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For Sale: hotel brands (Radisson / Park Inn / Park Plaza), good condition, offers invited

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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.

Radisson Heathrow Hotel entrance (2)

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.

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.


How to earn Radisson Rewards points from UK credit cards (August 2021)

Radisson Rewards does not have a dedicated UK credit card. However, you can earn Radisson Rewards points by converting Membership Rewards points earned from selected UK American Express cards.  These include:

Membership Rewards points convert at 1:3 into Radisson Rewards points which is a very attractive rate.  The cards above all earn 1 Membership Rewards point per £1 spent on your card, which converts to 3 Radisson Rewards points.

Even better, holders of The Platinum Card receive free Radisson Rewards Gold status for as long as they hold the card.  It also comes with Hilton Honors Gold, Marriott Bonvoy Gold and MeliaRewards Gold status.  We reviewed American Express Platinum in detail here.

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

Comments (56)

  • Enigma368 says:

    I would not miss Club Carlson. Of the major chains, it has for me the least value in terms of redemptions. There is very little value to be had at the upper end and very few hotels in the lowest categories. Most of the hotels you might want to stay at are at least 38k or 44k a night which does not compare favourably to IHG or Hilton where similar hotels are usually available for 20k or 30k a night in their schemes (and if anything Carlson points are worth less than either Hilton or IHG)

    • Nick says:

      On the other hand, you can earn points incredibly quickly. I’ve had great value from club carlson. I paid £170 for a pile of points and had three nights in the penthouse in the Radisson Martinique New York which, whilst far from luxurious, is as huge amount of space in central new york for less than £60 a night. (A standard room would have cost about $400 per night).

      It also got me out of trouble when I accidentally booked an anniversary trip to Edinburgh without realising that the festival would be on. 3 nights in an Ibis would have cost about £600, but by transferring a handful of points from Amex to club carlson, we spent three comfortable nights in the Radisson Blu on the Royal mile – right in the heart of the action. Club Carlson has no blackout dates, which is why it’s so good for stuff like this. Sometimes their hotels don’t like to recognise that rule, but a quick call to Club Carlson central office will force open availability.

      • Alan says:

        That’s interesting, I didn’t know the offered that. Hilton used to have something similar – as a Diamond you could force a stay when a property was fully booked. Sadly this is no longer available on redemptions so is of little use given the cash rate you’d pay on a forced stay.

        • Nick says:

          https://www.clubcarlson.com/fgp/redeem/

          As it says here, “no blackout dates on standard rooms”. The problem you have is that individual hotels don’t willingly apply this rule, but Club Carlson HQ will force them to if needs be. Take, for example, my stay at the Radisson Martinique. I saw that they had standard rooms available but no reward rooms. I called the hotel to ask them to book me in with points. They refused. I pointed out the policy. They basically said “computer says no” and referred me to Club Carlson. Club Carlson were great: they did the booking immediately by email, and in fact gifted me additional points to book in to an exec room because I was gold (had I simply cancelled the booking I’d have walked away with 75k free points!). (From there, I got one a POUG to the penthouse for something daft like £20 a night – the penthouse included breakfast and a $50 per day per person food and drinks coupon, so it more than paid for itself).

          It’s annoying that the no blackout rule is not automatically applied at hotel level, but with the minimum of effort you can make it work.

          • Brendan says:

            There’s a big difference between “no blackout dates” and “all standard rooms are available for awards”. If a hotel has no rooms left at award level that doesn’t mean they are blacking out a particular date.

            Does it explicitly state that all standard rooms can be had as award stays?

          • Alan says:

            Nice result there, Nick! Will keep that in find on future bookings 🙂

  • Sohail says:

    I’d actually cry if the Radisson Blu brand disappeared. I don’t mind clubcarlson they’ve matched my Hilton for 3 years now and I constantly stay under their 2for1 and 4for2 offer for gold members. It’s saved me a bit over the years.

  • Alan says:

    I’ve had some good redemptions with Carlson (top one being the Radisson Blu Le Dokhan in Paris Trocadero) and would be sorry to see them go. My folks have also had some good Oslo airport stays with them when heading to Oz!

    Do you have any sense from your contacts at Amex if they are actually looking at this over the next 12 months and trying to do something to bolster the Plat card, Rob? Based on past experience I’m a bit worried they’ll just let benefits gradually reduce bit by bit and do nothing to address the worsening value proposition of the card (or add useless benefits like the partner airline tickets at full price!)

    In related news, did you see have unveiled ‘Tru’ – yet another brand for them with a vomit-inducingly dreadful brand video!!

    • Jason says:

      The Radisson blu is a good choice at Oslo airport?
      Need a night at the end of March.

      • Alan says:

        Yes, directly connected to the airport – staff very friendly and helpful. My folks had issues on their first stay (shower not working), moved to another room which had a very bad smell, property comped the stay and made sure they had a great room on the return visit. They really liked being able to dump their bags there then jump on the train into the city centre for the evening (they got some last minute discount opera tickets!) – made for a very nice ex-EU trip!

      • Idrive says:

        Yes it’s in the terminal practically isn’t it? Tough, i was checking it out for my ex Eu next March and already in june last year it was 120£ for a mid week night. You could also check park inn but i finally booked another one in the end to keep my ex eu sensibly low(would not make sense otherwise).

        • Jason says:

          Thanks guys, I’ll take a look 😉

          • Lady London says:

            If those are full the Comfort Inn at Oslo gets pretty good ratings and I couldn’t really fault it when I stayed there. You do have a 10min shuttle to get there and back though. If you’re not collecting points and just looking for a cheaper cash stay Kayak had it for lower than other sites.

      • Rad says:

        Park Inn at Oslo airport is better.

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        There’s also another Radisson right next to Oslo train station.

    • Rob says:

      I had an email yesterday from a French Plat holder who got an email saying he will get Hilton Diamond and Melia status. Now, Hilton is not big in France so I can see why they may give French residents Diamond but stuff UK residents with Gold, as in the US.

      Looks like some form of Hilton and Melia status is on the way though.

      • Jason says:

        Don’t you just live the UK mentality, get dumped on every which way 🙂
        All we need now is to stay in the EU and let the French pass all their unwanted residents here.

        • Callum says:

          I’d personally say the UK mentality is to be miserable and moan about anything and everything…

      • Alan says:

        Thanks, Rob – interesting. If HH G was ongoing that would definitely have some appeal. I enjoyed the one Melia stay I’ve had but wouldn’t rate status with them as highly as CC Gold. Amex need to give us more free hotel nights like they used to! (that was how I had my one Melia stay – in Madrid!)

      • Doreen says:

        As a Spanish Plat. card holder, I get Gold in Melia (had already earned it last year) and Jade in Shangri-La (along with Gold Club Carlson & Starwood)

  • Frenske says:

    Any thoughts about what will happen with Club Carlson points. I have amassed 350K.

    • Rob says:

      You are safe for at least 2 years due to the IT integration needed.

      There may even be an arbitrage, eg if IHG buys them you could move Amex to Carlson knowing they will become IHG. Same with Amex to Starwood if you want Marriott points.

  • Idrive says:

    I would cry a lot! I love it and it made me start travelling much more! Are we joking…it’s not only about the 3x Amex rate, it’s all about the 442/241 at a reasonable price with clean simple but still stilish soul, as per the Scandi standard. I think i need to study a plan now..
    Rob i usually love your articles as a good morning but today, no!

  • Chelseafi says:

    Can’t believe I missed the news with regards Costco & Amex. That’s really going to hit my spend hard as I do most of my shopping at Costco stores, i don’t know what Visa card to go for now ready for 1st April when they switch, I mainly use the £10k spend BA 241, struggling to see what Visa card is best for Avios?

    • Metatone says:

      The decline of Amex is very worrying for us in the UK because the interchange rules have essentially killed off MC/Visa as earning routes.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Amex lost the Costco partnership in Canada a couple years ago (to Capital One/MasterCard) and, more recently, in the USA (to Citi/Visa). I’m not aware of any changes in the UK. I wouldn’t worry until anything is announced.

    • Simmo says:

      Does this mean Costco will no longer accept AMEX? or mean that AMEX no longer will have the credit cards for Costco?

    • nobbynobchops says:

      The Amex loss in Costco is US only where they are going to Visa. Amex is staying in the UK

  • Metatone says:

    I have to join the chorus of disagreement. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot out of Carlson Gold 2for1 and 4for2. It’s great for European city breaks. And it’s rare I didn’t get a nice room upgrade. One reason I was happy to pay for Amex Plat is that getting Carlson Gold back was a good thing. (My work trip patterns changed so I lost the stays route.)

    Of course, there are downsides. US coverage and offers are not much cop. Points situation isn’t great because the earning scale isn’t generous and there’s no UK credit card. (I need to use Amex MR mostly for airline points.) Still, I think Carlson can be pretty good for some.

  • Pug106 says:

    OT, but if you wanted to use a Hilton Honours voucher for one night in Singapore, where would you stay please?

    Also, are there ever any offers for staying at Raffles hotel?

    • Alan says:

      Personally I’d use it at the Conrad Singapore – fantastic property (even better if you managed to get Diamond status match recently – superb Exec Lounge and restaurant breakfast).

      Not sure re. Raffles Hotel offers – am sure Rob should know given it’s his namesake!

      • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

        +1 for the Conrad.

      • AndrewC says:

        I would say Raffles Singapore is more like staying in a zoo with all of the tourists walking the corridors every day looking for Long Bar. I’ve stayed in St Regis near Orchard Road and Westin near Marina Bay and could recommend both. I’ve also heard consistently good reviews of Conrad which fits with your Hilton preference.

    • Rob says:

      Raffles is almost certainly in Amex FHR, Virtuoso etc – they are not ‘precious’ about protecting high rates. I assume most 342 etc offers via the Raffles group will be included. It isn’t even the best Raffles hotel – that is probably Dubai. Worth staying, though, because they have done a good job restoring it.

    • Leo says:

      I didn’t like Raffles at all. Looks nice from outside – agree with the comments about people trying to find the Long Bar. I’d recommend the Fullerton Bay but I stayed there before I got into points so I probably won’t be going there again lol.

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