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InterContinental Westminster to become Conrad London St James in 6 weeks

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This will have sent a bit of a shock around the London hotel community – it was certainly a surprise to me.  Less than two years after it opened, InterContinental is surrendering the management of its second London property – InterContinental London Westminster.

With almost unseemly haste, it will become the Conrad London St James in September.  Given the short notice, it may not even be able to close given the number of bookings it will already have.  Guests may go to sleep in an InterContinental and wake up in a Conrad.

The exact date was not announced.  InterContinental is still taking bookings but only until August 31st.

IC Westminster

Was InterContinental pushed or did it jump?  We will never know.  There may have been revenue targets that triggered a break clause in the management contract.

Conrad, Hilton’s upmarket business brand, was desperately missing a property in London.  You can’t be considered a serious hotel brand unless you are represented in all of the major gateway cities.  Conrad New York – where I was 10 days ago – opened a couple of years ago.

They must be delighted to get their hands on the Westminster property which was converted at huge expense.  It is, though, a building of compromise, as London hotels which are converted from old buildings tend to be, with rooms of different shapes and sizes and minimal views.

IC Westminster 2

Ironically, InterContinental presumably took on the management of Westminster partially so that they could sell the freehold of the InterContinental Park Lane.  InterContinental knows that it has to be in London to be taken seriously.  At the same time, it wanted the flexibility to be able to walk away from Park Lane if another hotel group offered a knockout bid but insisted on rebranding.

(They may have been thinking of Peninsula, which has since bought an office block opposite InterContinental Park Lane and will soon begin converting it into a mix of apartments, offices and a hotel.)

InterContinental has since announced that it will manage a luxury hotel being opened next to the O2 Arena in Greenwich, but that can hardly be considered a prime London site.

IC Westminster Conrad 3

The second InterContinental in Paris – itself a similarly ‘compromised’ property – was presumably opened for the same reason.  InterContinental was keen to sell the freehold of Le Grand and wanted to be certain of keeping a foothold in the city.

I doubt that much will change at Conrad London St James in the short term. If you are a Hilton Gold, you will now receive free breakfast – something that no-one got when it was an InterContinental.  On the other hand, non-status guests will now have to pay for internet which was free to everyone before as long as they joined IHG Rewards Club.

For Hilton Diamond members, automatic access to the Club Lounge could be attractive.

If Conrad is serious about becoming a top business brand globally, IC Westminster is not good enough.  They need a better property than that.  The same goes for New York, where Conrad New York needs to be joined by something in Midtown.  For now, though, Hilton will be happy.

Conrad’s press release on the deal can be found here.

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Comments (37)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Anon says:

    So is it better than the Hilton London Waldorf?

    Where else in London would you recommend burning a one night Hilton Plat Visa redemption, thats nr theatres and London Victoria (heading to LGW the morning after)

    • Alan says:

      If you’ve got status then the handy thing with Conrad vs Waldorf is that you get free breakfast with the former, also most of the latter don’t have Exec Lounges.

    • Rob says:

      The Hilton Waldorf is NOT a Waldorf-Astoria. It just has the name for historical reasons. It is a run of the mill Hilton, albeit with some interesting architectural features such as the Palm Court.

      The Conrad is about 2 minutes walk from Victoria so I would book yourself in there!

      • Anon says:

        Will try the new Conrad, stay isn’t until Feb. Will be HH Gold by then so hopefully use Exec lounge.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      That’s easy: The DoubleTree Westminister

      Just about walking distance to Victoria, just about three years old.

      Yeah, it ain’t no Hilton. no exec lounge, but is new, and like all of the other DoubleTrees in London, very contemporary and not tired like the Hiltons in London

      • Matt says:

        Picked up through the MINT acquisition ( I enjoyed my stay at the DoubleTree Westminister, however access to public transport was a bit more challenged than the other London Hiltons. A bit more = walk longer.

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      Park Lane. Easy tube connections to both. Fairly walkable to the West End too. Main plus points are amazing views from most rooms and a decent exec lounge that does afternoon tea as well as an evening drinks reception. Breakfast (which you can take in the restaurant rather than the lounge) is pretty good too.

  • DV says:

    This doesn’t have a swimming pool, does it?

    • Rob says:

      No. Tricky to find a decent pool in a hotel which takes points. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge (Club Carlson) has one. The Meridien at Piccadilly has one (SPG). The Langham has a nice one as per my review recently but that is not available on points, and of course you have the Berkeley etc.

  • Phil says:

    I have a booked weekend stay in November using an Ambassador free night weekend certificate. (Still costing me over £300)

    I have not had any communication from the hotel or IHG about this.. Hopefully they will honour the booking and will leave me free to use the certificate again?

    • Rob says:

      I would be careful about this. You have booked two paid nights at £300 each and the hotel would make one night free at check out. As far as Conrad is concerned you are paying £300 per night as booked.

      • Phil says:

        Yes it is a tricky one. However as they sometimes do, they have already amended the booking to make the total price £300 for 2 nights and it is showing a nightly rate of £150.

        Frustrating really as I have had this booking for a while now. If I switch to the Park Lane, the costs had gone up significantly from my booking type for a similar room type.

  • Czechoslovakia says:

    OT, but advice please. Best Hotel for reasonable money easy access to London Excel. Stayed at the Ibis excel and was fine (@£69), but cant spent £185 a night on an ibis next time. Working at an exhibition for the whole week, and of course the hotels nearby are milking it. Suggestions appreciated from a “regions” person 🙂

    • Rob says:

      Look at the Holiday Inn Stratford City, or the Staybridge Suites in same building. I have reviewed the HI on here. New hotel, in the massive Westfield shopping centre so no shortage of food and shops, Olympic Park literally on your doorstep, 60 seconds to the DLR for a short hop to Excel.

      • Czechoslovakia says:

        Thanks for the tip, appreciate it, read the review and went to book. £198.50/night! My stay is in June 2015, for 4 nights mon-fri. Am I trying to book to far in advance?

        • Anon says:

          If you have Hilton points you could look for points+cash deals at Canary Wharf …?

          • Czechoslovakia says:

            Got a lot of Marriott points, (somebody keeps using my account number for crediting their stays on my behalf?), but not enough, and no Hilton points, sadly.

        • Rob says:

          Probably. But if it is during Wimbledon / Henley / Masterpiece / end of private school term period everywhere will be bad. Watch out for an IHG sale.

      • Anon says:

        Not a fan of the HI Stratford, cheap tho but it shows, think Easy jet hotel….

    • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

      I assume you already tried the Aloft next door?

      The options above are solid, but you could also have a look at Holiday Inn Commercial Road and Radisson Providence Wharf.

      • Czechoslovakia says:

        Afraid so. Aloft the dearest of the lot. Checked also the Novotel, the boat hotel next to it, ibis, Ramada and Crown Plaza. Usually a Marriott guy, but got Plat status with Accor, hence the recent ibis ExCel stay. Fine for a few nights @ £69 (the hot breakfast there is fantastic!), but just cant bring myself to pay £185 for a night in an ibis, let alone 4 of them.
        Commercial Road comes up at £250.75, Radisson £269.
        Thinking I`m booking to far in advance? Thanks for the advice tho, will keep those 2 in mind.

        • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

          What are your dates?

          • Czechoslovakia says:

            Mon 15/6 thru Fri 19/6.

          • Andrew (@andrewseftel) says:

            2015?! Too early I would have thought – I certainly wouldn’t book anything non-refundable.

            Saw that you have a lot of Marriott points. Marriott Grosvenor Hall is nice, if a bit stuffy, and fairly easy to get to Excel on the Central line and DLR. There’s also Park Lane and Grosvenor Square nearby. Similar set-up with Marriott County Hall (Jubilee to Canning Town then quick hop on the DLR), but I haven’t stayed there. Another option is the Renaissance St Pancras. All of the above should be ~40-50mins to ExCel.

          • Czechoslovakia says:

            Thanks for advice Andrew. Will leave it till nearer the event, and see what prices your suggestions come up with then. Cheers

    • pauldb says:

      The only cheap option I can see in that area (probably as it’s too early) is the De Vere venue in Greenwich: £70/n. Might be more interesting than staying near the Excel. 20 minute walk to the O2 and a hop over the Emirates cable car.

  • CV says:

    IHG have just completed the sale of the Roxburghe (Crowne Plaza) hotel in Edinburgh. New owner is Starwood Capital.

    • Rob says:

      Starwood Capital is not directly linked to Starwood Hotels so not necessarily rebranding.

      • CV says:

        Yup, IHG have sold the actual hotel. Starwood Capital have bought a few hotels in Scotland this year.

  • PH says:

    I believe there was previously a Hilton-owned Conrad in London, which subsequently became the Wyndham Chelsea Harbour, now known as The Millennium Chelsea Harbour Hotel!

    • Rob says:

      Correct, it is down the road from us – there is a massive softplay centre called Gambado opposite. It was always a silly location for a luxury hotel which is why it downgraded in terms of quality of brand.

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