PHOENIX—David Kong is celebrating his 15th year as president and CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts—becoming the longest-running CEO of a top 10 major hotel chain.
“David Kong is a visionary in our industry, but perhaps more importantly, he is one of the nicest people I know,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association. “Best Western and the entire lodging industry are lucky to have his leadership. I look forward to many more years working alongside David.”
Starting in the hospitality industry as a busboy, Kong spent decades climbing the ranks, learning and working his way through positions in nearly every department and every chain scale segment. In his time leading Best Western, he has served as executive vice president of international operations, senior vice president of marketing and development, and senior vice president of strategic services and operations.
During Kong’s tenure, Best Western has reimagined its brand identity, signaling the modernization and evolution of the brand and totaling 16 individual brands across every chain scale segment. Kong has put innovation at the forefront of the company’s transformation, implementing programs like the Best Western Virtual Reality Experience (BWVRE), which uses virtual reality to reinvent the way guests view and shop for hotels. The “I Care Every Guest Every Time” employee training initiative leverages virtual reality to transform communications between front desk staff and guests. As a result, the company has seen a record high Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 62 and was named one of Fast Company’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies last year.
As Best Western has evolved over the years, so has the company’s portfolio. The company introduced Vīb and GLō, two boutique, midscale brands. As the industry has recently seen a shift away from new construction to conversions, Best Western has launched a pair of boutique brands, Sadie and Aiden, which each present the opportunity for independent hoteliers or developers with branded hotels to reposition their property.
Best Western’s economy option, the SureStay Hotel Group, focuses on customer care and product experience, reflected in its 3.91 average TripAdvisor rating. Since the brand’s launch in 2016, it has grown to more than 200 open properties globally.
Just last month, Best Western announced its acquisition of WorldHotels, further enhancing the company’s breadth of offerings to include the upper upscale and luxury segments.
Kong has also led the legacy brand through a full refresh across multiple areas of operation, including: expanding sales and marketing programs, launching a new digital platform, redesigning Best Western’s loyalty program, and implementing a renovation program at every hotel, reimagining the look of the brands with new logos and signage.
“I feel very fortunate to have played a role in building Best Western into the brand it is today,” said Kong. “To think about where we started 73 years ago as a single brand and now, to see Best Western positioned as a global powerhouse with hotels in every single chain scale segment, is outstanding. Supported by a truly remarkable leadership team, I’m deeply proud of what we’ve accomplished. Our journey has been a special one, and a large part of that for me has been the incredible team I am surrounded by on a daily basis, including our exceptional group of hoteliers. Together, we look forward to maintaining the momentum that has been built and enjoying further progress in the months and years ahead.”