A mix, Senator, like you. I have the same status levels in the same chains as you. I tend to favour Hilton due to the upgrade facility, and use Starwood where Hilton aren’t represented. Hilton’s award nights are also a major reason – I’ve had 6 free nights this month alone and no problems with availability at all. I also use Radisson SAS/Blu quite often too as I’m a SAS EuroBonus Gold member so get upgrades etc.
I also use ‘local’ hotels quite often. The problem is that it can be a bit ‘hit and miss’ unless you have a recommendation from someone (on this Forum, for example). Sometimes I have no choice as a Client is paying directly and has made the reservation on my behalf. The risk is also a lack of ‘expected standards’ when you are a regular chain guest and are therefore used to a certain minimum standard of accommodation and service.
Prices can also be higher in ‘local’ hotels, as they don’t have the same sophisticated yield management systems that some chains have (mind you, that can also work in your favour) and you can sometimes feel you’ve paid considerable more for considerably less.
I therefore tend to form alliances with smaller national or regional chains where possible. For example, Lady Hamilton/Lord Nelson in Stockholm, Hotel du Vin in the UK – this can help keep rates down and get you some ‘frequent traveller-type’ privileges.
The chain I’ve learned to avoid is Best Western. This, as you know, is effectively an alliance of independently-owned hotels. Some are superb; some are the opposite. However, it doesn’t work in terms of standards in the same way that a ‘normal’ chain would. I still look at their website when needing to book at a location where I need a ‘local’ hotel. But I then explore the hotel’s own website and look at reviews on other Forums before making a booking.
For example, I’m going soon to Ljubljana and Maribor in Slovenia, where there are no major chains. I’m staying at a local chain in Ljubljana and a wholly independent hotel in Maribor. I checked out both hotels thoroughly (as far as you ever can be truly thorough on the internet) before booking. Even so, I am prepared to be possibly disappointed in both cases, or perhaps be really impressed. It’s the risk you take; but you also take that risk to some extent with chain hotels too!
I hope this helps, Senator. Cheers, Simon