IHG Rewards Club is a very popular hotel loyalty program and it can indeed be quite lucrative but there are severe shortfalls as well such as having almost no universal policy what the hotels provide to their status customers.
This affects especially Ambassador members who pay an annual membership fee and where the treatment varies greatly from hotel to hotel especially in regards to welcome amenity, upgrades and lounge access.
Unfortunately it’s really the weakest link when it comes to IHG Rewards Club that the member almost never knows what he finally gets at the hotel.
You can access InterContinental’s page for their Ambassador program here.
While most other hotel loyalty programs offer the “Best Room Available” including standard suites Intercontinental offers (at least on paper) a simple one category upgrade and a double upgrade for Royal Ambassador.
Here are the advertised benefits of that program:
I don’t want to get too much into how much sense for example a complimentary in room pay per view movie makes but the term ‘Mineral Water’ is also interpreted quite generously by some hotels. It’s rather common to have IC branded plastic bottles presented as such which in my opinion isn’t living up to the promise. Mineral water for IC standard would be a Pellegrino or Aqua Panna.
John also wrote about the Ambassador benefits last year (see his article here).
As mentioned IHG just doesn’t get close to their competition when it comes to benefits which can also be confusing. OK just one category upgrade is the advertised benefit and one could say take it or leave it but that’s just not cutting it.
I have received more premium rooms and suites at times when asking for them but whats never included is club lounge or breakfast – and that kills the value of a hotel loyalty program for me. It’s always up to the property how they treat their guests (including Royal Ambassadors where treatment can vary greatly) and essentially you’re rolling up to the hotel without knowing what you end up getting and the hard entitlements per program rules are really bare bones so to speak.
Another thing is that Intercontinental Hotels usually give members a welcome gift (choice of one): voucher for a drink at the bar, a local gift, F&B Amenity or 600 points. Set aside that I had repeatedly noticed that the voucher is always good for ONE drink even if you booked for two but apparently this points policy isn’t properly aligned either.
When I stayed at the IC Hong Kong (flagship property) I wondered why they only offer 500 points instead of the 600 all other hotels I stayed at offer:
Now usually the IC Lobby bars are quite nice and it’s worth it to just use the drink voucher even if it’s for an afternoon tea/coffee but I often have commitments outside the hotel that make it difficult to use those benefits so I end up picking the rather worthless 500/600 IHG points.
In my case I get IHG Platinum status through the Chase Credit Card and just pay for the Ambassador status each year (pretty much pays for itself when putting the weekend voucher to good use where it makes sense). It would never come to my mind to qualify for IHG status the hard way and clock in actual stays for the meager benefits they offer compared to the competition.
Why is it so hard for them to get up to par and at least align all benefits chain wide so the customer has some sort of expectation management?