InterContinental has an invitation only elite status tier, which they call Royal Ambassador. The only other status available directly with InterContinental (as opposed to the IHG Rewards Club program as a whole) is Ambassador status, which can be purchased for $200 per year.
The requirements to achieve Royal Ambassador status are unpublished and seem to vary year-by-year, but generally you’re going to have to spend at least 60 nights per year at IHG properties to achieve it, with a good number of them being at InterContinental properties.
InterContinental Berchtesgaden — one of my favorite IHG properties
Royal Ambassador was the first hotel elite status I ever had, and I really loved it back in the day. The greatest thing about it was that perks weren’t based on availability, but rather guaranteed. So you were offered a guaranteed upgrade, guaranteed 8AM check-in, guaranteed 4PM check-out, unlimited in-room consumption of minibar beverages, etc. They just did an all around great job with managing expectations, I thought.
One other cool perk of Royal Ambassador — up until recently — has been that those earning Royal Ambassador status get a referral certificate, whereby they can nominate a friend or colleague to the status as well.
Going back many years that was far too generous for anyone’s good. Referred Royal Ambassador members would receive Royal Ambassador referral certificates in their welcome packages as well. So if someone nominated someone else for Royal Ambassador status, that referred member could then nominate someone else, and so on.
A couple of years back they “fixed” that and started only giving referral certificates to Royal Ambassador members that actually qualified for the status, which was a perfectly reasonable change.
According to LoyaltyLobby they’ve now taken it one step further, and as of April no longer issue Royal Ambassador referral certificates at all, even for members that earn it “the hard way.”
Ultimately they’re perfectly within their rights to do that, and they were in a league of their own by offering the benefit to begin with, given that there’s no other hotel program that offers top tier elite members the ability to nominate someone else to the same status. Unfortunately they didn’t announce the change in any way, but I guess that’s okay when the program is unpublished and invitation only, since folks aren’t really “entitled” to benefits anyway.
There are aspects of being Royal Ambassador that I miss, but on the whole I can’t say I’m tempted to put any effort into earning the status again. Over the years a lot of hotels devalued their Royal Ambassador benefits in the name of consistency, basically offering the “guaranteed” benefits vs. going above and beyond, as they previously did. Beyond that, for the most part their properties just don’t excite me. They have some newly built properties that are nice, but there are far too many properties that are past their prime, in my opinion. Lastly, I’ve always found it quite frustrating that they don’t technically honor Royal Ambassador benefits on award stays.