IHG Rewards Club launched last month a rare offer for getting InterContinental Royal Ambassador status (read more here) by spending $5K by the end of the year at its namesake and Regent and Kimpton hotels.
You can access IHG’s page for the Ambassador program here.
Here are the issues why I decided not to pursue this after being demoted to Ambassador at the beginning of February:
1. Fast track period
This offer had been on-going since September 26, but we didn’t become aware of it until before the end of October, shortening the qualification period by a month. There would have been 60 days to qualify, including Christmas.
2. There are InterContinental hotels that I don’t like
I have pointed out this previously that, like with any other brand and chain, there are InterContinental hotels that I don’t like and avoid staying at like London, Sydney, and Santiago due to their lack of loyalty program recognition and service.
3. Is there a point of paying for Club?
I would get club access with likely a suite upgrade with Accor, Hilton, Hyatt, or Marriott by paying the standard room rate. Does it make sense to pay $50 to $100 extra and book a room that comes with Club access at InterContinental? The answer, in my case, is no.
4. Eroding Royal Ambassador benefits
Royal Ambassador benefits used to be great, including confirmed two-category upgrade (previously a guaranteed suite), 8 AM check-in, and complimentary minibar beverages. These are all gone to a certain extent.
There aren’t that many unique benefits that Royal Ambassador members get over top tier members of other named programs above.
5. Limited number of properties
Even after Kimpton and Regent spend started to count towards Royal Ambassador status (read more here), there aren’t enough properties. Other programs don’t penalize your spend or nights with some of the brands when qualifying for their top tier membership.
6. Qualification in 2020
All things being equal, I would need to move perhaps $15K worth of spend from other programs to mostly InterContinentals, which would be difficult due to the limited footprint and properties that I don’t like.
Mostly, I would need to pay for a club and/or suites if I had completed this fast track this year and hoped to qualify for 2021. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? I would need to pay perhaps $100 extra per night to get benefits that I get with other chains.
I believe that some at IHG must believe that the InterContinental brand somehow is a step above of the top brands of their competitors, which it is not. Why would business travellers stay at their InterContinentals when competing chains give superior benefits taking into account all the stays and spend?
Don’t get me wrong; I like the InterContinental brand, most of the hotels and rich history associated with it started back with Pan Am. I am not, however, ready to spend much more to stay at them.
On the other hand, I believe that the Ambassador-program is worth paying for due to the guaranteed 4 PM check out and one category upgrade (plus 10% award night rebate) IF you plan to have more than a couple of nights at InterContinentals yearly.
So, I will continue to stay at a handful of InterContinentals that I like and which are better than other brands in the area. Just need to pay for the club to get the benefits and level of service that I appreciate.
I have moved most of my InterContinental nights to Hyatt to qualify, eventually, for lifetime Globalist. I already have the required years but lack the $200K required spend.