With a network of seven brands (Quorvus Collection, Radisson Blu, Radisson, Radisson RED, Park Plaza, Park Inn, Country Inns & Suites) and around 1,400 individual properties in operation or under development, Carlson Hotels is bigger than Hyatt but smaller than Hilton or Marriott. As hotel chains go, it’s mid-pack, size-wise.
That’s still big, and the announcement this week that Carlson will be acquired by the Beijing-based HNA Tourism Group left many Carlson customers wondering and worried, particularly regarding the future of the Club Carlson loyalty program and the status of their points.
For now, and in the immediate future, nothing will change.
Both Carlson and HNA stress in their joint communiques that Carlson will remain headquartered in Minnesota, and that David P. Berg, CEO of Carlson Hospitality Group Inc., will remain as CEO of the new organization.
And on a website established specifically to promote the benefits of the merger, there’s this:
There are no immediate changes for customers or Carlson Club members. The true value of the transaction arises primarily from enhanced growth opportunities. The combined company will have increased ability to accelerate growth through investments in areas such as digital, owned assets in major gateway cities, building of Radisson RED and other new brands… Club Carlson points are still valid. It is business as usual for Club Carlson members and hotel guests from both companies. We do not anticipate any changes to Club Carlson.
That’s pretty definitive.
Longer term, of course, anything could happen. HNA might decide to refocus its sales efforts on Chinese tourists, for example, filling Carlson hotels with inbound tour groups. Local management would become irrelevant. With price and location the top priorities, loyalty programs would be seen as an unnecessary expense. Club Carlson might be allowed to whither and die.
But that’s a highly unlikely scenario. HNA is not just buying real estate; it’s acquiring a worldwide network of brands and properties, linked together by a loyalty program. Indeed, Club Carlson is listed among the assets being acquired by HNA, suggesting that its value as a marketing engine is understood and appreciated. In other words, it’s in HNA’s financial self-interest to preserve Club Carlson. In fact, it’s in the company’s best interest to expand and improve the program.
The disposition of a loyalty program when two travel supplies merge is never guaranteed. But in the history of such mergers, program members have mostly made out just fine.
They will in this case as well. Probably.
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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.
This article first appeared on SmarterTravel.com, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.