Sneaky: How InterContinentals Could Avoid Club Access For Elites

Sneaky: How InterContinentals Could Avoid Club Access For Elites

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With the recent changes to IHG’s loyalty program, a lot more guests have access to club lounges. Could we see hotel get creative in order to avoid this, though? The actions of one hotel suggest so…

The challenges with IHG’s new elite perks

The IHG One Rewards program was recently revamped, and elite perks are much stronger than before. In addition to the general perks of IHG One Rewards Platinum and IHG One Rewards Diamond, we’ve also seen the introduction of IHG One Rewards Milestone Rewards, which offers benefits like club lounge access, confirmed suite upgrades, and more.

These changes are of course fantastic news for frequent guests, as they’ll be rewarded much more generously than before. However, this also presents a challenge for hotels when it comes to delivering on these promises.

Take club lounge access, for example. Any IHG One Rewards member that earns 40 elite nights in a year can choose to receive club lounge access for all their stays. As a point of comparison, previously only InterContinental Royal Ambassador members received lounge access, and that was an exclusive, invitation-only elite status.

I think it’s safe to say that the number of guests potentially eligible for lounge access at InterContinentals is increasing significantly with the new program. This becomes a challenge for hotels on several levels:

  • Hotels design club lounges based on forecasted occupancy, and many InterContinental club lounges simply don’t have the capacity to handle the influx of guests we’re going to see
  • There’s no denying that when club lounges go from being profit centers to cost centers, the experience gets much worse; just compare Ritz-Carlton club lounges (which elite members don’t get access to) to just about any other club lounges that you can get access to based on elite status

So how do hotels strike the right balance? I’m not sure there’s a perfect answer, but one hotel’s actions perhaps present a roadmap of what we could see at other hotels as well…

Club InterContinental at the InterContinental Paris Le Grand

InterContinental renames club lounge to avoid elite access

A FlyerTalk thread covers discussions happening in a frequent traveler forum in China, about what’s going on at the InterContinental Changsha. The hotel used to have a standard club lounge. However, with the introduction of the new IHG One Rewards program, the hotel has made some changes:

  • The Club InterContinental has been replaced by “Jade on 27,” which is basically the same thing with a different name; it’s described as an “all inclusive food and beverage venue”
  • Jade on 27 is only accessible by guests paying specifically for a room including access to this
  • Meanwhile Club InterContinental guests are being directed to a special area of the lobby lounge, allegedly only offering light snacks and soft drinks, so that’s a significantly scaled back offering
  • It’s claimed that IHG customer support has made it clear that this is within the terms & conditions, since access to some sort of lounge is still being offered to eligible guests

On the one hand, this is ridiculous and not within the spirit of IHG’s loyalty program. On the other hand, if the club lounge was actually getting busy to the point that it was overcrowded and taking away from the regular experience, what’s the hotel to do? Not only does this increase the costs of operating the lounge, but it also potentially decreases revenue, as paying lounge guests may no longer do so if it’s not a relaxing space.

This seems to be the only hotel where this has been done so far, though I wouldn’t be surprised to see this spread.

Jade on 27, NOT Club InterContinental

Bottom line

IHG has significantly improved elite perks, including a new easy path to accessing club lounges. This is great for guests, but presents a challenge for hotels, as they’re going to see an influx of guests eligible for access.

It looks like at least one hotel is dealing with this issue by renaming its club lounge, and only offering access to paying guests. Meanwhile other guests can get a much more limited food & drink selection in the lobby lounge.

I’m curious to see if this practice spreads, and how IHG hotels do in general with executing on IHG’s great new elite perks.

Do you think we’ll see more InterContinental properties take a similar approach?

Conversations (25)
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  1. GLCTraveler Member

    This is CRAP..... A very weasley way to run an elite program. I've been top elite for over 10 years is several programs and if I experience this, there will be hell to pay..... Soft drinks and light snacks are not in the spirit of the conditions!!

  2. Frederik Guest

    I wonder if the Intercontinental Frankfurt will ever reopen? It does not look anywhere near being ready for 2023/24. And with the Düsseldorf Interncontinental also closing during the pandemic and no new hotels planned in the region, it makes me wonder if the brand is exiting Germany.

  3. Henry Guest

    Glad to see this happen.
    The lounges are already yet often overcrowded.

  4. iamhere Guest

    Elite members that are entitled to lounge access also paid for it due to accumulating a certain number of nights in order to get that access. There are other one off examples with other brands, not just the one in China that you mentioned.

    The problem is the IHG plan is to do it across the board. The bigger problem is the differences of the lounges and lack of consistency across individual hotels varies...

    Elite members that are entitled to lounge access also paid for it due to accumulating a certain number of nights in order to get that access. There are other one off examples with other brands, not just the one in China that you mentioned.

    The problem is the IHG plan is to do it across the board. The bigger problem is the differences of the lounges and lack of consistency across individual hotels varies a lot now. For some specific hotels paying for the extra may be of good value and worth the price and not at others. Even in the current system we have seen this, so I think some may consider the upgrade if they see/experience at that hotel first.

    I assume that this will come with MANY complaints and I wonder if it is an effective use of space for the hotel.

    1. Jesper Guest

      It is a problem that IHG did not exclude Intercontinental from this benefit, and rather did it across the board. Marriott always excluded Ritz-Carlton from elite level lounge benefits.

      Hopefully they will realise the issue and fix it, though people will probably scream about the devaluation.

  5. AC Guest

    This sounds reasonable given the fact, as Lucky stated, the Intercontinental lounges were designed to be smaller and more exclusive. Not fair to offer access to anyone with a certain status for these type of lounges. Also remember IHG doesn't own these hotels and the property owners are likely pretty ticked about this change.

    My guess is IHG will quickly amend the program, as they certainly can do, and exclude Intercontinental from the benefit....

    This sounds reasonable given the fact, as Lucky stated, the Intercontinental lounges were designed to be smaller and more exclusive. Not fair to offer access to anyone with a certain status for these type of lounges. Also remember IHG doesn't own these hotels and the property owners are likely pretty ticked about this change.

    My guess is IHG will quickly amend the program, as they certainly can do, and exclude Intercontinental from the benefit. Frankly Intercontinental doesn't fit with the overall mix of IHG anyway.

    1. SK Guest

      So they should “quickly” sell Intercontinental brand altogether to “fix” the misfit, right? Give them a week at most? ;)

  6. Mantis Guest

    It's interesting how some of these hoteliers pay to join hotel chains with loyalty programs, then act like it's a big burden to them. Guess what? Without that chain half your guests wouldn't be staying there, and the other half would be booking through OTAs that you would be paying 25% or whatever commission for the privelege. Not a shock that this happens with IHG though, these hotels are used to not having to do...

    It's interesting how some of these hoteliers pay to join hotel chains with loyalty programs, then act like it's a big burden to them. Guess what? Without that chain half your guests wouldn't be staying there, and the other half would be booking through OTAs that you would be paying 25% or whatever commission for the privelege. Not a shock that this happens with IHG though, these hotels are used to not having to do anything for elites. I'll stick with Hyatt and Hilton as my backup, thanks.

    1. Jacob Guest

      I've been to many Hilton club lounges because of my AMEX Diamond status, also to a Conrad lounge too. While I love this access that I get without paying, their lounges are not as good as Intercontinental Lounges where you have to pay to get in (at least for now).

  7. Jacob Guest

    As someone who sometimes pays for a room with club access I totally support what these hotels are doing. The club should only be accessible to those willing to pay for it or else it will degrade the quality of the club if non-paying customers can access it.
    These clubs are not large to begin with, and just having an extra 6 to 8 people there will totally change the experience and cost of...

    As someone who sometimes pays for a room with club access I totally support what these hotels are doing. The club should only be accessible to those willing to pay for it or else it will degrade the quality of the club if non-paying customers can access it.
    These clubs are not large to begin with, and just having an extra 6 to 8 people there will totally change the experience and cost of running the lounge (which would impact the quality of the food etc). I just came back from staying at an IC in Asia where for breakfast they served Wagyu Steak and Eggs and Lobster Benedict - if non paying guests get access to this I doubt they would keep serving it.

  8. hp12c Member

    Isn't this the same as the Conrad Washington DC and their Sakura Club?

    1. digital_notmad Member

      In fairness, Sakura Club provides full sit down dining and complimentary drinks for dinner; I'm okay with an upcharge for that (it's replacing a nice dinner that I otherwise would have paid for). The difference here, IMHO, is that there's nothing really materially different on offer above and beyond standard club amenities, but there's still an upcharge anyway.

    2. Beachfan Guest

      No benefits in award stays means I don’t care that much about IHG status beyond what I get from the credit card . That’s when I most want the recognition, not when I’m on business and don’t have the time.

    3. Mark P Member

      Yep, almost the same thing, except the Sakura Club was not a former executive/cub lounge. There is no separate executive lounge for elites. Sakura club is a paid upgrade only. Last time I was in there George Takei came in!

  9. DenB Diamond

    Is there actually a problem? If hoteliers deliver less than others, then OMAAT readers can check in here, learn who's been naughty, and choose their loyalty accordingly. I'd like to see an online searchable dataset, reporting elite benefit delivery experiences by other elite travellers. Ben's reviews, while credible, won't cover the thousands of properties we want to know about. Tripadvisor, sadly, isn't targeted to elites. Maybe most of these rogues will get away with hit....

    Is there actually a problem? If hoteliers deliver less than others, then OMAAT readers can check in here, learn who's been naughty, and choose their loyalty accordingly. I'd like to see an online searchable dataset, reporting elite benefit delivery experiences by other elite travellers. Ben's reviews, while credible, won't cover the thousands of properties we want to know about. Tripadvisor, sadly, isn't targeted to elites. Maybe most of these rogues will get away with hit. Yuck.

    1. Eskimo Guest

      @DenB

      And everybody would be a Hyatt Globalist and no one is a Bonvoy Titanium.
      Sadly, a dataset wouldn't help as like everything about this industry, YMMV.
      What would help is each property being upfront and transparent about the benefits.
      I actually did like what several Bonvoy properties did during Covid, with the "what to expect" page. Even it is at best still vague, at least something like that shows the most...

      @DenB

      And everybody would be a Hyatt Globalist and no one is a Bonvoy Titanium.
      Sadly, a dataset wouldn't help as like everything about this industry, YMMV.
      What would help is each property being upfront and transparent about the benefits.
      I actually did like what several Bonvoy properties did during Covid, with the "what to expect" page. Even it is at best still vague, at least something like that shows the most you can be expecting (and yet still YMMV). No lounge, no gym, no pool, no restaurant, at least I'm being told.

  10. Bgriff Guest

    I mean, this sounds exactly like what the Sheraton Hong Kong has done for years (decades?), with a top floor lounge (with great views and -- at least pre-COVID -- pretty good food and drink) accessible only to those paying for upgraded "Towers" rooms, and a separate, much less impressive lounge somewhere in the bowels of the building for elites.

    1. LEo Diamond

      The Sheraton Hong Kong elite lounge generally shares the same food as HH, the only scale back is the lack of premium alcohol and the lack of executive view, and also the view if there is any on the top floor.

  11. Eve Guest

    I would not be excited for any of the loyalty programs if this becomes a norm. One of the key reason I put myself to stay at Marriott or Accor to 100+ nights and 60 nights respectively is for the chance to get access to the lounge, as I value that very significantly over other aspects of the status. I mean for example late check out is rudimentary, I get that anyways by even asking...

    I would not be excited for any of the loyalty programs if this becomes a norm. One of the key reason I put myself to stay at Marriott or Accor to 100+ nights and 60 nights respectively is for the chance to get access to the lounge, as I value that very significantly over other aspects of the status. I mean for example late check out is rudimentary, I get that anyways by even asking politely to the manager.

    I have been already taken on a ride by Marriott Ambassador Elite with the removal of the personal ambassador assistance, and the introduction of dynamic points system which has significantly increased the prices of almost all the properties to the peak season rates and beyond.

    Again as I pointed out in an earlier post in the comments, my experience with various Marriott club lounges shows that most of the time it is people with “club room” rates that are using the lounges during happy hours. Loyalty members make up a lesser amount. If anything, the opposite should be the norm where the loyalty members get access to the proper lounge service and the club pass guest be given the cut down service

    It will be the last straw for me if lounge access becomes a cut down service of its current form.

  12. Reno Joe Guest

    Ben, then there's the trick of a restaurant not being open for breakfast so an elite benefit breakfast can't even be provided. Over and over again, property owners invent new ways to deny elite benefits. And, after all of the stories, people still patronize these places.

    1. Eve Guest

      Faced this issue in a couple of Marriott properties lately. It’s been a long time since covid restrictions in many countries have passed and some properties still close there lounges (which also serves breakfast) with the excuse of “for safety of our guest”, not sure how the lounge which frankly is a more timid and socially distanced location is any less safe then a restaurant packed with guest just a metro away from you

    2. Dc_nomad Guest

      JW Marriott Cancun: Welcome to Club 91

    3. Sel, D. Guest

      @Lucky how has feedback been otherwise since the program rollout? Are there reports of the toast and coffee continental breakfasts, or are hotels/resorts providing the high end buffet? What about room upgrades - anything meaningful or just a bump to a better view?

    4. Jesper Guest

      I expected this new benefit to become a problem for Intercontinental, either the excellent Club Intercontinental concept would be ruined, or they would need to find a way to avoid giving elite members full access to Club Intercontinental. I was very disappointed at the outlook of having the Club IC concept ruined as it is really up there with the Ritz-Carlton Clubs. So I hope that more hotels will find a way to avoid letting...

      I expected this new benefit to become a problem for Intercontinental, either the excellent Club Intercontinental concept would be ruined, or they would need to find a way to avoid giving elite members full access to Club Intercontinental. I was very disappointed at the outlook of having the Club IC concept ruined as it is really up there with the Ritz-Carlton Clubs. So I hope that more hotels will find a way to avoid letting all elite members in, or I would stop staying at club rooms at IC.

    5. Jacob Guest

      I agree Jesper. I will stop paying for IC Club rooms if they get diluted by non-paying members. I hope the IC's create a separate Club for non paying members.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Mantis Guest

It's interesting how some of these hoteliers pay to join hotel chains with loyalty programs, then act like it's a big burden to them. Guess what? Without that chain half your guests wouldn't be staying there, and the other half would be booking through OTAs that you would be paying 25% or whatever commission for the privelege. Not a shock that this happens with IHG though, these hotels are used to not having to do anything for elites. I'll stick with Hyatt and Hilton as my backup, thanks.

3
iamhere Guest

Elite members that are entitled to lounge access also paid for it due to accumulating a certain number of nights in order to get that access. There are other one off examples with other brands, not just the one in China that you mentioned. The problem is the IHG plan is to do it across the board. The bigger problem is the differences of the lounges and lack of consistency across individual hotels varies a lot now. For some specific hotels paying for the extra may be of good value and worth the price and not at others. Even in the current system we have seen this, so I think some may consider the upgrade if they see/experience at that hotel first. I assume that this will come with MANY complaints and I wonder if it is an effective use of space for the hotel.

2
GLCTraveler Member

This is CRAP..... A very weasley way to run an elite program. I've been top elite for over 10 years is several programs and if I experience this, there will be hell to pay..... Soft drinks and light snacks are not in the spirit of the conditions!!

1
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