More Hotel Consolidation Coming: Club Carlson Looks to Sell

IHG bought Kimpton. Marriott is buying Starwood. Accor is buying Fairmont.

Now Carlson is exploring a sale of its hotel business. The Club Carlson brands including Radisson and Park Inn would wind up part of another, larger chain.

Carlson Cos Inc., which owns the Radisson and Country Inns and Suites brands, is exploring “strategic alternatives” for its hotel unit that could include a sale, according to Thursday reports.

The hospitality and travel company, according to the Wall Street Journal, has asked Morgan Stanley to help it in the process of exploring the possibility of a merger, partnership or sale of Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group.

Hyatt, which failed in attempts to buy both Kimpton and Starwood, may believe it needs to bulk up if it’s going to survive independent of a larger chain. Although it’s not clear to me that the Radisson or Country Inn brands fit well into the Hyatt portfolio.

If you think Sheraton has consistency and branding challenges, Radisson has them doubly so at least in the U.S. Although it would give Hyatt a stronger European presence.

Wyndham could be a potential suitor. I expected that with the move of a significant amount of Starwood talent there over the past couple of years (so much so that the chain is sometimes referred to a ‘Wynwood’) that they’d be a real bidder for Starwood though they apparently weren’t a finalist.

In any of these scenarios, Club Carlson — which while offering limited elite benefits, has one of the most generous programs for free nights — presumably goes away. They’ve come a long way from when the hotel chain shared a loyalty program with TGI Friday’s (though which company you signed up for Goldpoints through determined your conversion rate from points to airline miles). It would be a shame, of course, to see fewer hotel loyalty programs on the chess board.

With potential tough times for the lodging industry on the horizon, consolidation could be required to stay profitable — a path that airlines pursued during this last economic cycle. It’s precisely how much consumers disliked airline mergers, and blame them for what ails travel, that makes them attractive. It boosts hotel bargaining power relative to consumers. And it reduces competitive pressure. At the same time it helps achieve a scale that’s attractive to large corporate buyers. Meanwhile, before times get tough is also when a hotel chain’s owner may believe they’re ideally situated to sell (“get out at the top”).

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’ll go with Ramada, Best Western, or La Quinta. Wyndham and Hyatt looks like a better marriage.

  2. Melissa, Ramada is part of Wyndham.

    Gary, what about Choice? Do you think they’d be interested?

  3. It’s nice that we, as consumers, are protected more against hotel mergers. If you want to fly there are sometimes literally only 3 options domestically. But if you want to lodge (can it be an intransitive verb?) there are always local options which compete against the chains

  4. I’d had to see Club Carlson go away, but of all the possibilities for converting my status and stash of CC points, I’d like to see Best Western as a possibility. BW has never been an easy program to earn points in, and they have a surprising number of useful properties in Europe.

  5. Thanks for this article Gary – many of us depend on your research and updates to get our hobby news. If you did not publish, I would never heard about this. This is especially important to me because we are sitting on 1/2 million Club Carlson points.

    Keep up the good work and thanks again!

  6. BW corporate structure does not allow for the possibility of mergers / acquisitions… All BW hotels are independently owned and operated.

  7. dont be too harsh to junior Ted. it’s ok to report same news again, but with Gary’s experience in the industry, his perspective can be different from others. that’s what I wanted to see.
    If Ted is a blogger it will be merely stealing material.

  8. Ted: nobody said that all the content on this site has to be original. What makes this blog interesting is Gary’s expert point of view.

  9. I think @Ted has low standards for submitting comments, because there’s really not much in the way of explanation behind the argument here. I welcome challenges and criticism, but let’s try to back up arguments with warrants for our claims. Thanks, all 😉

  10. Are we having a bad day, Ted?

    Aggregating material is by no ways “stealing” it. Its what sustains some sites – e.g. real clear politics – do almost entirely. Moreover, aggregating information with enhanced analysis is another thing altogether.

    I do not see the petulant outrage.

  11. I have really enjoyed my CC card. I was a newb when that deal was new. I have eaten some great breakfasts in their European hotels. A great savings for a family! I have limited experience with them stateside, but Country Inn and Suites PDX was great. I need free breakfast and a clean room. Hyatts are so sparse for my needs since I’m not really city based so I’m a rare fan of the Marriott card. So.. I’m rooting for more Hyatts.

  12. I would bet on a non-US chain picking up Carlsson’s hotels, maybe Accor. There aren’t many opportunities left to get or expand a foothold in the US market. I’m not too sure the overlap in Europe matters too much.

    A more outside bet may be an Asian chain, Indian or Chinese, although the timing on the latter could hardly be worse.

  13. Carlson is a $35B company. They should be the buyer! Suggest IHG or Hyatt which are both capitalized at less than $10B.

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