Skip to content

This under-the-radar hotel chain is one to watch in 2021

Dec. 31, 2020
4 min read
Sonesta Maho Beach Resort
This under-the-radar hotel chain is one to watch in 2021
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

This year has changed much about what we'd come to hold true about the travel industry over the last several years.

Airlines have shrunk dramatically and added point-to-point flights to meet flyers where they want to go: primarily warm-weather beach destinations and mountain destinations in the west where space isn't hard to come by.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Hotel chains have been forced to rethink the guest experience. And, many closed temporarily for many months while others will never reopen.

Across the board, though, travel companies have faced a cash crunch as they've never experienced before, and that's had some interesting consequences -- some with particular relevance to the points-and-miles world.

One direct result of the coronavirus pandemic is that one former lightweight hotel chain (at least in the U.S.), Sonesta International Hotels Group, now deserves your attention. But why should you care about this relatively unknown hotel chain?

Because the Boston-based hotel company announced Dec. 30 it is acquiring RLH Corp., the parent company of Red Lion Hotels and Americas Best Value Inn budget chains in a deal valued at $90 million. Sonesta gets nearly 1,000 hotels across North America, which would make it one of the largest hotel companies in the U.S. with approximately 1,200 properties.

A Red Lion Hotel in Houston. (Photo by Brett Hondow/Shutterstock)

Sonesta began 2020 managing 58 hotels under three brands in the U.S: Sonesta, Sonesta ES Suites and Sonesta Simply Suites. Upon the completion of hotel conversions previously announced and the acquisition of RLH, Sonesta will become one of the largest hotel companies in the U.S., with approximately 1,200 hotels under 13 brands in multiple market segments. When this deal is completed, RLH will move ahead of Hyatt, which currently has more than 950 hotels in its portfolio.

Some chains have fallen behind on certain revenue payments to hotel owners due to the coronavirus pandemic, and at least one ownership group has taken drastic action by transitioning over 100 formerly IHG-branded properties and planning to do the same with almost 100 Marriott-branded hotels to the Sonesta family.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Service Properties Trust (SVC), which owns hundreds of hotels across North America, reflagged the 103 former IHG properties as Sonesta hotels in November 2020, and is poised to reflag 98 Marriott-branded properties at the end of January 2021, as reported by hotelmanagement.net.

SVC owns a total of 122 Marriott-branded properties, and it plans to sell 24 of those, leaving 98 hotels, which are distributed among the Marriott, SpringHill Suites, TownePlace Suites, Residence Inn and Courtyard brands.

According to hotelmanagement.net, the new Sonesta properties will fall under its Royal Sonesta, Sonesta, Sonesta Select and Sonesta ES Suites brands.

By the end of the first fiscal quarter of 2021, Sonesta expects to have more than 1,200 hotels across the United States, thanks in no small part to its taking over of the former IHG properties, the forthcoming transition of the 98 Marriott hotels and the RLH acquisition of Red Lion Hotels and Americas Best Value Inn.

With Sonesta growing its footprint significantly in the U.S., it's going to be hard to ignore this often-overlooked chain. With its takeover of dozens of former RLH, IHG and Marriott properties, Sonesta will not only have a presence in the ubiquitous select-service market but also the higher-end space, thanks to its takeover of several formerly Kimpton and InterContinental hotels.

And despite being a relatively small player in the hotel industry, Sonesta has a loyalty program called Travel Pass, complete with elite-status tiers and the ability to earn and redeem points for stays.

With Sonesta expanding big time in North America -- and the U.S. specifically -- chances are you'll soon find yourself booking a night at one of its newly acquired properties across the country, whether you're staying for a night off the interstate or a multi-night stay at a luxurious city-center hotel.

Additional reporting by Benét J. Wilson

Featured image by Sonesta Maho Beach Resort (Photo courtesy of the hotel)

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees