Frankfurt-based WorldHotels has been bought by U.S. megachain Best Western (Credit: iStock)

In what is thought to be the first deal of its kind, Best Western has acquired European indie hotel chain, WorldHotels.

The global hotel industry has been going through big changes in recent years, as online booking and homesharing cracked open new opportunities for independent hotels. In response, large hotel chains have launched dozens of “soft brands”, semi-independent collections of hotels that can offer differentiated experiences to travelers. This week, Best Western upped the ante by buying outright independent luxury brand, WorldHotels, according to travel trade publication Skift.

Best Western’s purchase is reportedly the first deal of this nature. The one comparable deal is believed to be Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ acquisition of a nearly 50 percent stake in Design Hotels in 2011. (Starwood was acquired by Marriott in 2016.)

The WorldHotels acquisition comes two years after it was acquired by Associated Luxury Hotels, a sales organization providing access to meeting spaces at hundreds of luxury hotels. The Frankfurt-based chain’s portfolio includes more than 300 hotels and will continue to be marketed under their current identity, separate from Best Western.

Phoenix-based Best Western, founded in 1946, has more than 4,200 hotels worldwide. Starting in 2015, the chain entered the “soft brand” game by launching its own upscale brands such as BW Premier Collection, the SureStay Collection and the BW Signature Collection.

Independent hotels account for just 30 percent of the market in the U.S. and Canada, while they account for 60 percent of European hotels. [Skift] — Kevin Sun