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Choice Hotels Offers Instant Elite Perks

Elite status is generally awarded to an airline or hotel's best customers. And "best" is measured in ways that correlate directly with the company's profitability, in flights or hotel stays.

In recent years, the bar has been lowered somewhat, especially among hotel programs, which fairly routinely offer lower-level elite status to holders of their program-affiliated credit cards. But those credit cards are revenue-generators for the hotels, so cardholders are in effect hotel customers even if they don't log a single night's stay.

What travel companies have mostly avoided is granting elite status to anyone and everyone. After all, if elite status can be had without qualifying for it, then it's meaningless.

That makes the new offer from Choice Hotels an unusual one.

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Between February 26 and May 31, members of Delta's SkyMiles program who establish new memberships in the Choice Privileges program will automatically be upgraded to Choice Privileges Elite Gold status. Normally, Gold status is earned after staying 10 nights during a calendar year.

Choice's motivation is clear. An elite member has more reason to pick a Choice hotel than a non-elite member, because of the extra elite benefits: bonus points, dedicated customer service numbers, and so on. So there's a potential sales increase to be generated by playing fast and loose with elite status.

The danger, as mentioned above, is that elite status comes to signify no special status whatsoever. In addition, appointing too many elite customers can overwhelm a company's ability to provide special services, degrading the promised benefits for all.

For now, if you plan to stay at a Choice hotel (Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban Extended Stay, Econo Lodge, Rodeway Inn, Ascend Collection) and aren't an elite member of Choice's program, this offer is certainly worth considering. It might even make the difference between staying at Choice or a competing chain.

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