IHG sure takes an odd approach to loyalty:
- IHG Rewards Club is IHG’s primary loyalty program, but it doesn’t actually offer competitive elite benefits, and those few elite benefits it does offer aren’t valid at InterContinental hotels
- InterContinental has a separate loyalty program (the Ambassador program), which gets you benefits at InterContinental hotels
Basics of the InterContinental Ambassador program
InterContinental’s loyalty program has two tiers — Ambassador and Royal Ambassador.
Ambassador status doesn’t have stay requirements, but rather can be purchased. It costs either $200 or 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points for a 12 month membership. Once you’re a member, renewing costs $150 or 40,000 IHG Rewards Club points.
Ambassador status gets you benefits like a guaranteed upgrade, a complimentary annual weekend night reward, a welcome amenity, and more. It’s not life changing, but given the price, it can pay for itself after a few stays.
Then there’s Royal Ambassador, which is invitation only and based on spend. While they don’t publish the qualification criteria, it seems like the requirement is $10,000 of spend per year at InterContinental hotels, though that changes year to year.
Royal Ambassador status gets you benefits like complimentary minibar beverages, 8AM check-in, a two category room upgrade, and more.
Changes coming to InterContinental Ambassador
It has been announced that changes will be made to the InterContinental Ambassador program as of “early 2019,” though an exact date hasn’t yet been provided for these changes.
As InterContinental explains it, the following benefits are here to stay:
- Guaranteed one category room upgrade
- Extended 4pm check-out
- Complimentary weekend night
- Dedicated check-in area
- Welcome fruit platter for every stay (but only in China)
- Complimentary mineral water
- Complimentary Internet
Then they’ll be introducing some new perks, which include the following:
- Platinum Elite status in IHG Rewards Club (currently Ambassador comes with Gold status)
- Up to USD20 restaurants & bars credit for every stay
- Ambassador Benefits Guarantee to ensure you make the most out of every stay
- E-delivery of complimentary weekend night certificate (currently they mail you a certificate)
In addition to that, there are further benefits available for stays in China only:
- One complimentary breakfast every night you stay
- 15% discount on restaurants and bars
My take on these changes
On the surface these changes sound positive. They conveniently leave out that Ambassador members will no longer receive welcome fruit and water outside of China.
Beyond that, though, IHG Platinum status is nice, not that it’s otherwise tough to earn. Weekend certificates being delivered electronically rather than being mailed is positive.
It’s the other changes that I find most interesting, though.
The “Ambassador Benefits Guarantee” sounds positive, though one has to wonder if the “guarantee” isn’t generous enough, could hotels use this to “buy” their way out of having to offer certain benefits? We’ll have to see, as they haven’t published the details yet.
The $20 restaurant and bar credit is also interesting, and is valid once per stay. I’m curious to see what kind of restrictions this comes with when implemented.
It seems like InterContinental may not yet have revealed the full extent of these changes, given that they’re not being very specific and also haven’t stated when the new benefits kick in.
There are also rumors of InterContinental adjusting Royal Ambassador benefits, including possibly adding limits to the unlimited complimentary minibar drink benefits. I’ll be curious to see if that actually happens.
Are you an InterContinental Ambassador member, and if so, what do you make of these changes?