InterContinental Hotels & Resorts have their own Ambassador guest recognition program in addition to the IHG Rewards Club.
There haven’t been many changes to the program over the past few years, but apparently this will change sometime this year. IHG aims at “refreshing” the program.
You can access IHG’s Ambassador program website here.
A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me a link to a Google search that unearths the following PDF on IHG’s website:
Six Continents Club & Ambassador program milestones:
Ambassador benefits inconsistently delivered:
The program promises a one category upgrade to Ambassador members and a club room/suite/executive room regardless of the room type booked for Royal Ambassadors.
I recently covered “fake” upgrades at InterContinental hotels where some hotels have specific “phantom” room categories that are only used for complimentary upgrades (not available for sale).
IHG promises “clearer definition of upgrade and Club access policy”.
Royal Ambassador qualification changes:
The new RA qualification is based on revenue spent by the guest and not on the number of nights stayed. Only stays at InterContinental hotels will count towards the qualification. Other IHG brands won’t contribute at all.
They note that the ADR (Average Daily Rate) of Royal Ambassador members is actually lower than that of Ambassadors.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, however, considering that Royal Ambassador members are more likely business travelers with corporate rates. Ambassador members may also book higher category rooms due to the only one category upgrade promised by the program.
IHG Rewards Club and their Ambassador program must be very careful here. People don’t just stay with one chain and changing the qualification criteria may bring up unintended consequences of driving otherwise loyal guests to other properties.
Ambassador members that book suites or stay at more expensive locations may become Royal Ambassador members very fast but will that make the person more loyal to the InterContinental brand or the program itself? If I was dropping $500 to $1,000 a night, I would just book the best possible option regardless of the brand.
Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott, SPG and Accor all provide lounge access and/or breakfast (few exceptions) for their top-tier guests and are stay-based. Hyatt, Marriott, and SPG all offer 4PM check out and suite upgrades.
The only unique benefits of the Royal Ambassador program are the confirmed 8AM check in and complimentary minibar beverages.
It is interesting to see how IHG Rewards Club and Ambassador program are going to communicate these changes to the membership. Are they going to put a clear $$$$ spend requirement for getting Royal Ambassador status or do they just keep referring to the mysterious “top 1%” of their customers? I am sure that giving the Royal Ambassador status for the highest spenders will drive up the ADR by default that IHG seems to care about.
It is very difficult for me to personally see myself staying at InterContinental hotels if I wouldn’t get benefits associated with the Royal Ambassador status that competitors are offering for their top status members. I would just move my stays and likely stay at other IHG brands or move to Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood (and perhaps some extend to Accor especially once the Fairmont/Raffles/Swissotel hotels are integrated into the program).
Corporate travelers often have negotiated rates with number of chains. Why would they choose to stay at an InterContinental with one category upgrade when others are throwing in Club lounge access and perhaps a suite upgrade?