Following a few acquisitions, IHG has improved the value of their points by improving the quantity of their top-end properties. Is it enough to justify loyalty to IHG?
Mostly Holiday Inns
IHG has a dozen brands that range from the premium Chinese brand Hualuxe to the contemporary brand, Indigo. Of their 5,000+ hotels (which make them one of the largest chains in the world) most are Holiday Inn and select-service Holiday Inn Express fill out the ranks. Those two brands account for more than 5,000 of the brand’s properties and while many of the Holiday Inn Express properties are relatively new, most Holiday Inns have more in common with Howard Johnson than Intercontinental hotels.
Road Warriors, particularly in the United States, will find IHG properties almost everywhere they go, but in most markets, newer, nicer properties can be found with Hilton, Hyatt or Marriott. Comparing the select-service brands, Holiday properties are everywhere but you probably don’t want to stay in them.
Yes, there are Intercontinental Hotels that are very nice and a smattering of others. But when compared by percentage to other brands, their true high-end properties are few and far between. Years before we started blogging, my family had the pleasure of staying in a beautiful Intercontinental Le Grand in Paris – it was the nicest hotel I’d ever stayed to that point in my life.
In December of 2014 IHG acquired Kimpton Hotels for $430MM in cash bringing 62 properties into the fold. Most of those properties are at the high-end, boutique hotel market commanding higher rates and adding a fifth gear the brand badly needed. Of late, IHG has been on a premium buying streak. Earlier this year the brand acquired a majority stake in Regent Hotels which adds just six hotels to the fold but plans to grow to 40 more. Principal Hotels were purchased from Starwood (a boutique hotel management company, not to be confused with Starwood Preferred Guest SPG) placing another 13 premium properties in the system.
These acquisitions are small when compared with the SPG merger with Marriott, but for as few true premium properties as were in the IHG line, these 100 or so properties are a dramatic lift.
When IHG purchased Kimpton Hotels they existed mostly in a vacuum. To the rejoicing of Kimpton members, the loyalty program remained outside of IHG’s Rewards Club – they had far better benefits and treatment akin to SPG (pre-Marriott merger) and Hyatt. However, early this year, Kimpton properties rolled into Rewards Club allowing members to book the properties.
Integration of the new acquisitions is rapidly improving. While Regent properties have not yet hit the system, Principal Hotels have already been slated to go live on the system. Their improvement in placing these hotels into the system where members can book them is a big improvement.
Hotels I Actually Want To Book
These are properties that have me excited to book with IHG:
I just reviewed the Kimpton Monaco Hotel Pittsburgh this morning:
These are just a few that have me inspired to try IHG’s new premium properties.
IHG Still Hates Elites
One thing that keeps me from making IHG my full-time, primary brand is that they hate their elites. I say that often but in fairness, they probably don’t actually hate elites. IHG just doesn’t give any benefits for those who are not invited to their Royal Ambassador program which includes people like me who logged 110 nights last year. In order to be included in that exclusive club I would have needed to stay in more Intercontinental (only, not IHG) properties but fewer overall nights. I can only stay in hotels they have in the market I visit, with so few Intercontinental hotels in the world, it’s just nearly impossible to hit with my travel pattern.
Spire elites (75 nights stayed in any IHG property) get next to nothing when compared to their competitors. IHG doesn’t give free breakfast, they begrudgingly allow 2 PM checkouts but aren’t conditioned to give even those out very much (in practice). You earn more points, sure, but to this point, there was very little I had wanted to spend those points on.
How Hard Would I Pursue IHG?
I put this in a wait-and-see category. Hilton hotels are everywhere and as I detailed earlier today, they really perform from the bottom of the line Hampton Inns (not all great but lots to like in the category) to the top of the line Waldorf-Astoria and Conrad properties. Hyatt will be my focus because their product is consistently great, though fewer hotels than the rest. Marriott and SPG, have too high of thresholds and I don’t trust their management.
I’d place IHG about third on the list, but because my work takes me to smaller communities where they may be the only show in town, I may end of staying with them more than the others as a matter of efficiency or lack of choice, rather than making a decision to do so. Depending on how things go with a couple of these target properties, they could move up the list.
What do you think? Do these new IHG properties have you re-thinking your loyalty? Am I missing something that makes IHG your top choice?