Coming up on its five-year anniversary, BWH Hotel Group’s boutique Aiden brand continues to gain momentum with 21 properties open and a robust development pipeline that is projected to at least double the portfolio within the next two years.
In fact, there are roughly 50 Aiden hotels in various phases of development globally, according to Brad LeBlanc, SVP and chief development officer, BWH Hotel Group. LeBlanc—who stressed that one of the benefits of the nascent brand is that the upscale boutique space it plays in enables developers to “get a premium” from a rate perspective—touted its progress.
“I do believe that Aiden is a prominent sign across the [brand] landscape. Within 24 months, we’ll have another 24 properties open easily. At that point, Aiden is not just a young infant, but it’s a strong growing brand,” he said.
LeBlanc further detailed the 2018 launch of the brand and its subsequent impact.
“I think it was actually perfect timing. Everyone else is playing a little bit of catch up in the game, but with our considerable number open today we’ve got proof of brand, we’ve got proof of segment, and we’ve got proof of everything. This segment represents one of the highest-rated products in our company. This a significant brand for the Best Western family,” he said.
LeBlanc cited the brand’s competitive set as IHG’s Voco, Caption by Hyatt, and Graduate Hotels.
He emphasized that Aiden by Best Western offers flexible aesthetic guidelines for developers, noting, “It’s your local vision, it’s your local design.” Eschewing a cookie-cutter approach, the suburban brand is positioned as chic and edgy, designed to embody the personality of the neighborhood and the spirit of the owner, according to the company.
BWH Hotel Group maintains the brand has put an emphasis on modern sensibilities to keep guests wired in and connected. Some common elements of Aiden include a social lobby with cocktail bar, coffee bar, breakfast, fitness center, free WiFi with wireless secured printing in the public area, onsite guest laundry or same-day dry cleaning services, guestroom smart TVs, and in-room coffee and tea maker.
LeBlanc described the ideal locations for Aiden as “secondary or deep suburban markets,” and in some cases, even “small primary markets.” He further reinforced the unique nature of the brand’s properties. “It doesn’t fit everywhere, it really doesn’t. But in most communities there is an eclectic neighborhood and there is a comp set that I would say is ‘vanilla’ or what you’d expect. Then you add on top of that a newer generation or workforce and you get a whole bunch of new travelers demanding something different,” he said.
And many of those new travelers extend beyond the U.S. borders. Aiden represents a truly global brand, having reached such international locations as Seoul, South Korea; Sydney, Australia; Runcorn, U.K.; Madrid, Spain; Lorient, Margny Les Compiegnes and Clermont-Ferrand, France; Genova and Castiglione delle Stiviere, Italy; and Biberach, Germany. The brand is expected to open in India and Scandinavia this year as well. LeBlanc further explained the global interest.
“Aiden was launched here [in the U.S.] and the international body of developers just took it and ran because I think they have the same scenario that we have. They’ve got a lot of unique assets and they don’t necessarily want to soft brand them. Who do they affiliate with that reflects personality? I think that’s becoming more and more popular,” LeBlanc noted.
Meanwhile, the brand—which is primarily made up of repositionings—opened its first U.S. property in Austin, Texas in 2019. In 2021, the chain opened another notable property in Berkeley, California, which LeBlanc noted was a new build.
Another new build currently in the works is a property in Knoxville, Tennessee, which LeBlanc pointed to as a prime example of the brand’s flexibility. He explained that the developer chose Aiden after another franchise company refused to let him use the color orange—which is the color of the nearby University of Tennessee—for the hotel. This is one of many examples of developers “who don’t want input from the franchise company,” according to LeBlanc.
“I found him and I said, ‘Well at Aiden, we love the color orange. You put all the local flair you want on it.’ It’s interesting how developers now are insisting, ‘I’m not brand dedicated, I’m dedicated to my vision, and I’m going to find a brand that fits it,’” he said.
Other U.S. locations include Los Angeles, California; North Conway, New Hampshire; Reno, Nevada: San Antonio, Texas; Flagstaff, Sedona, and Scottsdale, Arizona; St. George, Utah; Warm Springs, Georgia; and West Yarmouth, Massachusetts.
Describing Aiden as a “hard brand with all the services and support of a hard brand,” LeBlanc pointed out that developers have the option of including the Best Western tagline on the hotel, but it’s not required. He further explained that the brand is “handcuffs off” for owners.
LeBlanc concluded by detailing why Aiden appeals to consumers. “People want an experience. They want to come in and get an essence of what’s local and get an essence of what’s social in that community. Anybody can have an experience, but this is an experiential stay,” he said.