Marriott Adds A 31st Brand, And It Looks “Hideous”

Marriott has acquired the ‘City Express’ hotel brand an “affordable mid-scale” chain with 152 hotels across 75 cities in Mexico.

Best Western, Quality Inn, and Ramada are often considered midscale. But these hotels aren’t just midscale, they are affordable midscale, according to Marriott. One reader writes that the global chain’s 31st brand is “like an urban Fairfield Inn” for small cities in Latin America. One Mile at a Time says,

The City Express properties I’ve looked at online mostly look bland and borderline hideous…Then there’s the logo, which feels like some sort of a strange cross between CarMax and Blockbuster.

Credit: City Express

This deal makes Marriott the largest hotel chain in the broader Caribbean and Latin America region, and should generate $10 million in franchise fees annually. The hotels are cheap, and Marriott’s CEO says they want to do more cheap (“we see significant potential” in this category).

I’ve always wondered about the ‘Express’ nomenclature for limited service, whether for airlines (“United Express”) or hotels (“Holiday Inn Express”). Do you sleep faster at a City Express? Or do you just want to get out of whatever city you’re in faster, if you have to stay in one?

Marriott isn’t converting these to Courtyards, or Moxy hotels. They’re adding a 31st brand on top of the thirty that have little clear differentiation and even less unique identity with customers as it is. When Marriott acquired Starwood, then-CEO Arne Sorenson explained that they don’t need to consolidate brands and they don’t need to invest in marketing unique brand identities because they have their loyalty program and website.

Customers come to them, search for hotels, and book what’s displayed. That’s why owners often refer to Bonvoy members as “leads.” And this is also why Marriott is able to expand its fee-generating footprint, the more brands they have the more hotels they can have even in overlapping areas. It’s all about the fees.

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