Choice Hotels International Inc., owner of such brands as Comfort Inn and Cambria Suites, seeks to expand in Europe, where the economy has been hindered by the euro zone’s debt crisis, while many other lodging companies are growing in Asia, Chief Executive Officer Steve Joyce said.

The franchiser, based in Rockville, Maryland, sees opportunity to convert independent hotels in Europe into Choice- branded properties, Joyce said in an interview on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop” with Betty Liu. The smaller buildings may pose a challenge for other operators, he said.

“We do a lot of conversions,” Joyce said. Europe “is largely unbranded and it wants to be branded. It’s a lot of local hotels. For most major brand companies, that’s a big issue. We see this as a huge opportunity.”

Choice in January signed an agreement with Akkeron Hotels Group Ltd. that will initially result in nine Akkeron properties in the U.K. operating under Choice franchise agreements. Choice Hotels Europe franchised about 500 hotels across the continent as of January.

Editors: Christine Maurus and Jeffrey St.Onge.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nadja Brandt in Los Angeles at nbrandt@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Kara Wetzel at kwetzel@bloomberg.net.

Photo Credit: Choice Hotels CEO Steve Joyce speaks with Bloomberg's Betty Liu on the group's European expansion. Bloomberg TV