Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) is to provide free internet access to all of its loyalty scheme members from early 2014.
The group will offer the benefit to Gold Elite and Platinum Elite members from July, before extending it to all members next year.
The July launch will co-incide with a major revamp of IHG’s Priority Club Rewards scheme, which will be rebranded as IHG Rewards Club, with several new benefits.
Elite members will be able to roll over excess qualification nights into their next membership year, similar to a promotional Marriott benefit which was recently made a permanent part of the Marriott Rewards scheme (see online news February 12). Members will also see Reward redemption nights count towards elite status qualification.
In addition the group is encouraging its members to spread their stays across several IHG brands, by offering faster elite status qualification.
Those staying with three different brands in a calendar year will only need to complete ten nights to reach Gold Elite status (instead of the normal 15), and those staying with four brands or more will be required to complete 40 nights to reach Platinum Elite status (instead of 50). Members based in the Asia-Pacific / Oceania region will only be required to stay with three distinct brands and complete 40 nights to gain Platinum Elite status.
More details on the new benefits can be seen here (this link was due to go live at 0700 GMT on Tuesday March 26).
The provision of free internet to loyalty members follows a recent IHG survey (carried out by YouGov PLC) which showed that 23 per cent of respondents view free internet in rooms and throughout the hotel as the most important amenity when staying in a hotel for business, and 43 per cent of adults would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for internet.
Commenting on the free internet provision IHG’s CEO Richard Solomons said that “it’s partly a tool to create interest in the scheme, but it’s also partly about rewarding people who are actually regular stayers.”
“It’s two-fold – giving people more benefits, helping them appreciate the value, which leads into the second part which is to encourage them to use more brands, and that’s where we see a lot of opportunity, both for them [the members], but also for our hotels, and the owners of our hotels.”
Solomons said that “about 90 per cent” of IHG’s hotels worldwide already have “an element” of free internet access, but stressed that the new initiative “confirms it for every single hotel right across the world”.
Members will also be able to avail of the free access even if they are not staying at an IHG property, with Solomons saying that “if they are on the road we don’t want them stopping at some coffee shop that’s got free internet when they can come and sit in a comfortable hotel”.
It seems likely that certain hotels within the group will opt for a tiered access policy, with Solomons saying that the free provision “will be your basic internet access, and there’s no question that some of the hotels will be looking at different offerings and probably if you want very high speed or very expensive streaming then there maybe a different offering for that”.
“It’s almost like if you go to a restaurant you can get a set menu, but if you want to pick and choose or want special wine you’ll pay more for it.”
Explaining the reasoning for the rebranding of Priority Club Rewards as IHG Rewards Club, Solomons said that “We’ve got more hotels in more markets than any other hotel company, and what we discovered was that not all of our guests knew that, and the reason for that was that Priority Club had a separate name to the group”.
“IHG is well known in the financial markets, it’s well known in the employment markets, it’s well known in the B2B market, but IHG as a name is less well known to our guests because it hasn’t been how we’ve structured the business, so we’re getting that message across.”
For more information visit ihg.com.
Report by Mark Caswell