Best Western International is set to greatly expand it travel card program offering its gift card in a number of retail outlets, including discount giant Wal-Mart and The Kroger Co., just as consumers gear up for the start of the holiday shopping season.
The card will initially launch at Ralphs, Food 4 Less and Fry’s locations in California and Arizona beginning this week. The card will also be available at Shoppers Drug Mart stores across Canada starting in mid-November.
North American retailers will offer the $50 card in more than 4,500 locations. The cards were first offered by Walgreens drug stores in November 2005.
“With the holiday season just around the corner, the gift card industry is poised for yet another record-setting performance,” said Dorothy Dowling, Best Western senior VP-marketing, in a statement.
The card can be used to pay for both accommodations and related incidentals, such as room service and phone charges, at more than 4,200 Best Western hotels worldwide. The card is offered in any denomination between $25 and $1,000. Additional merchants are expected to be announced next year.
Best Western first introduced its gift card in December 2002, and since then has sold more than 540,000, generating $36.7 million in sales, the company said. Until last fall, the card was only available through corporate incentive programs, at Best Western hotels, at TravelCard.BestWestern.com or via an 800 number.
Consumers are expected to spend about $80 billion on gift cards in 2006, up from $66 billion in 2005, according to a study by The Tower Group. Surveys also show that about three quarters of U.S. consumers purchase or receive a gift card each year, and gift recipients report gifts cards among the most desired gift items every year. The average dollar amount spent on all gift cards remained well above $200 among those who purchased gift cards, according to Packaged Facts, Best Western said.
Atlanta-based InComm, a technology provider and distributor of prepaid products, struck the deals for Best Western.