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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).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright 2016. STR, Inc. Publishing or reproducing this information is strictly prohibited. www.str.com +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
- 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
- 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 – Andaz, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt,
- Upper Upscale – Hyatt, Hyatt Centric, Hyatt Regency
- Upscale – Hyatt House, Hyatt Place (if it’s so upscale, why do they keep jacking me for everything!)
- 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.
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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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Here’s a much less complicated guide:
Economy: Free Bagels and “pastries” at breakfast.
Midscale: Free grand buffet breakfast, and wifi too! Oh, and why not… enjoy free cookies on us before bed.
Upscale: Buy your own damn breakfast.
Luxury: What? You’re not willing to pay $40/pp to eat at our hotel? There will be an additional surcharge for that.
That’s hilarious (and oh so accurate…) 🙂
projectx, I’m dying!!!!! That is hilarious!!!!!!! But so OnPoint!!!!!
From 1960-present the only completely honest and accurate hotel and restaurant rating system I observed was, ironically, in Franco’s Spain.
You are quite right about the potential correlation (or lack thereof) between the STR ratings and other methodologies such as AAA rating, AAA guest rating, Trip Advisor participant ratings, etc. Having done a fairly extensive market study around the Ft Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport (FLL) the differences are stark. As with so many other industries, those within the hospitality rate and grade themselves by an entirely different set of metrics, and one that is generally distasteful to those who purchase their products. The industry rates themselves on pricing and profits while the customers rate them on how much value and service they are getting for the price paid. Rarely do the two actually coincide; and, when they do, it is at the upper and lower ends. One thing that I did notice is that the typical hotel nightly rate appears to be approximately one tenth the monthly cost of a similar typical apartment in the area. This may be worth some further study.
Here’s my descriptions of the hotel categories.
Economy: Cheap run-down motels with “pastries” and bagels for breakfast.
Examples: Days Inn, Super 8, Econo Lodge
Midscale: Decent hotels with a decent breakfast selection. Some locations are good and some are bad.
Examples: La Quinta, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn
Upper Midscale: Good hotels with a good breakfast selection.
Examples: Fairfield Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express
Upscale: Good hotels but you have to buy your own damn breakfast.
Examples: Courtyard, Hilton Garden Inn, Hyatt Place
Luxury: Ain’t no way in hell i’m paying $40 for their food when you can get breakfast food WAAAAY cheaper than that at IHOP.
Examples: JW Marriott, Ritz-Carlton
I also thought that Sleep Inn would be an upper midscale chain. Same for Wingate.
Sleep Inn could be an economy chain. Wingate is more on the level of Garden Inn and Courtyard. Hyatt Place has a free breakfast.
I completely agree that STR’s rankings a a problem, when using “Stars” would make more sense: Think about it…their “midscale” should logically be the average property, based on services & amenities (not room rate). But, it is only “one jump” above economy, with 4 classes above the average. It makes no sense. Also, you could correlate their classes with Stars & half stars in a logical manner from Luxury (5 stars), Upper Upscale (4.5), Upscale (4), Upper Midscale (3.5). But, then there is a problem: You could call Midscale 3 stars, and Economy 2 stars. But, there is not comparable textual class name for 2.5. And, on top of that, both economy & midscale classes vary widely in quality. Midscale properties might actually warrant anywhere from under 2.5 to almost 3.5 stars, and economy venues can vary from under 1.5 stars to almost 2.5. And, STR completely ignores 1 star properties…hostels, and so forth. These are not necessarily “hell-holes”…they just have few amenities and shared baths & or dorm-like accommodations. They could still be fine: clean, quiet & affordable, if one just wants a place to wash up & sleep. But, obviously, most people will confuse amenity stars with guest rating stars, though there is not necessarily a relationship. I’ve seen Upscale properties rated under 2 stars, and economy properties rated over 4 stars. So, in short, STR really needs to revise the way they classify the broad range of hospitality classes available.
Super 8 is supposed to be economy, but the brands standards for them are mid-scale.This creates a problem with being able to charge enough to overcome the franchise fees, update the property, and have enough left over to keep the property from looking run down. This also sends mixed signals to the guests and they judge amenities like the free breakfast a bit more harshly expecting a free full hot breakfast.These expectations cannot be met when you have an ADR of less than $100 a night. Franchises are stuck between the customer expectations and fees charged by the parent company for the privilege of being branded.