IHG (Intercontinental Hotels Group) is finding new, creative ways to disappoint customers and no one should be surprised.
IHG’s New Program
The brand that’s home to Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Kimpton Hotels (restaurants too) Hotel Indigo, Hualuxe Hotels & Resorts, Staybridge Suites, Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts and of course, Holiday Inn Express retired its IHG Rewards Club and replaced it with IHG One Rewards.
They added benefits and tiers that should have made the program a compelling one, but the execution has been lacking. Customers have reported not receiving the benefits or a compromised version that might satisfy the requirement but barely.
New Boss, Same As The Old Boss
Two of the new benefits of IHG One have already been rolled back: true lounge benefits and the use of credit card free nights. In short, lounge benefits have been truncated in some properties to a separated room within the lounge with an inferior product when it’s accessed by status holders as opposed to guests that pay for a lounge-access room. Upgraded rooms to Club level may not include access to that club. Credit card free night certificates have been confused by honoring old certificates and topping them up then not but only if you have the right card. It’s a mess.
Despite the new logo and name, some additional tiers, and on-paper benefits, it’s not a different program. Yes, it’s got a new façade, a shiny coat of paint but can a top-tier guest expect to receive lounge service? No. Can they expect to receive breakfast in exchange for 75 nights? Probably not How about some sort of a suite upgrade guarantee? Nope. Can you trust the program to honor the commitments it makes with its co-brand credit card provider? Emphatically no.
When you cross off the added benefits published, with the added benefits actually received and not rescinded, it’s still a woefully unimpressive loyalty program. That’s an absolute shame given the addition of Regent Hotels, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Kimpton upscale brands over the last few years. Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott all offer superior benefits at the same level, Hilton and Hyatt for 20% fewer nights.
When will they learn?
What Would It Take For IHG To Make A Competent Program?
I have been genuinely racking my brain trying to understand what it would take for IHG to assemble and operate a competent and competitive loyalty program? Marriott, for its faults, does have a loyal following that actively chases its points. No matter how they Bonvoy their customers, some will continue to strive for the upper echelons to my amazement.
Hyatt has a rabid following, one that was only eclipsed by SPG until that program went away in the Marriott merger. Those customers drive real revenue to Hyatt hotels and franchisees. Doesn’t IHG see that this is possible? Do they not look to other programs in the airline and shopping space that have been so profitable that they prop up American Airlines when the company consistently loses money from flying passengers and cargo?
It’s a gut feeling but I blame culture. I lived in the UK (home to IHG) for three years and go back at least once annually for an extended period. Friends there, even business owners, don’t chase points even when they are on their doorstep because it’s not really part of their culture. Credit card rules also limit affinity card sign-up bonuses so there are few examples on a day-to-day basis for the behavior that could drive more revenue for the company.
A transformation of the loyalty program even with added benefits couldn’t withstand even a few months of a more generous program before stepping back into their old ways. Maybe it’s management that needs to be switched out.
Every other hotel program and travel provider has figured out that loyalty programs are an important part of the business model. IHG wanted to do more, tried to do more, but their culture of not operating on a comparable level has reduced these slim benefits again. I’m not sure if IHG will ever put together a competent program, but I can assure you that this is not it and the parameters that might make doing so possible, are not in place.
What do you think? Why does IHG have trouble creating a valuable loyalty program that keeps its promises?