This week the Compensation Clinic visited the Intercontinental Seoul COEX, where I recently had a rather disappointing two-night stay and, unfortunately, the property has neglected necessary renovations for many years as well.
While not my primary and preferred hotel chain, I’ve grown to like Intercontinental Hotels ever since IHG made improvements to their Rewards and Ambassador program and as such I chose to stay two nights at the Intercontinental Seoul Coex as I had a last-minute appointment come up in December.
Usually, I like to stay at the Intercontinental Seoul Grand Parnas which is an excellent hotel and in fact, it’s the same owner but that was already sold out for my stay at the time of booking so I thought, how bad can it be to just select the COEX property instead and oh boy was I surprised.
While the IC Grand is newly renovated and always had at least a veneer of elegance (even pre-reno), the Coex is really barely scraping by of being able to call itself an Intercontinental. There haven’t been any substantial renovation works for years, likely well over a decade, and it shows!
The arrival experience was already a mess as the escalators on arrival day were broken and under maintenance when I reached the hotel with baggage in hand.
Nobody had read the reservation notes either, in which I asked them to set up an air purifier in the room. This was done after check-in, and it took quite some time for the room to smell fresh.
The room interior (bathroom/guest room) was extremely old to the point where you think you were back in the 1990s.
The (forest green) carpet in the room contained so much dust that despite TWO air purifiers, my eyes were swollen the next morning. Even in other hotel- and bedrooms with carpets, this usually doesn’t happen to me.
Their breakfast lineup was a complete disaster as well, the restaurant has no capacity to accommodate all hotel guests, and it’s clear the hotel oversells packages that include breakfast. The problem was compounded by the Christmas holiday period, as many families are staying at hotels in Seoul and obviously want to enjoy a leisurely breakfast during their holiday.
It didn’t help that it was freezing in the lobby, as you can see from some of the people wearing thick winter jackets. I don’t know how the poor employees can stand that temperature all day long.
What’s also apparent is that the Hotel seems to suffer from staff shortage as at least one of the two Ambassador check-in counters is never staffed.
The difference between the IC Grand Parnas and the IC Coex was like night and day. They should have used the long period during Covid to renovate the hotel, but no, absolutely nothing was done.
The friendly staff is really the only positive point here that would compel me to stay at this hotel again. Their hardware is horrendous. The problem is that frontline employees have very little authority to really improve things as far as the property is concerned and upper management is clearly cutting corners, turning a blind eye.
On the third night in Seoul, I decided to stay next door at the Park Hyatt instead, which is also rather old now but still solid and comfortable.
I decided to open a case about this particular stay “experience” with the Ambassador service since I really believe things are going in the wrong direction here.
They got back to me on the same day after just a few hours:
Hello Mr. Sebastian,
I hope this email finds you well. It’s a pleasure to have our Diamond Elite Ambassador member today. My name is Joyce and thank you for contacting the IHG Ambassador Service Team.
We appreciate you for sharing your experience from your stay at our Intercontinental Hotel Seoul COEX last December 23, 2022. And I’m sorry to learn that our hotel was not able to exceed nor satisfy your expectations, it was not a pleasurable stay for you and I understand the disappointment.
Rest assured that I have shared your comments with our hotel management to fix the issues you have enumerated and to improve our service to you in the future. To make up for this, please accept 15,000 points which shall be posted in your account within the next 7-10 business days.
I hope this stay does not deter you from choosing IHG Hotels and Resorts. Should you have other concerns, don’t hesitate to email us here at email@example.com.
Thank you for your loyalty!
I really appreciate that it’s possible to get things sorted with the Ambassador team via email and that the turnaround time is usually just a few hours to a day. In contrast, my rather useless Hyatt Concierge doesn’t respond for several days, Marriott takes weeks, and then some nonsensical reply is the result of it all.
The IHG Ambassador Desk and Hilton Diamond Desk are really the two best-responding guest relations liaisons, and that alone is worth the price of the Ambassador membership to me.
This particular stay at the Intercontinental COEX in Seoul really wasn’t nice at all. There were way too many things that could have been improved if only management would pay proper attention. At the same time, I really think that hotels have to renovate every 10-12 years, and this hasn’t been done for a long, long time at this property. I don’t know how they think such a poor guest room and bathroom standard is acceptable for the Intercontinental brand or any brand for that matter.
The Ambassador Team promised me 15,000 IHG points which is fine, I guess but not spectacular given the price for even one night is 35-40,000 points.
Will this help to push management to finally improve things? I would hope so, but I won’t hold my breath that it’ll happen. To get these things done, the owners have to do the owners same as they did with the IC Grand Parnas: Close the entire hotel for 8-10 months and overhaul the hotel entirely. Ironically, that hotel closed on 1.1.2020 and renovated throughout 2020 while Covid was devastating the travel industry anyway with extremely low occupancy. It would have been great if they then immediately started on the IC COEX to do the same and be done with it by the end of 2021 or mid-2022 when Korea opened up again, but this opportunity was missed.