Best Western and Harley-Davidson Reward Riders

Text: Eric Bass • Photography: Jackie Bass

One of the curious things about traveling by motorcycle (and particularly by Harley-Davidson) is the mixed bag of perceptions and receptions that one encounters along the way. Some friendly folks stride right over before you even have time to kill the ignition and eagerly chat you up about where you've been, where you're going, and what kind of bike you're riding. Others clutch their purses a little tighter, whisk their kids into the minivan, count their precious little heads, lock the doors, and zoom off, careful not to make eye contact along the way. This dichotomy of attitudes pertains to business owners as well. Some actively court the patronage of the biker, and others suddenly claim that the "vacancy" advertised by the neon sign outside has just been filled.

Now in all fairness, whether we roll up attired in Power Ranger track leathers, black & bad biker gear, or hazmat-yellow jumpsuits, as viewed through the eyes of the average civilian, motorcyclists are a rather strange looking lot. And truth be told, after a long day of riding, we don't always smell so great either. So, I understand why my entrances may raise an eyebrow or two whenever I saunter into rooms. But on the plus side, we do travel a lot, we do return frequently to our favorite haunts, and we do recommend that friends and fellow travelers do the same. And overall, from a business perspective, we make for an attractive (if occasionally pungent) demographic.

Therefore it's to their credit that Best Western International, the largest hotel chain in the world, has stepped up and firmly proclaimed their biker-friendliness by creating a program to attract riders and cater to their needs. Similar to the Speed Rewards program established for NASCAR fans in April of 2007, the new Gold Crown Club International Ride Rewards™ Frequent Guest Program was announced as part of a multi-year agreement between Best Western and Harley-Davidson Motor Company to bring enhanced travel benefits to Hawg owners and other enthusiasts.

"Like Harley-Davidson, Best Western's heritage is deeply rooted along America's scenic highways and byways," said Dorothy Dowling, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Best Western. "These two brands, synonymous with road travel, have joined together to create an exciting new program to meet the needs of this group of adventurers."

"Harley-Davidson is very excited to team with Best Western to offer our enthusiasts additional benefits," added Lara Lee, vice president, Harley-Davidson Enthusiast Services. "There are always plenty of great reasons to ride, and now Harley-Davidson and Best Western are making it even easier to get out and hit the open road."

Registration in the program is free (at https://www.goldcrownclub.com/h-driderewards/), and though it's designed to accommodate the needs of H-D riders, enrollment is open to anyone who cares to join. Once signed up, riders will start earning 10 points for every U.S. dollar (or Canadian equivalent) spent on qualified room rates, or 250 airline miles per qualified stay, at any of the 4,200 Best Western hotels worldwide. These points can be redeemed towards free rooms, amusement park passes, dining, shopping, and entertainment gift certificates, or even earmarked as a charitable donation to the Make-A-Wish Foundation. In addition, Ride Rewards members will be eligible for special promotions and bonuses throughout the year.

To make finding the Best Westerns along your route that much easier, Harley-Davidson's "Great Roads" interactive application (found at www.harley-davidson.com/experience) uses Microsoft® Virtual Earth™ technology to map out a variety of picturesque U.S. "Great Roads," and shows you where to find Best Western hotels and Harley-Davidson dealerships along the way. Enrolled bikers get a 10 percent discount off of Best Western reservations made through this website, or by calling 1-888-224-BIKE. Depending upon the local market, and time of year, rates at Best Western's U.S. hotels can range from $ 38 to $ 350 a night, with an average stay costing $ 83. Many of the individual hotels even offer 360-degree virtual tours on their websites so that you can feel confident that the property meets your needs and expectations in advance. It's also worth noting that all 2,400 of Best Western's North American hotels offer free internet service, providing access to up-to-the-minute weather reports, directions, and email if you just can't resist the urge.

Additionally, Best Western is encouraging their member hotels to voluntarily provide special, customized services and amenities to motorcyclists as part of their recently unveiled Harley Friendly Hotel Program, including a new wipe-down rag and access to a washing station for bike cleaning. In the two months since its introduction, more than 400 Best Western properties have already committed to implementing these services. Beyond the basic elements of the program, participating Best Western hotel operators are also being encouraged to include such perks as 24-hour security for bikes, covered parking, and/or parking on concrete instead of asphalt.

Most significantly, this program represents one of the first focused efforts on the part of a major hotel chain to cater directly to the motorcycle-riding demographic. The bottom line, of course, is the expectation that motorcyclists will respond positively and vote with their wallets by making Best Western hotels their preferred bed-down destinations. After participating in a promotional junket that spanned a guided Harley-Davidson ride between three of their properties in the Tempe, Grand Canyon, and Sedona areas, I was pleased with both the courteous treatment and comfortable accommodations at each destination. Not all properties in the chain offer the Jacuzzi tub or magnificent view I enjoyed at the Best Western Arroyo Roble Hotel and Creekside Villas in Sedona, nor the first-class dining experience at The Coronado Room restaurant ensconced within their Grand Canyon Squire Inn location, but at the very least, one can always be assured of a biker-friendly attitude and a "buddy deal" on the rate - and in my opinion, that sort of support should be commended and encouraged.