Changes coming to InterContinental (Royal) Ambassador program?

One of the program I paid money to last year was the InterContinental Ambassador program. At USD 200/32000 points for the first year and USD 150 for a renewal, it pays for itself with a buy-one-get-one-night-free certificate, and guaranteed better treatment from most InterContinental hotels, this was a gimme for us last year, also since we were visiting the InterContinental Bora Bora, which was one of their best resorts.

Anyhow, it turns out that there may be changes in the air for the InterContinental Ambassador program, as per this PDF on the internet, which talks about a proposed refresh of the program, on the occasion of 70 years of the program. The presentation clearly states that the InterContinental Ambassador program will be refreshed, and the project towards this has begun in 2016.

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The presentation talks about how InterContinental Hotels are unable to make Ambassador members feel special, and hence a refresh is required to ensure alignment with the InterContinental brand strategy and also hotel compliance.

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Is Ambassador valuable to InterContinental Hotels & Resorts?

Ambassador generated over 170 million dollars of incremental value to InterContinental, and are 3x more profitable than IHG Rewards Club members.

How are they going to serve them better?

As per InterContinental, while Ambassador members have a high perceived value of the benefits they receive, the hotels do not really go forward to deliver as much value to the members. To fix this, there needs to be clear definition and communication of the upgrade policy and Lounge access policy. For instance, even while staying as an Ambassador, I had to pay the Hong Kong Grand Stanford hotel last month to access the lounge. At the Hyatt Regency Sha Tin, when I checked in, I was given free access to the Regency Club courtesy our status.

Also, InterContinental is planning to move away from a fruit basket in the room, to a choice between fruit, sweet or savoury snack.

Royal Ambassador Criteria to change & be revenue based

Royal Ambassador is an invite only tier, something I don’t aspire to achieve because I am not on the road all the time! But InterContinental is not happy with the Average revenue per room night (ADR) of Royal Ambassadors, in spite of the fact that Royal Ambassadors give over USD 27 million in incremental profit. The criteria is not publicly addressed, but is known to be 60 nights in IHG hotels, out of which 20 nights at 3 different InterContinentals out of a total of 60 nights overall per annum at an IHG hotel.

Moving forward, new criteria will focus on revenue and not just stay behaviour. The program intends to introduce a criteria to discourage giving out the Royal Ambassador invite to long-term stayers, even though this is beyond me about why they really care as long as they have the money in their pockets.

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Timeline?

No timeline is established yet to finish the whole process, and changes are expected to be gradual.

Bottomline

When other programs give out a ton of benefits on the back of a loyalty program, there needs to be more than just some upgrades for the InterContinental Ambassador program to work further on. I do see break-even value being delivered, but is Corporate going to put their own monetisation before customer delight, remains to be seen.

What view do you guys have on these changes? Do you benefit from the Ambassador program? Would you like to carry on?

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Comments

  1. I stay 10 months in hotels out of the year. Am SPG Plat, Hyatt Diamond, and was Intercontinental RA… but they changed it to revenue based which means I don’t know if I will be certain of RA status, so I stopped going all together. I went from 100 nights stayed in IHG/Intercon hotels to 0 because of that change… the only status that was worth it was RA and witht that being uncertain, why take the risk.

  2. Lounge access has never been a benefit of the basic Ambassador status but generally does come with RA status (though with some unexplained exceptions and annoyances). The program began as the Six Continents Club which I joined back in the 1970s and it was a much better program vis a vis guest recognition. There were no tiers until the late 80s so everyone was treated pretty much the same (though each hotel would have a record for their regular guests). I’d always be passed over to an assistant manager who’d walk me to my (upgraded) room and complete the registration there. This only occurs on occasion now, even for RAs. Things started to get further muddied by the introduction of the rewards program after IC was merged with Holiday Inn first by Bass, then further spun off into IHG. (BTW Hilton International had its own similar service, before it was bought and integrated into the US Hilton group and ended for the Honours program. Always a half bottle of real champagne and box of chocolates set up in the room upon arrival. Great program, really missed.)

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