It’s been a busy year for the loyalty division of IHG Hotels. To start, they changed the name of the program from IHG Rewards Club to IHG One Rewards. With the new name came a refresh, adding perks for top-level members. The promise of better availability for room upgrades, including suite upgrades and free breakfast, brings IHG One Rewards in line with other major loyalty programs.
IHG One Rewards also added “Milestone Rewards.” Starting at 20 nights and every additional 10 nights, members receive their choice of a reward that includes bonus points, confirmable suite upgrades and food/beverage credits.
At the time of the announcement, the buzz was mostly positive. However, it wasn’t until June that most of the changes were put into place, and even now, some of the Milestone Rewards still aren’t online. The shine has started to fade and there’s more complaining than complimenting the new program.
Then came the first of the IHG “Mistake” award sales. Seemingly from nowhere, many IHG hotels were pricing at unbelievably low rates, sometimes up to 50% less than usual. Many people were sure it was a programming glitch and IHG would cancel the reservations in a few days. While the award prices eventually went back to normal, the reservations stuck.
Only a week later, the sale returned, with prices even lower than before. Those who skipped the first sale jumped on these discounts of up to 50%. Even people with existing reservations could rebook with the lower award rates.
Most of us were shaking our heads, trying to figure out what IHG was doing. The reduced prices obviously weren’t a mistake and the company never mentioned anything about the award price reductions. Did they see that sales for next year were slowing down?
Then came the weekend.
IHG’s website priced every hotel in its worldwide portfolio at 16,000 points. The catch was that the rate was only for a single night – August 5, 2023.
That’s a very specific sale and it leads me to believe all of these “mistakes” weren’t an accident. They targeted a particular audience and the discounts did what the company wanted.
The first flash sale got the news out to those that follow mistake fare sales. They were able to make some amazing bookings and before the information went mainstream, the deal was over. We all had a week to wait for confirmation if the prices were real or would the bookings would get canceled blaming a computer error.
Then came the second sale. People were more ready and willing to book, knowing the last time wasn’t a fluke. Many more were able to take advantage of this sale before it was pulled.
Finally, the 16,000-point sale, which is so specific that only the most fervent points person would create an entire trip around a single-night stay that is almost a year away.
These sales got people talking about IHG One Rewards in a positive light again. Instead of griping about how an upgrade to a club-level room doesn’t include lounge access, people are bragging about booking Intercontinental and Kimpton hotels for 16K points.
I don’t know how long the good will will last but I’ll admit that at least it appears that IHG is trying to improve its loyalty program for those who use it the most.
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