10 Growth Chains

The pace of expansion among hotel brands appears to be slowing, as shown by the results of Lodging Hospitality's annual study of the fastest-growing chains in the U.S. The brands included in last year's 10 Growth Chains added a combined 61,943 rooms during 2006. By contrast, this year's group added just 41,706 rooms (about the size of the Extended Stay America chain) to their combined portfolios in 2007.

The percentages of growth for the top chains are also lower this year than last. In our 2007 study, La Quinta grew its portfolio of rooms by 33 percent over the previous year, while two other brands — Westin and Americas Best Value Inn — had year-over-year growth of more than 20 percent. This year's top growth chain, Rodeway Inn, grew by 2,178 rooms for a 15.3-percent increase.

Rodeway was an improbable candidate to be the fastest-growing brand in the U.S. lodging market. The Choice Hotels all-franchised economy brand was founded in 1962 by former executives of Ramada Inns as a competitor to Holiday Inns, Ramada and Quality Courts. Until the mid-1970s, the chain owned and operated its properties. British gaming company Ladbrokes bought the system in 1985 and sold it to Ramada two years later. By 1990, both brands were part of Choice Hotels.

Rodeway's market niche today is the value-conscious senior traveler. Standard amenities include free local and long-distance calls, free weekday newspaper and a continental breakfast program with tie-ins to Folgers coffee and Sara Lee pastries.

Like Rodeway, several other brands, including Homewood Suites by Hilton, Hyatt, Candlewood Suites, Omni and Holiday Inn Express, appear on the list of growth chains for the first time. Four chains — Hilton Garden Inn, Crowne Plaza, Westin and SpringHill Suites — were among the top growth brands both this year and last.

Missing from this year's list was the 2007 growth leader, La Quinta. In 2006, the Texas-based mid-market brand added 16,092 rooms, increasing the chain by one-third. In '07, La Quinta added 4,233 rooms, for a 6.5-percent increase.

A look back at the six-year-old history of the study shows changes and similarities among the growth chains. Several brands — notably Americas Best Value Inn and Hilton Garden Inns — have dominated the list as they've posted incredible increases in the number of rooms. ABVI has grown from fewer than 150 properties in 2001 to nearly 800 today with more than 48,000 rooms. The brand topped the growth chains list from 2003 through 2006 and is undoubtedly the fastest-growing hotel company during the period.

Lodging Hospitality editors calculate the 10 Growth Chains by comparing the yearly gains in the number of U.S. hotel rooms for the top 50 hotel chains. Each brand's numbers appear in The Brand Report in the March 1 issue and are based on numbers supplied to Lodging Hospitality by the brand companies.

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