As with their choice of airlines, travelers tend to pick a hotel they know they can trust when they travel. And with more than 2,000 locations across the U.S. and even more around the world, Best Western has remained a reliable option for those looking for consistency. But while the brand may seem to be everywhere you go, there's still a lot about the iconic hotel chain you probably don't know. Read on for some of the best secrets from former Best Western employees who saw everything behind the scenes.
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It's technically not a hotel chain at all.
Part of what factors into your choice when booking a hotel is understanding its brand and knowing what you'll get for your money in terms of luxury, cleanliness, and quality. But while other major chains operate with a more direct management style, Best Western works with an entirely different organizational structure.
"Best Western Hotels are an affiliation of member hotels, not a franchise. As such, it is totally membership run, and each hotel votes on rules, regulations, and elects a board of directors who come from membership," Victor Martin, a former Best Western owner and operator, posted in a Quora forum discussing the company.
Their management structure prioritizes cleanliness and property upkeep.
While it might seem at first that operators might have less incentive to keep their hotels up to snuff without direct ownership or a franchise license from a major brand, former employees say it actually has a positive effect that guests hopefully notice.
"Association is for intervals of one year and a member can elect to drop out on their membership date," Martin explains. "Interestingly, the group can be quite strict on quality and upkeep of facilities to remain a member in good standing as they fully recognize the impact a poor property has on other members."
"I owned a Best Western for over 30 years and found it to be a good group that cares about its members as well as the guests who frequent the brand. Having run other brands, I can state that none cares about room cleanliness more than Best Western," he wrote in the Quora post.
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Some locations might have secret theme rooms.
Besides upgrading to a spacious suite or pushing for an ocean view, most chain hotel rooms are relatively uniform from place to place. But if you stay at the right Best Western, you might want to ask if there are any unique lodging options available for your visit.
In a TikTok posted in April 2021, user @aprettycoolhoteltour documented a discovery made in a "generic-looking Best Western" in Galena, Illinois, Yahoo reports. The video shows a basement room decked out with over-the-top decor, including a large circular bed, glow-in-the-dark lighting, and a jacuzzi complete with a full aquarium dominating the wall next to it.
While it's unclear how widespread the feature may be at other locations, there's evidence that it's not limited just to the Galena hotel. In March 2022, the same user posted another video of a secret theme room in a Best Western in Missouri paying homage to Elvis Presley. The under-the-radar accommodation included a large mural, a bed with a pink Cadillac bench, and a large jacuzzi, Newsweek reports.
Users replied to the second video with claims that Best Westerns they had stayed in also had hidden theme rooms. And even the official Best Western account slyly confirmed their approval of the idea, saying, "We can't help but falling in love with that Elvis room."
You can expect all locations to be clean, but some go above and beyond for their guests.
Best Western operators maintain an excellent baseline for quality by holding other members accountable. But former employees say that the sky's the limit when it comes to upgrading the guest experience.
"What I enjoy about being a Best Western is that if I want to go above and beyond 'brand standards,' such as have a pillow bar, or complimentary breakfast room service, or placing a welcome basket filled with snacks in all our rooms, then I can do that," Russ W. Cole, a former general manager at Best Western, wrote in a Quora forum. "Most franchises won't allow that—they want you to be 'cookie cutter' with all the others within that brand. So as a Best Western hotel, you have a lot more flexibility to wow and impress your guests."
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They focus on cleaning a normally problematic part of the room.
One of the greatest fears that comes with booking a hotel room is that your accommodations will be filthy when you arrive. But even when cleaning staff sanitize bathroom fixtures and replace bedding between stays, certain items tend to remain germy—especially hard-to-clean items like TV remotes. In fact, a study conducted by travel risk website Travelmath found that even five-star hotels had some seriously dirty remotes, with an average of 2,002,300 colony-forming units of bacteria on tested handsets.
But according to experts, Best Western was one of the first hotel brands to tackle this nasty problem head-on. Per a 2014 report from BBC Travel, cleaning crews for the chain confirm that they are equipped with special ultraviolet wands that kill bacteria on high-touch areas and devices, and all locations switched to waterproof remotes that were much easier to clean.