Where are all the hotel chains in Scandinavia?

Besides the ubiquitous Radissons and regionally-centric Nordic Choice and Accor establishments, you’d be hard-pressed to find international hotel chains just about anywhere in Scandinavia, most notably in Oslo. Why? Where are all the Hiltons, Sheratons, and Marriotts of the world to be found? 

View from the Stockholm Hilton Executive Lounge

Of all the Scandinavian capitals, Stockholm boasts the greatest international hotel presence. I stayed at the Hilton Stockholm Slussen earlier this year, and had my pick from a Sheraton and Courtyard Marriott – as well as a number of Design Hotels part of the Starwood portfolio. Still, you won’t even find a Holiday Inn here (and you can find a Holiday Inn or IHG-alternative just about anywhere) – let alone a Hyatt or Four Seasons. 

Across the Baltic strait in Copenhagen, the options are even more sparse. Besides an airport Hilton, the only American mega-chain establishment is a lonely, but centrally-located Marriott a stone’s throw away from the Tivoli Gardens. 

Marriott Copenhagen, courtesy of Marriott.com

But no where is the absence of international hotel brands more noticeable than in Oslo, which commands a grand total of zero internationally-recognized brands. Admittedly, “international” in this context really means more “North American” as the city does have a couple of (literally, just two) Club Carlson properties. But I was surprised to find that even European conglomerates like Accor – with names like Sofitel, Novotel, and Ibis – haven’t set up shop here. 

It’s not for lack of trying. 

A dated press release from back in 2008 suggests that Marriott was, at some point, planning to open six new properties throughout Norway and Sweden in partnership with Scandinavian Hospitality Group. But for whatever reason, the deal appears to have fallen through for all but the aforementioned Courtyard Marriott in Stockholm’s Kungsholmen district.

Hilton briefly set up its budget business-oriented Doubletree brand in Oslo in 2010, only to quietly and prematurely terminate the partnership just two years later. The hotel has since re-branded into the independently-operated Hotel Christiania Teater. A Norwegian-language newspaper quotes Hilton’s European Director of Communications Jules Kerby declining to provide any additional details on this “confidential matter.” 

Given the opaque nature of hotel franchise relationships, we can only guess as to why it’s so hard to find a Sheraton in Nordic-landia. Flyertalk user FD1971 blames the high overhead burden of operating as a franchise, which he claims can be as high as 6 to 15% of gross expenses to pay for rewards programs, licensing fees, and the brand’s booking portal. Coupled with strong unions and a high minimum wage, it’s easy to see how hotel operators might have a hard time justifying these additional expenses with already razor-thin margins. 

Whatever the reason, travelers looking for all the loyalty perks that come with staying at Hiltons and Marriotts for inordinate amounts of their life will have to settle for a more quaint, boutique establishment in much of Scandinavia – at least for now. You might not get a little welcome card saying how special you are, but I promise it doesn’t have to be all that bad. 

The Thief, Oslo – A Design Hotel (but not one that participates in SPG), courtesy of designhotels.com

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