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IHG revamped its loyalty program and travelers noticed; 11 million new members signed up

Aug. 09, 2022
4 min read
InterContinental New York Barclay
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The refreshed and renamed loyalty program at IHG Hotels & Resorts attracted tons of new members in the first few weeks following its debut.

IHG first announced changes to its elite status tiers in early 2022, but the launch of the program — IHG One Rewards — and the official rollout of its new perks didn’t arrive until late spring. The new program isn’t as perfect as IHG leaders would have you believe (hotel lounge access is no longer included in club-level room and suite upgrades), but it certainly appears there is traveler curiosity about what IHG can bring to the loyalty race.

The program, which has more than 100 million members overall, added 11 million new members in its first nearly two months of operation (a 30% jump in enrollments), IHG CEO Keith Barr said on an investor call Tuesday.

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“The loyalty contribution is a complex issue because it's not just about the program,” he later added. “It's about the brand portfolio. It's about the overall quality of your assets. It's about the geographic mix, [and] I think we've been addressing all those things.”

You can read all about the new benefits included in IHG One Rewards here. Some of the biggest changes include improved perks such as free breakfast as a welcome amenity for Diamond Elite (IHG’s highest loyalty tier) members, exclusive reward night discount promotions for Diamond Elite and Platinum Elite members, and complimentary upgrades for both of these tiers.

The new iteration of IHG’s loyalty program also includes milestone rewards every 10 nights, beginning with the 20th night stayed in a calendar year.

Barr indicated there already have been 14% more points redeemed in IHG One Rewards and 18% more reward nights booked.

“Our loyalty members are our most valuable guests,” he added. “They account for half our room nights, spend 20% more than nonmembers and are nine times more likely to book direct, which is the most profitable channel for our owners.”

Brand buildout

As Barr mentioned, a key component of wooing new members to the loyalty program is featuring brands they actually want to stay at. IHG’s best-known brand family, Holiday Inn, is certainly popular but doesn’t exactly elicit the same kind of points redemption excitement as, say, a St. Regis in the Maldives.

Sure, the company also boasts the luxury InterContinental brand, but Barr highlighted how IHG leaders have worked to fill in the gaps when it comes to brand offerings.

“Back in 2017, we identified white spaces in our portfolio where we could see a clear path to address long-term consumer trends and capitalize on notable sustainable growth opportunities,” he said.

The company added Avid, Voco, Atwell Suites and the Vignette Collection in recent years. IHG also acquired luxury brands Regent and Six Senses. This comes on top of ongoing growth initiatives at brands such as Hotel Indigo and Kimpton.

“Having a complete brand portfolio from luxury and lifestyle, from Six Senses to InterContinental through mainstream and premium makes you more compelling from a loyalty program perspective,” Barr said. “So, if you've got big gaps in your portfolio, then you're less appealing to certain segments of customers, too.”

A US business traveler rebound

One of the strongest talking points IHG leaders discussed on their investor call was the revival of business travel in the U.S. Room rates for business travel exceeded 2019 levels every month since March while demand also steadily increased, Paul Edgecliffe-Johnson, IHG’s chief financial officer, said.

IHG can, in part, chalk this up to its mix of roadside hotels — Holiday Inn Express is particularly a massive revenue driver for the company — which appeals to business travelers who have to be on the road and don’t have the luxury of working remotely from home.

Either way, a win is a win.

“There remains further potential for business travel recovery, especially within the meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions segment,” Edgecliffe-Johnson said. “And as with leisure demand, we see no indicators that the recovery trajectory is abating.”

Featured image by (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases