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What happened with IHG Rewards pricing? Some hard facts (Part 2)

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This is Part 2 of our analysis of the changes to IHG Rewards pricing that took place over Easter. Read Part 1 of our analysis of whether IHG Rewards has devalued first by clicking here.

In order to get a realistic view of pricing, I looked at ALL London hotels for Thursday 22nd July. I compared the points rate vs the IHG Rewards member cash rate for a standard room.

I split the hotels into high-end, mid-market and budget by brand. This is because most members will have a preference for a certain sort of hotel.

IHG Rewards devaluation

I would generally only redeem for high-end hotels, for example, so I don’t care if Holiday Inn Express hotels are now great value. On the other hand, someone only looking for a clean and safe room won’t be concerned if the InterContinental hotels are now a bargain.

This is what I found. The numbers represent points for a reward room, the cash price (member rate) for a standard room and the implied value per IHG Rewards point if you redeem.

High end:

  • Hotel Indigo Leicester Square – 90,000 – £364 – 0.40p
  • InterContinental Park Lane – 89,000 – £378 – 0.42p
  • Crowne Plaza The City – 34,000 – £183 – 0.54p
  • Kimpton Fitzroy (image above) – 99,000 – £203 – 0.21p
  • Crowne Plaza Kings Cross – 48,000 – £125 – 0.26p
  • Hotel Indigo Paddington – 50,000 – £130 – 0.26p
  • Hotel Indigo Tower Hill – 26,000 – £144 – 0.55p
  • Hotel Indigo Kensington – 55,000 – £142 – 0.26p
  • InterContinental O2 – 33,000 – £137 – 0.42p
  • Crowne Plaza London Docklands – 48,000 – £146 – 0.30p

Average for high end sector – 57,200 points – £195.20 cash – 0.34p per point

Unweighted average of best value 33% – 0.49p per point

IHG Rewards devaluation

Mid-market:

  • Holiday Inn Oxford Circus – 50,000 – £122 – 0.23p
  • Staybridge Suites Vauxhall – 25,000 – £111 – 0.44p
  • Holiday Inn Bloomsbury – 46,000 – £113 – 0.25p
  • Holiday Inn Regent’s Park – 57,000 – £155 – 0.27p
  • Holiday Inn Camden Lock (image above) – 44,000 – £117 – 0.27p
  • Holiday Inn Kensington Forum – 20,000 – £99 – 0.50p
  • Holiday Inn Kensington High Street – 31,000 – £103 – 0.33p
  • Holiday Inn Whitechapel – 34,000 – £94 – 0.28p
  • Staybridge Suites Stratford City – 48,000 – £111 – 0.23p
  • Holiday Inn Stratford City – 25,000 – £99 – 0.40p
  • Holiday Inn London West – 34,000 – £83 – 0.24p
  • Holiday Inn Brent Cross – 14,000 – £91 – 0.65p

Average for mid-market sector – 35,667 points – £108.16 cash – 0.30p per point

Unweighted average of best value 33% – 0.50p per point

IHG Rewards devaluation

Budget:

  • Holiday Inn Express Southwark – 46,000 – £124 – 0.27p
  • Holiday Inn Express Victoria – 30,000 – £154 – 0.51p
  • Holiday Inn Express Nine Elms – 50,000 – £142 – 0.28p
  • Holiday Inn Express City – 31,000 – £94 – 0.30p
  • Holiday Inn Express Earls Court – 20,000 – £93 – 0.47p
  • Holiday Inn Express Limehouse – 23,000 – £86 – 0.37p
  • Holiday Inn Express Swiss Cottage – 20,000 – £90 – 0.45p
  • Holiday Inn Express Wandsworth (image above) – 21,000 – £76 – 0.36p
  • Holiday Inn Express Hammersmith – 20,000 – £100 – 0.50p
  • Holiday Inn Express Stratford – 43,000 – £182 – 0.42p
  • Holiday Inn Express Park Royal – 15,000 – £81 – 0.54p
  • Holiday Inn Express Royal Docks – 37,000 – £145 – 0.39p
  • Holiday Inn Express Greenwich – 20,000 – £128 – 0.64p
  • Holiday Inn Express Wimbledon South – 15,000 – £91 – 0.61p
  • Holiday Inn Express Golders Green – 23,000 – £63 – 0.27p
  • Holiday Inn Express Excel – 27,000 – £152 – 0.56p

Average for budget sector – 27,562 points – £112.56 cash – 0.41p per point

Unweighted average of best value 33% – 0.57p per point

Across all London properties:

Average for all of London – 37,921 points – £132.92 cash – 0.35p per point

Unweighted average of best value 33% – 0.52p per point

Should we change our 0.4p IHG Rewards valuation?

I have historically said that IHG Rewards points are worth 0.4p each.

I need to be clear about what this number means. I never meant that you will always get 0.4p. I meant that, in general, 0.4p represents the upper end of what you could expect from a redemption. If I was looking at an IHG Rewards booking and was getting 0.4p, I would probably pull the trigger on using points.

Based on the analysis above, I see no reason to change my valuation.

Yes, the AVERAGE valuation is below 0.4p – but it always was. However, of the 38 hotels listed, 17 get you 0.4p per point or more. This is fine with me.

If we look at the ‘best value’ third of hotels in each category, I would be getting around 0.5p on 22nd July. Again, I think focusing on the top 33% of hotels in each segment is fair – you can maximise value whilst still having a decent choice of places to stay.

IHG has NOT decimated the value of any particular group of hotels. There is still good value irrespective of the quality of hotel you prefer to book.

Putting the Hotel Indigo Leicester Square at 90,000 is just an unfortunate red flag. It shows why, for PR reasons if nothing else, you need category caps.

It hides bargains such as Hotel Indigo Tower Hill for an excellent 26,000 points, InterContinental O2 for 33,000 points and Crowne Plaza The City for 34,000 points.

The last two are easily amongst the five ‘best’ IHG properties in London. In fact, a lot of people would say Crowne Plaza The City and InterContinental O2 are THE best IHG hotels in London. Kimpton Fitzroy has issues with its small rooms and InterContinental Park Lane is getting tired.

It’s hard to shout ‘devaluation’ when two of the best hotels in London are under 35,000 points. I doubt many HfP readers would want to stay in Leicester Square anyway, so 90,000 points for the Hotel Indigo is not a cause for concern.

IHG Rewards devaluation

The big question is …. exactly what is IHG Rewards trying to achieve?

This is NOT revenue-based redeeming, by any means. The range above runs from 0.21p to 0.65p per IHG Rewards point.

At the same time, IHG has acted unwisely in doing two things:

  • removing brand or category caps, which gave members an element of guidance and certainty as to how many points they may need
  • announcing that points pricing would be updated daily – you can’t go to bed knowing with any certainty that the reward you were looking at will still be bookable at the same price in the morning

The ONLY value in the IHG Rewards programme comes from the ‘easy to earn, easy to burn’ methodology.

You certainly don’t stay at IHG for elite recognition, free breakfast, guaranteed upgrades, guaranteed lounge access or guaranteed late check-out, because you don’t get it, even as Spire Elite.

You would generally pick up a lot of points from your stay – but this is worthless if members do not have any certainty over what those points will get.

In the real world, there is an element of ‘I fancy at weekend at InterContinental Paris which will cost me xx,000 points so I will move my stays for the next two months to IHG’. This link is now broken because there is no longer any certainty that you can get a room for that number of points.

Comments (178)

  • John says:

    Have prices been changing wildly every day in practice?

  • _nate says:

    This seems kind of ridiculous. What on earth motivated this change?

  • BJ says:

    A good analysis and insight into what I would have considered a fools errand. Let’s face it, IHG has always been weird, standard redemptions have historically been too high at the bottom end and too cheap at the top end, not that anyone here complained much about that. Before reading these articles my assumption was that IHG had lost the plot, except I was never convinced they had much of a plot to lose. And yet, your analysis shows some order underlying the apparent chaos! However, the order relates only to the cost of redemptions, as you highlight the chaos remains elsewhere such as the not knowing, the need to book night by night. I don’t know about others but I am not driven enough to cope with this. Too much faff and time and brain power to expend on a hotel reservation. I had been contemplating for some time switching IHG to Marriott as my secondary hotel loyalty scheme, this has just finalised the decision. I am glad I had our road trip all planned and a 4 night stay at Staybridge Vauxhall at 22k/night all sorted a month ago. Doubt I’ll be changing them. Thanks for these articles, and your time and effort in producing them.

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      I’m not sure the analysis support the assumption of order BJ, it shows that on the data used there is an average that is not a long way off Robs prior valuation but I could pick random numbers between 0 and 1 and end up with the same result.

      This is definitely a decision made in a vacuum and it’ll be interesting see how it influences behaviour amongst customers – Robs point at the bottom is key, who is choosing IHG if their goal is to save for a redemption they can’t price?

      • BJ says:

        Possibly order is too strong but I arrived at that conclusion because the scatter in Rob’s analysis was less than I would have anticipated based on my own quick perusal of some of my favoured redemptions over the past few days.

  • John says:

    Question: Why pick a Thursday night right around the beginning of the English summer holidy?

    I would think most people redeeming in London would pick Friday/Saturday nights, not Thursday nights.

    And would they really redeem for an upscale or luxury property in central London when school holidays start the next day for many?

    Sorry for being so blunt, but I don’t think you are setting this up to be a “realistic” example.

    • John says:

      To make my post more constructive…

      Rob, your blog runs occasional pieces entitled “Book your ABC bank holiday weekend now” or similar. Why not check such a date?

      I realize some people will use the summer vacation for a few days holiday in London that includes a Thursday. I still don’t think this is exactly prototypical. Wouldn’t you rather redeem in Malta, Algarve, Cote d’azur, California or the like during the summer? And if you pick London, rather make it a city break over a weekend where you don’t need to take days off work?

      • Rob says:

        Because, by their nature, these are dates which are likely to have ‘distorted’ pricing. For example, cash rates in London over a Bank Holiday are usually peanuts due to the lack of business travellers so a redemption (on a fixed price chart like Marriott has) would be terrible value.

        Deliberately picking a date where pricing is distorted by external factors is unlikely to give an accurate view.

      • memesweeper says:

        In a normal year this would be a popular time for US traveller redemptions (which granted, this year is not)

    • Anna says:

      The school holidays begin on July 16th in many areas, so any date after this is going to be in similar demand to a weekend night. The Kimpton Fitzroy seems to be nearly 100k points per night on most desirable dates at the moment.

      • John says:

        I wouldn’t think so. I think for those Brits whose holiday starts July 16, it’s much more likely they travel to Algarve, Mallorca, the Canaries, or such than to London.

        I’m not denying people redeem for Thursday nights, including HfP readers. For instance, redeem a Thursday night and pay for Friday and Saturday nights as IHG is running a weekend sale. Or use the Ambassador BOGO for Friday and Saturday nights.

        Or be an academic like myself and simply stay in London Wednesday and Thursday nights because redemptions and flights are cheaper and show up at my uni at the remaining weekdays. 😉

        Nevertheless, it stands to reason most redemption for London’s city center are gonna include a Friday and/or Saturday night. Fewer are gonna include a Thursday night. Of course, picking a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday night would be even worse.

        • Andrew says:

          Why are you switching between “Brits” and “English Schools”?

          Scottish School Summer Holidays start around 25th June.

    • BJ says:

      As much as we all might like one, HfP cleary doesn’t have the resources for a rigorous indepth analysis. There would be questions over whichever random night and location was used. I’d hazard a guess that the results wouldn’t be that much different from what Rob found here despite my initial presumptions of greater and wilder scatter. I don’t know if Rob has considered it but I see a lot of potential for HfP to benefit from associations with universities to get a few Masters students working on projects that are related to the blog remit. The internship clearly worked well for Rhys, and I am sure there must be quite a few Masters students who share his passion for the industry and would welcome the opportunity for projects.

  • Jonty says:

    Will anybody really be paying £150+ to stay at HIX Excel or Stratford? Some of the cash prices seem unrealistic, too.

    • BJ says:

      Sometimes they have little or no choice. And sometimes people are just daft and will, for example, stay the weekend in London at a Travelodge that costs them as much as a 4* Hilton. HfP readers are not your average customer.

      • Nick G says:

        My friend does this and often in king cross and think they’ve experienced London for a weekend!!!! I give up trying offer alternatives

      • Erico1875 says:

        I’ve seen Travelodge Edinburgh Central and Ibis South Bridge + £150 peak dates pre pandemic

    • Chrism20 says:

      We have offices at Stratford and have an agreed corp rate with the HI/SBS but when they are full we end up in some of the other properties on cash rates. I’ve filed expenses for £200+ a night rates at HIX & PI Stratford in the past.

      In normal times West Ham matches or other events at the London Stadium combined with events at the O2 send Stratford rates out the window at times.

  • Jonathan says:

    Congratulations IHG, you’ve managed to make your rewards programme even less appealing than ALL which I didn’t think was possible!

    I would agree that the date chosen here is unlikely to fully illustrate the effect of the changes.

    As John mentions in comments on Part 1, demand is not evenly spread at the moment. Leisure destinations & dates are booming whereas business focussed options are dead.

    My only hope is that this is a temporary blip whilst hotels & IHG deal with the boom this summer & then some kind of structure returns. If not then I’m not interested in the hassle of dealing with wildly fluctuating prices &/or an effective value of 0.2p/point for anywhere I’d like to stay.

  • Andrew says:

    But the bottom line is that two weeks ago I could comfortably book central London Holiday Inns for the summer for 20-25,000 a night, now I can’t. That’s a devaluation of currency in anyone’s analysis, regardless of how it correlates to a pence per point.

    • BJ says:

      The other bottom lines are …all good things come to an end…and…as one door closes another opens. It has always been the way of things in the loyalty game. All we can do is be patient and play the game as it evolves regardless of whether things change slowly and gradually or abruptly overnight. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose.

    • Rob says:

      You’re right. Now you can book Hotel Indigo Tower Hill for 26k, InterCon O2 or CP The City for 33/34k, which is a massively better deal.

      • Andrew says:

        Shame those aren’t very nice areas of town.

        • Doug M says:

          Tower Hill and Blackfriars are rather nice in my opinion. The O2 less so, but each to their own. If at O2 then North Greenwich to Bond Street sub 20 mins on Jubilee Line.

        • Sandra says:

          CP The City is a good cash price too, even on weekends that hotel can be expensive. We use it often, especially when going to the South Bank for the theatre and I’ve never found the area a problem or felt unsafe. You can walk up the hill to St Pauls, walk along the river, along Fleet St (although I agree the walk isn’t as nice) into central London or walk across the road and you are straight on the Circle or District line at Blackfriars. From past experience they also always give lounge access free with Spire status and often an upgraded room.

          • Rob says:

            I cannot see, under any scenario, the area around CP City could be seen as unsafe. I don’t think there are drunken mobs walking around the office buildings of the City over the weekend ….

  • Anna says:

    Why would anyone spend 100k points on a night at the Kimpton Fitzroy, for example, where you would get no breakfast and very possibly little recognition of status, especially on a busy date?
    Is it the hotel or IHG which sets the points price? Some of these changes seems deliberately calculated to dissuade people from using points.

    • Chrism20 says:

      I’ve thought this myself and the only explanation I can think of is location, location, location.

      There are some fickle tourists out there who will book this because its their dream vacation, its a lovely looking old building in Z1 and is within walking distance of pretty much everything central.

    • The real John says:

      I believe IHG sets it but the hotel may have some influence if the manager wants to gets in touch with corporate.

      From my own experience, I’ve paid 50000 points and the hotel got about 20 euros, meanwhile 8 months ago I stayed at a HIX in a tiny German town for 15000 points and they got 160 euros, it didn’t even seem that busy but I arrived at 9pm and left at 7am

    • Rob says:

      But that’s probably why. If the Kimpton hits 95% occupancy then IHG is on the hook to pay Kimpton £400 per reward room. Perhaps Kimpton is expecting to be full on that date and IHG is trying to avoid paying the £400?

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