ChoiceHam’s it up 

After a few years of trauma, there’s nothing which makes the shoulders drop and the mood lift like a giant huge massive deal of huge massiveness. And we’re hoping, no matter how little evidence, no matter how much the analysts don’t want it, that Choice will consume Wyndham.

So we’re going to go ahead and assume this is going to go ahead. We will not be left bereft and disappointed the way we were with Accor/IHG during the pandemic. Hearts were broken, pontifications boxed away for another day.

Why does everyone enjoy a big deal so much? Because we hope that it marks a future change, the chance for the sector to shift and grow in some way. The Marriott/Starwood deal was the signal to everyone else in the sector that loyalty programmes were a real thing. That, when it came to competing with the OTAs, it was time to produce a platform of your own, the chance to build something where they, the guests and the owners, really will come. And, under the test of the pandemic, Marriott proved that size really did matter.

What will Choice Wyndham mean? WynCho? ChoiceHam? The pair have been looked down on by the rest of the sector since as long as we’ve been observing the merry go round. Franchise heavy, economy heavy, it’s not glamorous, it’s not operations driven, there hasn’t been a great deal to get excited about. But what do the pair do? They get the job done.

This getting the job done has been something where the higher end of the market has had its issues. And, as we have seen with the last few brand launches, the luxury focus is being augmented with a growing interest in the economy and budget end of the industry, as befits quaking economies. It has also been skewing towards extended stay, which we believe is because people increasing want to live like they live when they’re away from home and not like they’re still living with their parents.

Owners have, increasingly, been demanding franchises. And the branded hotel players have been offering them. Really, when you look at the bother than comes with managing a hotel, isn’t it just more interesting to take the fee and run? To offer yourself up as distribution only? The likes of Marriott and Hilton have been spewing out collection brands and ‘collection brand’ is just a posh way of taking the fee and running, do enjoy the distribution.

Wyndham and Choice are, therefore, well placed to turn the industry on its head and, once banded together, appear the experts in this tasty new fee-driven world. And, before other hotel companies dismiss ChoiceHam as just an economy player, it’s not so long ago that the group acquired Radisson Hotel Group Americas. Bear in mind this is the same hotel sector that thought it could easily ignore Airbnb because it was cheap too.

Where will this franchise leader go? Well, before it can guide the sector towards fees only and the potential they might have to become real consumer brands, it needs to take over the rest of the world. Choice has been getting its tentacles more deeply into Europe of late, but if it really wants to be a category killer, the only possible option is for it to buy Accor’s economy and budget business. 

And, once it has that – and we’re assuming it can draw on infinite reserves of cash – will it look to the remains of Radisson? That has its own complexities with the Chinese groups and their fingers in pies, but it would certainly be fun to watch. Will the likes of Marriott and Hilton then band together? Or will they react by vaulting back into ownership? 

At IHIF earlier this month Mews founder Richard Valtr was concerned that the sector ran the risk of becoming a cottage industry. This deal has the potential to drive us all the way to a conurbation. 

If you like pontification and don’t think there has been enough here, somehow, stay tuned for this week’s episode of NewTricks, where we are joined by sector luminary Philip Ward. 

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