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I was doing a bit of research on hotel classification the other day.  It started out of my post about my complaining letter to Holiday Inn Express (their response).  Some people suggested that there was a certain level of service that I should not expect at a more “budget” hotel like a Holiday Inn Express.

This was further exacerbated with some of the comments where I asked “Should you dress up while flying first class” (ANGRY COMMENTS!), where some people likened flying first class to staying at a fancy hotel as far as dress code goes.

So I thought I’d see if there is any specific list of hotel classifications.  Turns out there is.  I reached out to Gary from View from the Wing and Ric from Loyalty Traveler, and they both pointed me in the same direction – the STR Chain scale list

Smith Travel Research (STR) hotel classification list

Smith Travel Research has a “chain scale” where they break down hotel brands into several different tiers, based on their Average Daily Rate (ADR).

  • Economy
  • Midscale
  • Upper Midscale
  • Upscale
  • Upper Upscale
  • Luxury

Specifically, they state

Brands/Chains are slotted by Chain Scale based on the previous year’s annual system wide (global) Average Daily Rate. Rate ranges defining each Chain Scale are determined by STR. The STR Chain Scales – North America and Caribbean is a subsetof the larger Global Chain Scale list. Brand Chain Scale pairings are consistent with each list. Brands listed above are located in U.S., Mexico, Caribbean and Canada. If you have any questions about the Chain Scales, please email Copyright 2016. STR, Inc. Publishing or reproducing this information is strictly prohibited. +1 (615) 824 8664. Last updated May 2016.

You can find the lists at Smith’s website here

Comparing brands and chains

So, looking at some of the more common chain hotels off of the North America list, here’s what STR has

Best Western: 

  • Upscale – Best Western Premier
  • Upper Midscale – Best Western Plus
  • Midscale – Best Western


  • Upscale – Ascend, Cambria Suites
  • Upper Midscale – Clarion, Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites
  • Midscale – Mainstay Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn
  • Economy – Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Suburban Extended Stay

Club Carlson: 

  • Upper Upscale -Radisson Blu (don’t ask me though)
  • Upscale – Radisson
  • Upper Midscale – Park Inn, Country Inn and Suites


  • Luxury – Conrad, Waldorf Astoria
  • Upper Upscale – Curio, Hilton, Embassy Suites
  • Upscale – Doubletree, Homewood Suites
  • Upper Midscale – Hampton Inn



  • Luxury – Intercontinental
  • Upper Upscale – Kimpton,
  • Upscale – Staybridge Suites, Hotel Indigo, EVEN, Crowne Plaza
  • Upper Midscale – Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express
  • Midscale – Candlewood Suites


  • Luxury – Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott
  • Upper Upscale – Marriott, Delta
  • Upscale – AC Hotels, Springhill Suites, Residence Inn, Courtyard by Marriott
  • Upper Midscale – Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites


  • Luxury – W Hotel, Luxury Collection, St. Regis,
  • Upper Upscale – Le Meridien, Sheraton, Westin, Tribute Portfolio
  • Upscale – Aloft, Four Points, element


  • Upper Upscale – Wyndham, Dolce
  • Upper Midscale – Wyndham Garden, Tryp by Wyndham
  • Midscale – Wingate by Wyndham, Hawthorn Suites, Ramada, Baymont Inn and Suites
  • Economy – Microtel, Days Inn, Super 8, Howard Johnson, Travelodge, Knights Inn

For a couple of non-chain hotel brands, La Quinta is listed as Midscale while Drury Inn and Suites is listed as Upper Midscale.

You can check out and compare our top hotel credit card offers here

Again, these are based on the average daily rates for these brands and obviously individual hotels will vary.  Note too that while there is likely a correlation, this is different than hotel AWARD categories, and it may be an interesting exercise to cross reference this list to the list of hotel award categories to see if there is any outsized value to be found!

What was the most surprising classification for you?


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