Sebastian wrote a week ago about whether he should renew his InterContinental Ambassador-status or not (read more here).
The piece generated very informative comments for and against the “invitation” only Royal Ambassador-status (go and read the original article).
You can access IHG’s page for the Ambassador program here.
Here’s Sebastian’s piece:
Here’s a comment that Nicolas from Paris left:
I am always surprised at the way articles about the IHG Rewards program are approached in a generally biased way on loyaltylobby.com (unlike the Marriott or Hyatt loyalty programs, for example).
One of the unmentioned key benefits of Ambassador (Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club, and the corresponding Rewards Club benefits, Dedicated check-in area, Complimentary premium internet, Complimentary mineral water) are obviously:
– Guaranteed extended 4pm check-out,
– Restaurants & bars credit of up to USD20 for every stay,
– Guaranteed one category room upgrade,
– Complimentary weekend night..
Also, comparing IHG’s Paltinum programs with Marriott or Accor doesn’t make sense, since the number of nights required to achieve this status is different. It is in fact necessary to compare the level of nights or similar expenses.
In addition, being Royal Ambassador for more than 15 years, I can measure the impressive quality of service I receive during my stays at InterContinental hotels:
– many of the properties continue to upgrade to suites while only booking the cheapest rate (in addition to club access, USD 50 minibar discount a day, guaranteed early check-in/late check-out),
– during the current period of the Covid crisis, I have no difficulty in canceling free of charge at the last minute when sanitary conditions prevented me from staying at an InterContinental hotel,
– I benefit from upgrades and special attention at other IHG brands hotels,
– the Royal Ambassador renewal is free when you have stayed more than 75 nights per year at InterContinental / Kimpton / Regent and now Six Senses properties,
– Royal Ambassador status has been renewed for a full year, regardless of the number of nights booked in 2020.
Also, with the integration of Kimpton, Regent and Six Senses into the program, it will be even more interesting to be Royal Ambassador.
Finally, it is worth remembering that the InterContinental hotels have implemented a major renovation program of the properties in North America (it remains to continue this effort for some of the properties in South America and the Middle East).
And here’s Mohamed Basma response:
I ve been Royal since the creation of program till december 2019 and talking about upgrades well try to book basic room at IC park lane and see what you get???on my last year UC Barclay/Los Angeles downtown declined any upgrade and just fave 10.000 points when i have over a million sitting on my account.
Loyalty lobby is just saying the truth IHG reward have no incentive,spire is just rubbish no breakfast,no club,just 2pm check out ir 10am if available and they make you feel its charity.
Royal used to be ok when 8am check in was must and free minibar but there was no club access now with 200$ limited and 10am with only 2 categiries instead of executive room or suite AND YOU NEVER SURE IF YOU LL BE RE INVITED well competitors are far better,i am still spire ambassadir but will stay zero night for the years to come ,my free hold hilton from Amex is far better.
Here’s my take:
The Ambassador-program itself is worth the price in cash or points if you have few nights every year at InterContinental-hotels and perhaps at Kimpton, Regent, and Six Sense hotels once they have been appropriately integrated into the program.
The problem I have with the “invitation” only Royal Ambassador-status is that you may end up spending a significant amount of cash with the InterContinental hotels and not getting the invitation or renewed like what happened with my RA the other year (I believe my IC spent was around $12K).
The Royal Ambassador-benefits only apply for a tiny number of hotels (200+ InterContinental hotels). There aren’t that many Regent and Six Sense either (and the best InterContinental are being converted to Regents like the one in Hong Kong).
IHG only has 228 InterContinental, Regent, and Six Sense hotels open that are considered a luxury. There are 73 Kimptons open.
Let’s have a look at the competition:
Waldorf-Astoria (33), LXR (4), Conrad (41), Canopy (27), and Hilton (580) = 685
JW Marriott (102), Ritz-Carlton (104), Luxury Collection (119), W (58), St. Regis (45), EDITION (11), Marriott (584), Sheraton (442), Westin (225), Renaissance (176), Autograph Collection (209), Le Meridien (109), and Tribute (48) = 2,231
Raffles (17), Fairmont (81), Sofitel (119), SO (9), Pullman (143), MGallery (115), and Swissotel (35) = 519
Park Hyatt (44), Grand Hyatt (58), Alila (13), Andaz (24), Unbound (24), Thompson (11), Destination (16), Hyatt Regency (214), Hyatt (12), and Hyatt Centric (38) = 454
All of their competitors have well-defined tier levels with exact requirements with a much higher number of luxury and full-service hotels than IHG, and stays at all of their brands count towards the status requirements.
Here’s a critical piece about IHG’s loyalty program that I wrote last year:
I have fond memories of some great InterContinental upgrades:
I am glad that Nicolas is happy with his Royal Ambassador-status and continues to stay at proprieties that treat RA’s well and are up to date.
IHG has the same problem, as many of the other companies listed above, that there is sometimes significant variability within the brand. One of the reasons I lost the RA was the decision I made that I would no longer give business to InterContinental hotels that I don’t like and mistreat Royal Ambassador (Park Lane and Sydney come to my mind).
There are some InterContinental hotels that I continue to stay as an Ambassador (Sao Paulo and Singapore) and make bookings accordingly to get what I want.
I wrote a diacritic piece about IHG Rewards Club (read more here) that is now called IHG Rewards. Their program is a REWARDS one but doesn’t offer loyalty benefits than the four competitors listed above do.
Had I given Hyatt and Hilton the business that I gave to IHG in the past, I would already have lifetime Diamond and Globalist-tiers banked.