Bits: IHG Rewards Club “moving to variable points pricing”, Flybmi routes rescued, Best Western buys WorldHotels

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News in brief:

IHG Rewards Club “moving to variable points pricing”

InterContinental Hotels Group, owner of Holiday Inn, HI Express, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza etc, published its 2018 results on Tuesday.

The summary is here, but I have summarised the summary into news I think is relevant:

A new brand, not named so far, will launch in 2019.  It will be an ‘upper midscale all-suites’ brand.  How this differentiates from Staybridge, which is already ‘upper midscale’ in the UK to my mind, and Candlewood remains to be seen.

The company now has 837,000 rooms globally

The number of UK rooms grew 8% in 2018, helped by the Principal Hotels acquisition 

Room rates are falling in the Middle East (REVPAR down 6% in 2018) due to oversupply

The avid brand has now signed over 170 contracts although only one hotel – in Oklahoma – is actually open.  These will be new build ‘cheap and cheerful’ hotels which will charge noticeably less than an equivalent Holiday Inn Express.

voco, the new conversion brand, has three hotels open with 13 signed.  We are reviewing the Cardiff hotel over the weekend.

Bookings by IHG Rewards Club members rose from 39% to 43% (over 50% in the Americas)

IHG Rewards Club members are 7x more likely to book direct than non-members

Importantly for hotels, revenue from IHG Rewards Club members is 25% higher than from non-members (this is, I imagine, due to the 20%+ commission charged by Expedia, etc and the propensity for loyal guests to book superior room categories)

Here is the key thing that caught my eye:

IHG Rewards Club is “testing new features for 2019 roll-out, designed to increase member engagement with variable point pricing” 

It is not clear what this means.  If we’re lucky, it MAY be a move to a Hilton model whereby redemption rates fall on dates where cash costs are low.  It may also be linked to the current New York promotion whereby certain hotels are currently on special offer for points until 30th April.

Of course, there is also a massive downside scenario whereby IHG Rewards Club moves to 100% variable pricing.  Points prices become uncapped and you get a fixed amount, say 0.5c, per point.  If the InterContinental Times Square pictured below is selling for $600, you would need 120,000 points.

I doubt IHG would do this – it is hardly likely to “increase member engagement” – but we need to keep an eye on it.  The Hilton Honors model has, I think, worked well with hotels having a points cap but members still able to get redemption value on nights where cash rates are low.

InterContinental Times Square

Some Flybmi routes rescued by Loganair

As we covered at the weekend, regional airline Flybmi has slipped into receivership.

Loganair – which shares a parent company with Flybmi – has announced that it is picking up some of the pieces by launching the following routes:

  • Aberdeen to Bristol (commences 4th March)
  • Aberdeen to Oslo (commences 4th March)
  • Aberdeen to Esbjerg (commences 4th March)
  • Newcastle to Stavanger (commences 25th March)
  • Newcastle to Brussels (commences 25th March)

It is NOT honouring existing bookings, however.  Ticket holders need to book (and pay) again and pursue a refund for the original flight from their credit card company.

Royal Garden Hotel joining Best Western

Best Western buys luxury group WorldHotels

We cover WorldHotels occasionally because it partners with Virgin Flying Club and Avios (via Iberia Plus, not BA).  Details of the Virgin miles offer is here and you can learn about the Avios partnership here.

WorldHotels is a marketing group representing 300 high-end hotels across the world.  In a surprising move, WorldHotels has been acquired by Best Western which is not a brand you associate with luxury resorts and city hotels.

The WorldHotels brand will remain.  Whilst Best Western is pleased it can “enhance [it’s] portfolio of offerings to include the upper upscale and luxury segments” I would be surprised to see, for example, the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington – pictured above, it overlooks Kensington Palace – suddenly renaming itself as a Best Western!

There are plans to integrate Best Western Rewards with WorldHotels.  As Best Western Rewards allows you to status match from any other hotel status you have, or even your Virgin Atlantic airline status, there could be some upside for HFP readers from this acquisition.

(Want to earn more hotel points?  Click here to see our complete list of promotions from the major hotel chains or use the ‘Hotel Promos’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Review of the new Emirates First Class suite on a Boeing 777-300ER! (Part 2)
Marriott Bonvoy announces a Manchester United partnership - bid for amazing experiences at Old Trafford
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  1. OT- I booked FlyBMI tickets using Amex card via Amex Travel. Not sure what’s the best way to get a refund – dispute the Amex charge or claim travel insurance (airline failure protection)? Any suggestion would be appreciated.

  2. OT – just went online chat to cancel Amex gold and was told I had to call Amex as it needed voice identification. So I’ve called them and they couldn’t explain why I was told this but have cancelled the card. When I told the CSA it was because of the Curve debacle she had no idea what I was talking about! Anyone else had this?

  3. OT: Anyone going to the Business Travel Show this year?

    • It’s half term. No one is going, not of any seniority / ‘decision making capacity’. It has been a hot topic in the trade for many months, a lot of people – especially those who paid huge sums for stands without checking the dates – are very annoyed.

      • Indeed, Just returned from it, the venue had a lot of empty stands and most of the conferences seemed filled by exhibitors…nice goodies from Amex and One world though 🙂

  4. Anyone know if Virgin Atlantic vouchers can be used to pay for the taxes/fee’s on a reward redemption flight? (assuming the booking is done online or over the phone?)

    Likewise, can BA gift vouchers be used to pay taxes/fees on an Avios Reward flight? again either online or when booking by phone?

  5. OT. Applied for VA credit card and got an instant approval. Email stated that they will be in touch regarding sending the card and setting up the pin. It’s been 3 days and nothing.
    Anyone experienced this?

    • If i recall correctly they send you a letter in the post for the PIN. Will probably turn up at some point.

    • For me, the activation code for online services took a few days, with this and the card you can register and retrieve the PIN.

      It was a good 10 days for the card to show though.

  6. OT: What’s the most cost-effective way of obtaining 6,000 Marriott points? I’ve got 94,000 points but have a 100,000 redemption planned on Points Advance. Are there any other partners to avoid the $75 charge of buying points directly? I’ve already used my quota of Amex/SPG cards

    • Optimus Prime says:

      If you haven’t used up your referral links you can self refer for any card – that would give you another 18k MR points (assuming you still have an Amex Plat) regardless of being eligible for signup bonus on the new card.

    • 4,000 Amex MR points would do it – not sure how far away your stay is but £4k of spend on a Gold or Plat would be enough. Or refer a family member for one of the Amex cards.

      • berneslai says:

        Stay is in August (US Grant, San Diego) so no mad rush but was hoping that I may have missed a partner that allows a transfer in to Marriott that I may not have been aware of. I’ll probably just do the 4k spend on Amex.

  7. OT: If I cancel my Virgin Reward Plus card, would I lose the 2-4-1 voucher? And re vouchers validity; do I have to travel within 2 years or 2 years to book a flight (flight being beyond the 2 year period)?

  8. OT – any Marriott branded hotels in NYC worth a look? Currently have a five night cash booking at the Beekman but wondering whether to scrape together Amex and SPG points to book something Marriott instead. Could spring for Cat 6 at 50K points per night with the stay 5 nights pay for 4 promotion.

    • I love the Marriott Marquis. Right in Times Sq. Glass elevators in the 48 storey atrium.

  9. Mr Miggins says:

    OT – struggling to find time to use my igh prem card free night certificate before expiry but Mrs Miggins and Daughter Miggins could do with it for a night away after a gig. My cunning plan is to enter Mrs name as additional guest whilst booking and then simply not turn up myself later. Likelihood of working?

    • Very

      • Mr Miggins says:

        Thank you very much

        • Remember too that the expiry date is when you need to have booked by, so you could make a reservation for a date which is later, it’s just that if you cancel you will forfeit the booking, if that’s a better option for you!

    • I seem to remember something in the T&Cs for the free night that the cardholder must stay as opposed to reward stays which can be gifted. If it was a choice between losing it and what you are proposing I’d do the same, just beware that if you get caught the hotel may charge the standard flexible rate.

  10. Yes. Both fine

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