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It was way back on 12 March that IHG Rewards was the first major loyalty program (from the hotel or airline industry) to take measures to make it easier for its members to earn/retain status this year but that appears to have been the end of the program’s interest in looking after its members and guests.
Dropping The Ball With Elite Status
When IHG Rewards lowered the targets for earning/retaining elite status in 2020 the hotelier looked pretty good…
…but since that announcement, we have seen Radisson Rewards, Hilton Honors and the World of Hyatt all offer their members one-year status extensions. If you’re a Radisson, Hilton, Marriott or Hyatt elite your status benefits will be available to you into 2022 while IHG Rewards members are currently still expected to requalify…somehow.
If you’re based in the US this isn’t a massive issue because you can get IHG Rewards Platinum status just from holding the IHG Rewards Club Premier credit card but for everyone else, this is simply not good enough.
What’s worse is that, at the time of writing, there has been absolutely no news out of the InterContinental Ambassador program (which costs $200/year) so we can only assume that no partial refunds or extensions will be forthcoming.
Certificate Extensions Mess
I currently hold an IHG Rewards free night certificate courtesy of my IHG Rewards Credit card which is set to expire in the middle of this month.
A couple of weeks ago there was a rumor going around that people contacting IHG and requesting extensions were getting a further 6 months in which to use their certificate. When I tried this it led nowhere.
Now there are reports that IHG Rewards is finally extending the validity of free night certificates as follows:
- Free night certificates expiring from 1 March 2020 onwards can now be used through 31 December 2020
- Free night certificates issued in 2020 will all have an 18 month redemption period
Here are my issues with all of this:
- If IHG Rewards was offering extensions to people who messaged in (which I believe it was) why was the program not publicizing this? Why was it trying to keep it quiet?
- Why has there been no direct communication from IHG rewards about the latest news regarding free night certificate extensions? A variety of blogs have published the news because it was quietly uploaded to IHG’s Covid-19 policy update page the other day, but where’s the announcement to members?
- IHG hasn’t said what will happen to the free night certificates which, for one final year, are valid for any IHG property worldwide. Will IHG be guaranteeing that holders of those certificates will still be able to book any property through December 2020?
- There has been no announcement to let InterContinental Ambassador members know what will be happening with their free weekend night certificates.
Hilton announced that it was extending its free night certificates through the end of the year on 16 March (over 3 weeks ago) and yet here we are still waiting for IHG to email members confirming their new policy. What’s the holdup? Where’s the communication?
Worse Cancellation Policies
At the time of writing, IHG’s current cancellation policies (found here) are as follows:
Existing bookings (bookings made through April 6, 2020) at all IHG hotels can be changed or cancelled for stays up to June 30, 2020
Cancellation fees for existing and new domestic bookings at all IHG hotels in Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR and the Taiwan region will be waived for stays up to April 30, 2020
For new bookings IHG has introduced a new rate called “Book Now, Pay Later“:
This new rate offers flexibility and savings. With no deposit required and cancellations possible up to 24 hours before your stay for direct bookings, travel planning is commitment free. Guests benefit from 5% or more off our Best Flexible Rate for bookings made up to September 3, 2020 for stays until December 30, 2020 (excluding Greater China).
Now let’s compare these policies to the other major hotel chains:
Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott are all matching IHG’s offer to allow guests to change or cancel existing bookings for stays through 30 June but they are applying this policy to all of their properties – IHG’s policy for Mainland China, Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, and Taiwan is more restrictive.
Where IHG is allowing guests to make new cancelable bookings through the end of the year, Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott are allowing all of their rates to be canceled penalty-free for any future arrival date (i.e well into 2021).
IHG’s flexible reservations policy is worse than the policies of all three of the other major hotel chains and when you’re worse than Marriott at taking care of your guests you know you’re bad!
There are two things that I feel every time I look into what IHG and IHG Rewards are doing:
- I feel that IHG Rewards thought that it could get away with making a small concession on elite status earning and then never have to revisit the policy again – I don’t think it foresaw the hugely positive moves that we have seen from Hilton and Hyatt.
- I feel that IHG and IHG Rewards are being driven to do more for their guests and elite status holders by the other hotel chains and not out of any genuine interest to be helpful or good. Both appear to be doing as little as possible and then doing those things very reluctantly.
IHG currently sits on a par with Marriott when it comes to comparing what each has done for guests and elite members (I’ll be writing a separate post on how bad Marriott has been) and when you drop to the lowly service levels that Marriott Bonvoy offers that’s a very bad sign indeed.
To be frank, I’ve had enough of IHG.
I’m not going to be renewing my InterContinental Ambassador status when it expires in May, I’m not going to be making any effort to earn any more IHG Rewards points and I plan to minimize my visits to IHG properties as much as possible (probably one 1 or 2-night stay per year).
Over recent years (and now during this crisis) IHG and IHG Rewards have shown themselves to be interested in one thing and one thing only – squeezing as much out of customers as possible and giving as little as possible in return…so why deal with them?
Any stays I may have made with IHG in the future will now go to Hyatt – a hotelier which at least attempts to do the right things by its guests and loyalty program members.