 70 rooms each. The hotels will offer free high-speed Internet and complimentary breakfast. An online video produced by Best Western says the hotels will have 250-square-foot rooms with "multi-functional" public spaces where guests can hang out for "selfie moments."

Earlier this year, Best Western launched what it called its Vib brand, an upper-midscale hotel designed for major urban markets. Seven Vib hotels are under development in the U.S. and one project is in South Korea.

Thanks to a stronger economy and improved consumer confidence, the hotel and travel industries have been enjoying a rebound in the past few years. A forecast by Moody's Investor Services predicts hotel rates and occupancy levels to continue to rise slightly in 2016.

Carl Winston, program director for the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at San Diego State University, said Best Western's move makes sense but he suspects that most young travelers and millennials still prefer to use short-term rental sites like Airbnb to book lodging.

"Maybe this is their attempt to be relevant and hip," he said of Best Western.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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