In October 2022, Marriott revealed its latest expansion, whereby the world’s largest hotel group is adding its 31st hotel brand. That deal officially closed in May 2023. There’s a major update, as all eligible properties have now joined Marriott Bonvoy, with the ability to earn and redeem points, and take advantage of elite benefits. Let’s take a look at all the details.
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Marriott buys City Express for $100 million
Marriott has acquired the City Express brand portfolio from Mexico’s Hoteles City Express for $100 million. This portfolio currently consists of 152 hotels, including 17,356 rooms across 75 cities in Mexico. On top of that, there are a limited number of properties in Chile, Colombia, and Costa Rica.
With this deal having closed, Marriott is now the largest hotel company in the Caribbean and Latin America, having grown its presence in the region by 45%, to 486 properties across 37 countries.
These hotels are now all part of Marriott’s franchise system, and branded as “City Express by Marriott.” The company’s brands include City Express, City Express Plus, City Express Suites, City Express Junior, and City Centro.
Annual franchise fees are expected to be approximately $10 million based on the existing portfolio. Marriott hopes to use its global distribution power and Bonvoy program to grow the brand over the coming years.
Here’s how Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano describes this acquisition:
“This transaction with Hoteles City Express is a strategic win for Marriott and our customers, associates and owners and franchisees. We’re excited to enter a new lodging category – the popular affordable midscale segment where we see significant potential. With City Express by Marriott, we will be providing our customers with more choice through a new, approachable, moderate-priced offering, increasing opportunity for owners and franchisees as well as associates.”
City Express properties join Marriott Bonvoy
As of today (August 3, 2023), all City Express properties have fully joined the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio. Effective immediately, it’s possible to both earn and redeem points for stays at these properties.
So, what should Marriott Bonvoy members expect at City Express properties?
- Bonvoy members earn 5x points per dollar spent (most Marriott brands award 10x points per dollar spent, but some other limited service properties also award 5x points)
- Bonvoy members earn one elite night for every two nights stayed (most Marriott brands award one elite night for every one night stayed, but a couple of brands have a similar setup to City Express)
- Marriott Bonvoy has dynamic award pricing, so the pricing varies by property, date, etc.
Honestly this is roughly what I expected, though I think many of us were hoping the points and elite nights earnings rates would have been better. Unfortunately these properties don’t look like great candidates for any mattress runs.
Hotel portfolio growth is good, but…
Marriott is already the world’s largest hotel group, and I’d say Marriott growing further is good news. City Express has hotels in all kinds of smaller markets where Marriott doesn’t currently have a presence (and neither do most other global brands, for that matter), so it’s nice that Bonvoy members traveling to these destinations will have new opportunities to earn and redeem points.
So this is absolutely good news, make no mistake about it. That being said, I really hope these properties start to get a redesign as they join Marriott. The City Express properties I’ve looked at online mostly look bland and borderline ugly.
My issue isn’t that these aren’t luxury properties — after all, there are lots of cool and quirky budget hotel brands out there. I’m trying to give the brand the benefit of the doubt and find some pretty pictures of City Express properties, but I’m not having much luck. Then there’s the logo, which feels like some sort of a strange cross between CarMax and Blockbuster.
I think part of the issue is that back in the day, staying at a certain brand of hotel meant you could expect a particular standard of quality or service. With growth seemingly being the only objective nowadays, you don’t get that level of reliability anymore.
In fairness, the interiors largely look generic, clean, and modern enough, unlike the exteriors.
Marriott has acquired City Express, a Mexican hotel franchise company with over 150 properties in Latin America. We’ve now seen these properties integrated into the Marriott Bonvoy portfolio — all properties have now joined, and it’s possible to both earn and redeem points.
Growth is great in terms of opening up new markets for Marriott Bonvoy members. However, don’t expect that this acquisition will open up any new aspirational properties. Lastly, For Marriott Bonvoy members, you can expect to earn 5x points and one elite night for every two nights stayed at City Express properties.
What do you make of Marriott’s acquisition of City Express?