Choice Refines Independent Offering

Choice Hotels has fine-tuned its brand lineup with the launch of the Ascend Collection as a successor to the Clarion Collection subbrand. The company announced the program during its annual convention in May and officially launched the brand late last month.

Like its predecessor, Ascend isn't a full-blown franchise offering; rather it's an affiliation program for one-of-a-kind upscale properties looking to remain independent yet tap into Choice's considerable reservations and distribution power. Properties in the Clarion Collection traditionally commanded a significant price premium over hotels in the Clarion brand, a key reason why Choice decided to better distinguish these properties from the upscale Clarion flag.

According to the company, in 2007 the Choice reservations network delivered nearly 40 percent of the Collection's domestic rooms revenue. Company officials say transition to the new name will be complete by the end of October.

In addition to providing a range of marketing support programs for the Collection, Choice plans to launch a new services platform for Ascend. Elements include pre-opening assistance, an operation team specifically for the brand that focuses on revenue management and specialized training in response to member needs. In addition, Choice will host quarterly webinars to Ascend owners and convene a yearly meeting for the brand. Instead of a typical quality assurance regimen, Ascend properties will participate in a mystery shopper program.

The Ascend Collection will include three classes of product — historic, boutique and unique — to further accentuate the uniqueness of each property.

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