Choice Hotels International is the second largest hotel chain worldwide by number of hotels with 6,429 hotels in 10 brands as of June 30, 2016. Choice Privileges is one of the most valuable hotel loyalty programs for my travels, mostly for redeeming points at international hotels. Like Wyndham and Club Carlson, Choice Privileges is a hotel loyalty program offering far higher potential value when using points for hotel stays outside the USA. Choice has 1,156 hotels outside the USA, about 18% of all hotels, and this hotel chain can be extremely useful for finding hotel discounts on international travel.
While most points & miles bloggers likely consider Choice Hotels to be on par with Wyndham Rewards for economy and low market segment hotels, the chain’s USA footprint at 5,273 hotels on June 30, 2016 is rooted firmly in the midscale to upper midscale hotel market segments. There are 1,870 Comfort Inn & Suites and Clarion Hotels in the USA categorized as Upper Midscale hotel brands by STR. This makes 35.5% of Choice Hotels in the USA positioned in Upper Midscale hotels. Quality Inn, Sleep Inn and Mainstay Suites are categorized as Midscale with 1,829 hotels or 34.7% of Choice Hotels in the USA. Only 1,433 hotels in Rodeway Inn, EconoLodge and Suburban Extended Stay brands are classified as economy segment hotel brands, comprising 27.2% of the total USA hotels in Choice Hotels International.
The weakest position for Choice Hotels is the absence of high end hotels. 97.4% of USA hotels in Choice Hotels are in the Upper Midscale to Economy brands, leaving only 2.6% of Choice Hotels in the upscale market. Ascend Collection (116 hotels) and Cambria Suites with 25 hotels are the two upscale brands in Choice, along with some Clarion Collection hotels. Wyndham Hotels & Resorts is competitive to Choice Hotels in the upper upscale market, however, Choice Privileges hotel partnerships with Preferred Hotels & Resorts (500+ hotels) and BlueGreen Vacations for reward night redemptions is a unique opportunity for free and discount rates at high-end hotels.
High Value of Choice Privileges for international travel at 1,700 hotels
The aspect to know about Choice Hotels International are the presence of more international locations for higher market segment hotels than in the USA.
I discovered the high value of Choice Privileges for international travel after 15 years focusing on maintaining high level elite status annually with major hotel loyalty programs like Hilton HHonors, Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest. The prevalence of deep discount airline fares between California and Scandinavian cities made me aware that Choice Privileges points are the most useful hotel points currency when spending time in Norway and Sweden. There are only a handful of hotels in Scandinavia belonging to Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Marriott or Starwood. Frequent travel to Scandinavia over the past three years was incentive to concentrate my earning on Choice Privileges points. Club Carlson is useful in Scandinavia, but Choice Privileges points offer far higher redemption value and many more hotels in the region than Club Carlson.
Nordic Choice Hotels with 188 hotels is a separately run hotel chain from the 6,000+ hotels franchised with Choice Hotels International. My first two week vacation in Norway in September 2014 allowed me to redeem about $800 in purchased Choice Privileges points for about $5,000 USD in hotel room rates with 13 nights in Norway at the time the country was the most expensive travel destination on the planet. The collapse of oil prices devalued the Norwegian Kroner currency significantly relative to the US Dollar in the past two years. Hotels that were $400 to $500 per night in 2014 are $250 to $300 per night in 2016. Many hotels in Norway and Sweden that are currently priced at $200 to $300 per night are available for 10,000 to 20,000 Choice Privileges points.
Besides 188 hotels in Scandinavia, Choice Hotels International has a presence in other European countries with about 100 hotels in France, 30 hotels in Germany, 13 hotels in Italy, about 30 hotels in UK/Ireland and a large presence in Australia/New Zealand with around 270 hotels. These 600+ hotels in Europe and Australia/New Zealand create a significant opportunity for using Choice Privileges points in cities and towns where there are no other chain hotels for free nights with loyalty points.
Recent reports on FlyerTalk – Has there been a secret devaluation? mentions many hotels around the USA have risen in reward night cost to 20,000 and 30,000 points and reduced the redemption value for Choice Privileges points. That is a phenomenon I was unaware of based on my travels in 2016 with 18 international reward nights, mostly at 6,000 to 12,000 points per night. I generally get $10 to $15 per 1,000 points redemption value from Choice Privileges points. This is a great deal since Choice Privileges points can be routinely purchased for $7.50 per 1,000 points.
Generally, I buy as many points as I can during the annual U.S. Travel Association Daily Getaways when points are sold for around $4.00 to $4.50 per 1,000 points. Many of the hotels I have redeemed Choice Privileges points for in Norway and Sweden offered a redemption rate of more than $20 per 1,000 points like my last reward night stay at Clarion Hotel Energy, Stavanger, Norway in July, where I booked a junior suite for 6,000 points + $45USD when the published rate for this room type was $327 USD. That is a redemption rate of $47 per 1,000 Choice Privileges points and a prime example of why Choice Privileges is one of the most useful hotel loyalty programs for my travels these past few years.
Choice Privileges recurring promotion for 8,000 points after two stays makes this an easy program to earn points.
Related Loyalty Traveler articles in the hotel chain profile series
Marriott and Starwood 2016 Room Rates and Hotel Brand Size (Oct 11, 2016).
Hilton Worldwide Brand Size and Average Room Rates in 2016 (Oct 12, 2016).
IHG Takes Bronze IHG 2016 Hotel Count and brand room rates (Oct 13, 2016.)
Am I the only person donating all my Starpoints to charity for Wyndham Rewards bonus points today? (My detailed analysis of the value of Wyndham Rewards points for me might be helpful to readers, even though this promotion was canceled before it launched on Tuesday, Oct 11).