Cassandra Sasso Best Western

Best Western is set to roll out a Design Excellence Program offering exclusive design services to hotels from January 2015.

Over 4,000 hotels part of the brand worldwide will be required to achieve and then maintain an internationally certified high level of design to remain operating in the Best Western network.

Best Western Australasia’s Lead Interior Designer, Cassandra Sasso said, “For the first time, Best Western is now able to help members with every aspect of property design including architecture, landscape and interior design, drafting and FF&E procurement.

“This program has never been attempted before by the group. It’s already providing a competitive edge among potential developers looking to add more value to their property by branding with Best Western.”

BW Mornington Hotel, London, Library

HM talks to Sasso about her experience working with design and what new concepts Best Western is looking to introduce.

Cassandra, you’ve introduced new interior fitouts to Hilton Hotels, W Hotel in Kuala Lumpur and others in Malaysia. Tell us about your experience working with international owners and will Best Western be bringing any similar design concepts to its Australian hotels?
Chinese and Malaysian hotel owners put a lot of trust into their interior designers. They look to you to know what’s popular, what sells rooms and what guests want to see when they step inside. Lobbies and common areas must have that ‘wow’ factor. This will be a big component Best Western is looking to roll out as part of its design program. Creating destinations and social hubs is a must in today’s industry. We’ll be focusing on more ways to maximise the commercial space between lobbies, restaurants and meeting spaces.

Why is the Design Excellence Program a good fit for Best Western?
When guests go to Cairns in Queensland, they don’t want to walk in and feel like they’re back at a hotel in the Melbourne CBD. Interior design and fitout helps create that sense of location. Best Western’s strength has always been its independently owned and operated hotels, and the design program really shows how cost-effective refurbishments can help increase revenue by opening up spaces, redecorating rooms and themeing properties to blend in or stand out from their regional environment.

What will be your internal process used to assess properties on their design factors?
Best Western International has already piloted the program in their North America affiliate. After refining it to be as flexible and cost effective as possible, it’s now ready to roll out across all properties worldwide.

To meet the program’s design requirements, a number of assessments will be conducted by Best Western’s Quality Assurance (QA) assessors. These will generally focus on current status and upgrades that should be made, with different criteria used for the brand’s three hotel types – Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier.

All properties will be individually assessed based on the overall design and guest experience of the commercial space, with a focus on curb-side appeal, arrival experience, public spaces and guest rooms. Each will receive a Property Improvement Plan, outlining any design improvements using achievable timelines to prioritise renovations.

Evaluations include exterior architecture, landscaping and a number of interior measures. These include visual spaces such as the guest lobby, reception and welcome areas, restaurants, the level of cleanliness, spacing of entrances and exits, and overall use of space to encourage guests out of their hotel room into the social spaces of the hotel.

Many Australasian hotel owners are Chinese investors. Can you reveal the biggest difference in design challenges across the Asia Pacific?
The biggest difference is material and labour cost. Owners from Asia Pacific are developers, they are very creative. On the other hand, Australia is quite conservative compared to the elaborate 4- and 5-star hotels in Asia. When Best Western signed The Haven Inn hotel in Glebe Sydney recently, we had already conducted a complete design evaluation on the property and showed the best use of space for the planned refurbishments. This is the competitive edge Best Western has never had before, and our vision for the revamped Haven Inn will certainly work towards capturing guests with a much more modern exterior and opulent interior design.

So what makes a good hotel room?
An organised and spacious room with a clean, modern and easy design. This starts with the bed being the centrepiece with pillow-top quality sheets, natural light and windows contributing to the ambience. An underlying colour scheme or architectural look balancing out the room is a must. Finally, a reliable WiFi connection which Best Western offers for free in all its hotels worldwide.

What look will we gradually come to recognise with Best Western?
Guests are going to notice higher quality materials and a sleek finish. The midscale segment will particularly benefit. Now, many midscale hotels are refurbishing and upping their game. Previously you only saw this in upscale properties, but it’s not the case anymore. Guests want more value, to find more prestige out of their stay. Best Western can now unlock the full potential for all our hotel members.

With an increase of new build properties in Australia, Best Western is looking to tap into this market and our design services are already proving popular among potential developers and owners.

James Wilkinson

Editor-In-Chief, Hotel Management