IHG removes club access from club-level upgrades

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Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) unveiled a much needed overhaul if its rewards program in April, changing the name to IHG One Rewards in the process. The new program was a distinct upgrade from the earlier iterations, especially when it came to elite recognition, which had been a weak point for IHG in the past. (See Nick’s full rundown of the program here).

Improving the consistency and quality of elite upgrades was a particular emphasis for IHG in the new program. We were told that IHG would be re-training properties to make sure that elites were actually being upgraded during their stays when availability allowed and that both club-level rooms and suites would be more frequently awarded for Platinum and higher (as opposed to just “preferred” rooms on a higher floor, with a better view, etc.).

We also found out that IHG would be awarding confirmed suite upgrades (CSU) as one of their new Milestone Rewards (benefits that are earned after a certain number of stays during the years). These CSU’s can be used to upgrade a room for up to 5 nights to a base level suite and can be confirmed up to 14 days in advance of your stay.

IHG has now watered down both of these benefits by adding language into the program terms stating that upgrades to both suites and club-level rooms WILL NOT be given access to the actual on-property club-lounge.

What’s changed

IHG has added the following language regarding elite upgrades to the terms and conditions page for elite benefits:

Complimentary Upgrades to Club rooms, Club REGENT or Club InterContinental rooms / floors do not include Club Level amenities or services, e.g., Club Lounge access, free pressing, airport transportation, etc. 

This is bizarre as it’s much more common in other hotel programs for top-tier elites to be given access to the club lounge regardless of whether or not they are upgraded to a club-level room. IHG is doing the exact opposite here and removing the club access entirely. Given that many club-level rooms are essentially standard rooms on the club lounge floor with access to the lounge, removing club access takes away much of the value and reduces it to another one of the “preferred room” upgrades.

This really only applies to Intercontinental, Regent and some Crowne Plazas, as they are the only IHG hotels that have club lounges. But it is a meaningful downgrade to the upgrade’s potential at those properties.

At the same time, the following language appeared about confirmed suite upgrades, effectively stating the same policy applies when using those Milestone Rewards:

Confirmable Suite Upgrades to Club rooms, Club REGENT or Club InterContinental rooms / floors do not include Club level amenities or services, e.g., Club Lounge access, free pressing, airport transportation, etc.

Intercontinental Club Lounge, Austin, TX.

Quick Thoughts

We originally hoped that the positive changes to IHG One Rewards would put pressure on programs like Marriott and Hilton to tighten up the generosity and consistency of their rewards programs. It seemed like IHG was really trying to build a genuinely rewarding elite program.

Then, a couple of weeks ago we started hearing about some Intercontinental hotels playing games with club upgrades and lounge access by actually renaming the club lounge, restricting it to paid access only and then creating a different “elite club lounge” in a corner of the hotel with minimal benefits (and to be fair, this happens occasionally in other programs as well, including one of Greg’s favorites, the St Pancras Renaissance).

Now, they’ve gone another step and restricted club access to only paid club-level stays at any property that has a lounge, a big hit to both elite and confirmed upgrades. My assumption is that this is primarily due to IHG corporate underestimating the ability of properties to accommodate the increased amount of traffic in the lounges. It may be that hotels genuinely felt that it compromised their ability to supply the quality of lounge access that they wanted to offer for paying guests.

Regardless, it certainly removes some luster from the new One Rewards program. While the change only affects a few brands, those brands also have many of the properties that road warriors are most likely to squirrel away points for…and also the places where elite benefits are the most powerful to begin with. Or used to be, anyway.

(h/t:Loyalty Lobby)

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ihgmeh

was going to pursue diamond via status match/challenge… but after reading this, just going to stick with Hilton.

FNT Delta Diamond

I’m glad I made the decision not to pursue renewal of my Diamond (formerly Spire) status with IHG. There is zero difference at a Holiday Inn or Holiday Inn Express — the two IHG brands most commonly found in North America — between Diamond and Platinum in the new IHG program, except the breakfast benefit at Holiday Inn. However, the breakfast at a good Holiday Inn Express is generally better than an average Holiday Inn. I was at a Holiday Inn a couple weeks ago and they didn’t even have real eggs. The only eggs were liquid eggs — even when ordering off the menu. They also didn’t even have fresh fruit, only canned peaches and pears. I will let my Diamond status expire and focus on Hyatt and Marriott.

huey judy

This is SO typical of IHG. They just don’t get it, they’ve never understood how a loyalty program is supposed to work. But actively treating elites like peons is really taking it too far. You’d think they’d send a few people around to Hilton properties and fine out how a loyalty program works. Such a shame.

Anna

Is this change for diamond elite members related to IHG hotels in US or all over board?

Gil

IHG work on rebranding their loyalty plan is an empty move. It is obvious why I keep preffering Marriott and Hilton properties, where a lounge and free breakfast are common practice beside an upgrade, for Elite members. IHG management should read this and the other comments.

[…] IHG hotels no longer have to provide club access to guests upgraded to club floors unless they’ve claimed the club access membership as a 40 or 70 elite night benefit […]

Top Tier

Diamond Elite here. The properties I stayed since the change have either ignored my status, or acknowledged it but offered zero perks, citing their management decision not to extend any upgrade.
Once again these hotels like the business travellers and the money they bring, but don’t want to spend a dime to reward them.

goob6008

Thank you for flying on FM airlines! For being an elite FM Gregalist member we are upgrading you to first class. Oh, you will be in the first class cabin, just in an economy seat. Complimentary champagne and caviar? no no…. You are welcome to purchase snacks off the economy menu in your seat pocket. Enjoy your upgrade, and thanks for being a loyal FM Gregalist.

Greg

This is like an Onion headline

Club Level room without Club access?? Theatre of the absurd

Gene

@ Tim — I am SO glad. Hopefully, next they restrict the lounge membership to those who stay 70+ nights. I am a Royal Ambassador, and I do not want my benefits diluted. BTW, there is no InterContinental Austin…it was reflagged to Sonesta last year (or maybe 2020).

goob6008

I just have one question /thought…. They will only upgrade elites to a club level room if there is one unsold and there are only so many in each hotel, right? Also, they probably only set aside a few for upgrades. So, how would this dilute peoples benefits? It would still put serious limits on traffic in the club. Now, if they started giving club access to all elites (even those not in club level rooms), then I would totally see your point.

goob6008

Ok, I do see that annual club level memberships received through milestone rewards could cause problems

David

goob6008 I am pretty sure this was sarcasm. At least that’s how I read it. lol

Gene

Who’s comment is sarcasm? Mine is sincere.

Christine

You can’t “remove” something that was never there.

Christine

This is not “watering down,” it’s a clarification. It has always been this way. If you want lounge access, you have to pay for a club room or pay for access through upselling. The benefit is a better room. Nothing more.

goob6008

How so? Just because they sucked in the past, doesn’t mean that the new rewards program has to suck too. That’s the whole point of the revamp! No other program that I know of will upgrade you to a club level room and not give you access to the club. It makes those upgrades totally pointless. How would that be a “better room”? IHG definitely seemed to be going in the other direction when they revamped the program. But, it seems likely the individual hotels pushed back. It’s definitely a loss for elites that hoped their program would be more competitive to other brands.

Last edited 9 days ago by goob6008
Christine

You can earn lounge access through the milestone benefits.

goob6008

Those are annual memberships, not upgrades given out for an individual stay. Most other programs give you the amenities associated with the room you are upgraded to.

cvg

>>>No other program that I know of will upgrade you to a club level room and not give you access to the club.

Are you sure? As far as I know, only Hilton provides lounge access when upgrading to Executive Floor, and moreover this only applies to Gold members. What makes you think Marriott, Hyatt or Radisson have ever provided lounge access to non-elites? And IHG has NEVER done it, 100%.

cvg

Tim, could you pls provide any text from the T&C proving your point – i.e. that Marriott, Hyatt etc. are providing lounge access if a guest is upgraded to a club room? (Of course, that’s what I meant by non-elites: non top-level elites upgraded to a club room.)

I’ve been writing about loyalty program for years, and been in the points hobby for nearly two decades. Back in the days I used to be a non-top tier elite member myself in Marriott, Hyatt, Radisson and other programs, and never ever did I get lounge access when upgraded to a club room. Except Hilton, of course. But then again, it’s written in their T&C very clearly.

I wonder if it’s maybe a U.S. policy (i’m not from the U.S.)?

Moreover, with respect to IHG, I can confirm that “in between the launch of One Rewards and now” lounge access was not provided. I stayed at a CP in exactly that period, as a Diamond, and lounge was not offered regardless of a club room/suite upgrade.

cvg

>>>Platinum and above eligible for lounge access (if available) regardless of room upgrade.

That’s correct! But if I understand your previous message correctly, for example a Gold member getting a Club room upgrade at a Sheraton would also get Club access? That’s not the case, in my experience, and never has been. Nothing in Marriott’s T&C indicates this.

If you suggest it is, I wonder what are you basing this information on…

goob6008

The original post and my comments are all in regards to ELITES. Non elites are not regularly given upgrades. These are part of the reward programs for those who have higher status, and therefore non elites do not factor into this discussion.

Christine

Milestone rewards do increase lounge access for elites at properties that have them. But you have to earn the milestone bonus.

Edward8888

Thank goodness I never joined this program.

Reno Joe

Ben, they ARE helping themselves . . . to every means possible to avoid providing benefits. Ha.

It’s like what Mark Twain said: it’s not one damn thing after another, it’s the same damn thing over and over again.

Yet mugs still hope beyond hope.

Aleks

Oh well, we hoped for the best of IHG changes, now the corporate greed taking over and charging elites nickels and dimes for any extras. And yes, you are correct saying that Club rooms basically regular rooms but with (suppose to be) club access. If that access is taken away – there is no point to “upgrading” to Club room. The properties would be like” “You’ve been upgraded to Club room as a Platinum Elite, but sorry we won’t give you club access.”
It’s just complicates things for hotels and for the Elite guests. You’ll only get a free bottle of water – thank you for being loyal to our brand, and drink up!

Ken

Two typos in the first sentence. Here, I fixed it for you 😉

“unveiled a much-needed overhaul of its rewards program”

Last edited 10 days ago by Ken
JeffLA

IHG 3 weeks in a row on the “What Crazy Thing…” segment?

Ben

They just can’t help themselves.

Deval before it even gets off the ground

JohnB

Hopefully not, but with all the higher SUBs for IHG CCs, I would say it is in the works.