As a reward for my loyalty, I usually receive complimentary upgraded rooms at InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) hotels, such as Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Holiday Inn Express. However, IHG’s luxury brand, InterContinental, has an additional program called Ambassador. As of Spring 2018, Ambassador status costs $200, or 30,000 IHG loyalty points.
My initial research led me to believe it would be worthwhile to pay the equivalent of one free night (30,000 points is equivalent to one free IHG hotel night that costs around $150.). I had plenty of points due to my loyalty, and the benefits sounded good:
- A guaranteed room upgrade
- Buy-one-get-one-free weekend night
- Complimentary Pay-TV film per stay
Unfortunately, it is simply marketing that doesn’t deliver on its promises. So far, I have stayed at 3 Intercontinental hotels as an Ambassador, and I am quite disappointed.
Promise #1: A guaranteed room upgrade
Reality: Maybe a nicer view, or maybe a downgrade!
I understand that an upgrade could simply mean a better view or a higher floor. However, I was hoping that with the combination of my IHG loyalty status and Ambassador status, I might get upgraded to a suite one of these days. Instead, from my 3 stays so far, 2 of the upgrades were hardly noticeable, and one was actually a downgrade….
I had booked a family room for 3 guests at the InterContinental Prague. The description (shown below) said it had 2 king size beds. Instead I received a standard sized room with one king size bed and a cot. Not only did I not receive an upgrade, but I did not even receive a room equal to what I booked.
Promise #2: Buy-one-get-one-free weekend night
Reality: A coupon only valid when you’re able to pay too much for the 1st night
To get your free night, you must show the hotel a physical “certificate” (coupon) that is mailed to you. It is supposed to arrive in 6-8 weeks, and it expires a year from the issue date. Because I travel full-time and getting mail is challenging, I still haven’t received mine!
Even when I receive my coupon, I’m not sure I’ll be using it. To get the free night, I must book the other night with the “ambassador weekend rate”. That rate is often significantly higher than other rates! Also, I have noticed that this special Ambassador weekend rate is often unavailable.
Promise #3: A complimentary Pay-TV film per stay
Reality: Get a DVD yourself from the junk drawer in the lobby.
I figured this benefit sounded fun! l love to order food delivery and watch a newly released movie, all while in my pajamas.
I recently stayed at the Intercontinental Dublin, and I tried searching the TV for the Pay-TV option. I gave up and called the Front Desk, who told me to instead go downstairs to see their DVD collection. (I discovered that there was a DVD player behind a drawer in my room; it took all my strength to open that drawer to find it.) I reluctantly put my street clothes back on to go choose my film. I was taken to an area behind the front desk and shown a drawer full of old movies, which had no descriptions or pictures. It was such a disappointing selection, that I just gave up. That is not the kind of experience I had in mind when I read that I would get a “free pay TV film per stay.”
Overall, I feel like I’ve been tricked rather than rewarded. Having Ambassador status has encouraged me to book stays at their hotels because of the perceived benefits. The reality is that it simply places me in an expensive tourist trap. For example, unlike most hotel loyalty programs, Ambassador status does not include complimentary breakfast nor lounge access. That encourages guests to order food from their expensive restaurants or grab something from their overpriced mini bar. IHG must be proud of their money-making scam.
Is Ambassador status worth it? Definitely not for me, and I live in hotels 100%!