IHG Rewards rebrands: Here’s what that means for travelers
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IHG Rewards Club, which is now known as IHG Rewards, is one of my go-to programs. So, when I saw news of this rebrand in my inbox this morning, I was both nervous and excited. Specifically, I wondered whether this rebrand would improve the onsite experience or change the value of my IHG points.
After all, TPG Executive Editorial Director Scott Mayerowitz remembers the effect of Holiday Inn’s new logo back in 2007. He noted that hotels were only allowed to use a sign with the new logo if they made investments and renovations ahead of schedule. As such, the rebrand encouraged hotels to improve their properties. This rebrand is different, though. Here’s what we know so far.
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First off, InterContinental Hotels Group is rebranding itself to IHG Hotels and Resorts. By adding “Hotels & Resorts,” the brand strives to highlight its “collection of 16 brands that sit side by side as one family.” And by removing InterContinental, IHG reminds travelers its portfolio contains more than just one brand.
Second, IHG is rebranding its loyalty program from IHG Rewards Club to IHG Rewards. IHG says this rebrand is to convey the program’s accessibility. Specifically, IHG notes that “the word ‘Club’ has been removed from its name to reflect the warm welcome that is available to all.”
IHG’s rebranding press release also notes, “IHG Rewards will be seen out and about more often and in more places.” When asked about this statement, an IHG Hotels & Resorts spokesperson responded, “We are always looking to provide more opportunities for our IHG Rewards members to earn and redeem, including our recent partnership with the Mr & Mrs Smith portfolio and the launch of the Atwell Suites brand.” The spokesperson noted that more information on IHG Rewards and Six Senses will be shared this month.
By far, the most visible and immediate change of this rebrand is the IHG Rewards website. In particular, you’ll notice a new logo and color scheme. IHG says this “fresh look and feel…showcases the brands and hotel experiences in the most engaging way.” The site functionality and search process remain the same, though.
Additionally, IHG is now discussing its 16 brands as four collections. A spokesperson noted the collections would “help guests make the right choice for all their travel needs, quickly and easily.” The collections are as follows:
- The Luxury and Lifestyle Collection: Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas, Regent Hotels & Resorts , InterContinental Hotels & Resorts , Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Hotel Indigo
- The Premium Collection: HUALUXE Hotels & Resorts, Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, EVEN Hotels and voco Hotels
- The Essentials Collection: Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts, Holiday Inn Express and avid hotels
- The Suites Collection: Atwell Suites, Staybridge Suites, Holiday Inn Club Vacations and Candlewood Suites
It’s unclear what effect these collections may have on onsite experience at these brands or how you earn IHG points. For example, currently, you earn 5x points at Candlewood Suites and Staybridge Suites and 10x points at most other IHG brands, including Holiday Inn Club Vacations. I expect IHG may align earning rates within collections, with the Luxury and Lifestyle Collections earning at elevated rates and the Suites and Essentials Collections earning at lesser rates. But, as of yet, earning rates haven’t changed.
Finally, I assume we’ll see a new name on the IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card and IHG® Rewards Club Traveler Credit Card soon. However, for now, these cards still include “IHG Rewards Club” in their names.
What’s not changing?
After reading the previous section, you might just shrug. After all, seemingly not much is changing in practice for the average traveler or IHG loyalist. An IHG Hotels & Resorts spokesperson confirmed this update “was focused on refreshing the look and feel of the IHG Hotels & Resorts brand and rewards program.”
I’d hoped this rebrand might address some of the many ways I’d like to see IHG improve its loyalty program. For example, IHG needs to improve its elite perks if it wants to compete with other hotel loyalty programs. And I believe Kimpton Inner Circle and InterContinential Ambassador should be better integrated within the IHG Rewards program.
I’d also hoped this rebrand might refresh or otherwise alter some of the brands. For example, although the Crowne Plaza brand lies in the Premium Collection, I’ve visited several Crowne Plaza properties that are in desperate need of a refresh. And, although consistency across properties in the Holiday Inn Express brand is generally good, Candlewood Suites tend to vary drastically in quality.
The changes announced today are limited to the branding and appearance of the IHG Hotels & Resorts brand and rewards program. In particular, the rebranding focuses on appealing to less experienced travelers who may not currently have any hotel loyalty. As such, I expect we’ll see new but potentially less-valuable redemption options introduced later this year.
Finally — just to be clear — elite benefits, how you earn IHG points and how you redeem IHG points didn’t change today. In particular, I did some sample award searches today to confirm pricing hasn’t noticeably changed. If you can snag a night at the InterContinental Bora Bora Thalasso, it’s still 70,000 points per night. Likewise, the InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort still prices at 100,000 points per night. And all of the dynamically priced hotels I’ve been tracking are still in the same price range as yesterday.
The changes today for IHG Hotels & Resorts and its IHG Rewards program mostly involve branding. As such, these changes won’t immediately affect travelers and IHG loyalists. But, these changes indicate the direction IHG plans to take going forward. In particular, these changes indicate IHG wants to modernize its brand to be more accessible and welcoming for all travelers.
This rebranding would have been a good opportunity for IHG Rewards to announce changes to its loyalty program. Likewise, it would have been the perfect time for IHG Hotels & Resorts to roll-out brand-wide refreshes and improvements. However, since neither of these happened, I suspect we won’t see any significant changes in these areas for at least a few months.
Featured image of the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa by JT Genter/The Points Guy.
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