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We have already seen Marriott take over Starwood, although that deal may yet collapse.

Accor is taking over Fairmont, Raffles and Swissotel.

The latest news is that Carlson, the Radisson / Park Inn / Park Plaza group, is up for sale.

Carlson has a big European presence.  The US arm, whilst accounting for half of the company, is dominated by the low-key and unremarkable Country Inn & Suites chain, whilst the Radisson brand in the US has a far poorer reputation due to the quality of the hotels.

This makes the company an interesting play for Wyndham.  Whilst Wyndham is the biggest hotel group in the world, mainly through its ‘cheap and fairly cheerful’ US chains such as Days Inn, it still has virtually no UK hotels for example.

Hilton and IHG will also take a serious look, having missed out on the recent deals, but I think that any move would simply be corporate vanity rather than a sensible business decision.

IHG has done a good job of keeping a distinction between its brands – does anyone know the difference between SPG’s Le Meridien, Westin and Sheraton brands, for comparison? – and this deal would just muddy the water.  Unless they planned a full rebranding it would not fit well.  Of course, as IHG owns some incredibly strong brands, a rebranding of every Carlson property cannot be discounted.

Hilton is using DoubleTree as a ‘dumping ground’ for random hotels.  There are, basically, no brand standards at all.  That is the reason why they make a big play of giving every guest a free chocolate chip cookie – there is literally nothing else that the hotels have in common.  In the US, for example, Hilton will accept hotels with external ‘in your window’ aircon units into DoubleTree which other brands would not.  This gives Hilton some flexibility with acquisitions since anything which does not fit cleanly into another brand gets dumped into DoubleTree.

Hyatt is often named as the chain most in need of a partner, being the smallest of the major chains, but it is difficult to see the company wanting such a diverse bag.  It would do better to court owners of Starwood, Fairmont, Raffles or Swissotel properties who may be looking to re-flag following their takeover.

You can read more in this Reuters report.

Radisson Hamburg 350

The Carlson deal would be relatively ‘clean’ which is a major benefit from any acquirer.  There are only four major brands – Country Inn & Suites in the fourth, rarely seen in Europe – and the loyalty programme does not inspire huge amounts of enthusiasm.

I can imagine Wyndham keeping the Radisson brand, although they may decide that Ramada and Radisson sound too similar and decide to retire one of them.  Park Inn could be swapped for Days Inn or something similar with little trouble as I sense little loyalty to that brand.  Park Plaza is positioned higher than any existing Wyndham brand and I imagine would be kept.

Compare this to the Starwood / Marriott deal.  This involves Marriott taking on another 11 brands – taking them to a ludicrous 30.  It is also faced with the necessity of dismantling the best loved hotel loyalty scheme, Starwood Preferred Guest, and forcing its members and their points into the least loved, Marriott Rewards.

The Starwood / Marriott deal is beginning to look a little wobbly.  It is primarily a ‘share for share’ deal.  Since the merger was announced, however, both companies have seen their share prices fall sharply.  The sell-off in the wider market has hit travel companies harder because they are hit the worst in any slowdown.

There were a few people who were rumoured to be looking at a cash deal for Starwood.  If any of those bidders came back and offered the same level of cash per share that they were willing to pay two months ago, Starwood shareholders would bite their hands off.

These rumours will also be causing concern over at American Express.   At present, Membership Rewards in the UK has three hotel transfer partners – Hilton, Starwood and Club Carlson.  Two of those could be gone in 18 months.

The Platinum charge card also risks losing two of its key benefits – Starwood Gold status and Club Carlson Gold status.

It is also likely that the Starwood Amex will close which, in the US, is a big earner – when I started in this hobby, the SPG Amex was the ‘go to’ US credit card.  Marriott has a major partnership with Visa and it is unlikely that would change.

Add this to the loss of the Costco Amex card – which, amazingly, represented 10% of Amex’s entire global card volume and 20% of its global revolving credit volume – and you can see why things are getting tricky for them.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see  our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Comments (56)

  • Ralphy says:

    It may be duff information but a Costco store manager recently told me that the uk is not dropping AmEx, I guess we will have to wait and see.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Raffles’ comment was about their partnership in the US. I don’t believe any other market is affected (although Amex also lost the partnership in Canada a couple years ago to Cap One).

      • Rob says:

        That said …. it is difficult to imagine the UK card remaining once the current contract is up.

        • Callum says:

          Surely it’s a completely different scenario though? The US doesn’t have capped fees on visa and mastercard making them more competitive with Amex. If they switch in the UK would it not be likely for Costco to see their cut decrease?

          • Rob says:

            This is the funny bit. The Costco Visa deal – which has sent all other US retailers into a spin at how crazily cheap it is – is believed to be a touch over the 0.3% which is now mandatory in the EU!

  • JD says:

    I for one would not be happy if this went ahead. Carlson hotels are my first choice in London and I have over a million gold points. I also find there are some of the best when it comes to points availability. I saved a fortune with gold points when the London Olympics were on and again this summer when the Stone Roses play in Manchester.

  • Nick Burch says:

    > does anyone know the difference between SPG’s Le Meridien, Westin and Sheraton brands, for comparison?

    LM doesn’t try to be as “hip” as a W, but normally should have quite a lot of art around, more interesting / designery layout and furnishings, more interesting food options etc

    Sheraton, unless it’s one that’s now a Sheraton Grand, will be dull and uninspiring but normally fairly solid (in a boring and with the odd small fault way)

    Westin should be nicer than a Sheraton, a bit more interesting in terms of layout and offerings, but aiming to be a bit more “normal” than a LM

    • Rob says:

      But, in reality, we all know properties in all of those chains which do not need those descriptions. There are cities in Asia with Sheraton hotels which are uber-lux. Similarly, there are some depressing Westins such as the one in Edmonton I stayed in this Summer. Meridien Hamburg, the only I use regularly, is fairly ‘arty’ but – frankly – not much more than I would expect from any modern hotel today.

  • Aeronaut says:

    Is it just me or do other people think that many of the hotel brand names are pretty naff – Westin, Park Plaza, Crowne Plaza, DoubleTree, Park Inn (a motel?), Radisson Blu (which sounds like it could be some horrific alcopop)… ?

    In terms of loyalty names Club Carlson just sounds too much like an American corporate attempt to come across upmarket, whilst Starwood Preferred Guest rather makes it sound like they don’t want your business if you’re not a ‘preferred guest’, and as for a group name, Starwood isn’t too great either – it could be some noveau riche store in Lakeside shopping centre.

    Mind you, I never much liked Uber as a name, and that’s regardless of the missing umlaut!

    OK, rant over!

    • Aeronaut says:

      And yes, it seems I can’t spell nouveau riche, so there’s egg on my face too!

    • Rich says:

      Quite agree.

      Not quite as bad as Priority Pass, whose card looks like a membership card for a Gentlemen’s entertainment venue. (So I’ve heard…)

  • AndyGWP says:

    I’ve looked through your old articles “such as your earning Club Carlson – Facts / Opinions” post, but not been able to see the answer.

    1) Is status at Radisson Blu recognised even if you don’t book direct?
    2) If not, can you still earn the 500 BAEC points (avios) (as on one article you mentioned you don’t need to be a member of Club Carlson to benefit from this)?

  • Stu says:

    Is Radisson Blu the same company/brand as Radisson? I always thought it was a separate beast, something to do with SAS.

    • Aeronaut says:

      Radisson Blu is what was Radisson SAS (airline rather than Hereford-based embassy siege specialists), but SAS pulled out of the partnership a few years ago so it was renamed with the Blu suffix (presumably because someone somewhere though that was a good idea!).

  • Irons1980 says:

    It would be pleased if IHG took over Radisson Blu – IHG’s coverage in Scandinavia is pretty sparse (nothing at all in Sweden) so it would be great to almost immediately gain quite a few hotels in Stockholm, especially as a couple of them are very well located vs. the Hilton and others.

  • TomTom says:

    Raffles, are you going to cover the current Marriott promo?