InterContinental Ambassador is a special loyalty scheme which is ONLY valid at InterContinental hotels. It works alongside IHG Rewards Club and you still receive points for your stay as usual.
Ambassador has two differences to the usual loyalty scheme:
First, you need to pay to join ($200 or redeem 32,000 IHG Rewards Club points) but there are no stay requirements
Second, Ambassador benefits are guaranteed and non-negotiable by the hotel except on reward nights where they can – but rarely do – block them. Benefits include a guaranteed 4pm check-out, a guaranteed upgrade, free fruit and mineral water and a free Pay TV movie
One of key elements of the InterContinental Ambassador package is the ‘free weekend night’ voucher which comes with your membership kit and also when you renew. On the face it, the voucher makes the $200 Ambassador annual fee a no-brainer.
When you book a two night weekend stay at any InterContinental, one night will be free when you use your voucher. That’s your $200 back right there – in theory.
Recent changes to the way that InterContinental price their rooms have started to undermine its value, however. There are two issues which are starting to concern me:
the launch of cheaper ‘Your Rate’ deals for IHG Rewards Club members
the inability to add a heavily discounted breakfast to your booking
Let’s take InterContinental Paris Le Grand for 29th to 31st July, and assume I want an Eiffel Tower View Superior Room.
Using the voucher, the cost is €442.50 for two nights. Breakfast is NOT included and there is no way of adding it later. If you want to eat breakfast in the hotel it is €40 per person per night and you will need to pay it on both nights. Your total cost for two nights with breakfast for a couple is therefore €602.50.
Let’s assume, instead, you pay cash.
The same room on a Weekend Escape package with breakfast is €343.35 per night. That is a total cost of €687.10. Your voucher has only saved you €85. I admit that the Weekend Escapes rate is technically non-refundable but as you can book it up to two days before arrival that is unlikely to be an issue.
But let’s forget that and concentrate on an exact ‘like for like’ booking.
Using my 2-4-1 voucher, I am paying €442.50 per night, albeit the 2nd night is free, plus €80 per day for breakfast. The total cost for two nights is €602.50.
Because IHG now discounts ‘Best Flexible Rates’ for IHG Rewards Club members, calling them ‘Your Rate’, the alternative for booking exactly the same Best Flexible package for cash looks like this:
Best Flexible ‘Your Rate’ – €398.25 (compared to €442.50 cost when using the voucher)
Breakfast – €35 for two when added at time of booking (compared to €80 when using the voucher)
Total cost for 2 nights: €398.25 x 2 + €35 x 2 = €866.50
You are still making a saving of (€866.50 – €602.50) €264 when using your Ambassador free night voucher. However, the saving is considerably short of the €442.50 you think you are saving.
What should Ambassador do?
I think there are two changes which need to be made to the 2-4-1 voucher if Ambassador members are to continue to treat it as valuable:
the price charged must be the Best Flexible ‘Your Rate’ and NOT the standard non-member Best Flexible Rate
there should be an option to add breakfast to the booking for the standard rate, and so benefit from a free breakfast on the 2nd night as well
Make these two changes and the Ambassador package will continue to be valuable. Leave things as they are and the benefits will start to look more and more like a swizz …..
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