Priority Club is renaming itself IHG Rewards Club with some program changes coming in July.
They’re announcing some new benefits, though we don’t yet know full details.
- Free internet for elites in July and all members in 2014. Other chains already offer elites free internet. More Priority Club hotels offered it to everyone to begin with, and so they were slow to make this an elite benefit. This is good but incremental at best. (Free internet for non-elites is an interesting development, their press release claims they’re the first loyalty program ever to offer this which is incorrect — I believe the title of first belongs to the old Wyndham ByRequest program.)
- Fast track to elite status “when you stay in more than two” of their brands. Details not yet released, if this is just fast track to Gold that’s nearly a meaningless level. I’ve always found it FAR easier to earn status on points than nights anyway.
- Reward nights count towards status which is nice and follows Hilton and Starwood, but again for folks earning status on points earned rather than nights stayed this isn’t helpful. Lucky thinks this could also mean elite benefits apply on reward nights, I hope so and would follow Starwood’s notion that a night is a night however paid for (even though Starwood’s award nights don’t count towards promotions, and a night isn’t a night if booked through a third party). We’ll see…
- Rollover nights if you stay beyond the nights needed for your elite qualification, the overage will count towards the following year.
Most of the changes revolve around how you qualify for status in the program. And they just changed which points count towards status at the beginning of the year. Of the above changes only free internet is clearly a new benefit, and many members at many hotels already get that.
Lucky uses the word ‘huge’ twice to describe these changes. I don’t see it. We will learn more details as July approaches for sure, and there could be more to it than what’s been announced, but Priority Club’s track record would suggest otherwise.
Priority Club has been increasing their award night pricing over the course of the past several years. In January we got more award categories and generally more expensive awards. A year ago January award price increases, too. In 2007 PointBreak awards (discounted award nights) were introduced as a sweetener coinciding with big increases in award pricing.
They also tried relaunching themselves two years ago this month, with a new logo and program tweaks at the margin such as ‘last minute reward nights’ (discounted awards each month for the upcoming weekend).
Priority Club doesn’t need a new name. They need the basic benefits that other hotel loyalty programs offer.
- The ability to spend additional points for a better room when redeeming award nights.
- Meaningful upgrades for elites (Priority Club does not have any suite upgrade benefit, let alone suites confirmed in advance).
- A breakfast and/or club lounge benefit for top elites.
- Elite benefits honored on award stays.
- A less complicated program, merging the elite recognition programs for their Intercontinental hotel programs (Ambassador/Royal Ambassador) and the rest of their hotels (currently Priority Club), at the same time that all of their hotels share the same program for points earn/redemption.
Simple, other programs offer these things, and Priority Club doesn’t — and that makes them uncompetitive.
These are things they need just to catch up. A new program name accomplishes none of this.
The only real benefits of Priority Club are that they have properties pretty much everywhere that you can burn and redeem points at and that they (often unintentionally) allow you to stack lots of different promotions to earn points quickly.
But when you redeem those points, on-property benefits are hugely limited.
From what we’ve seen so far, announced changes aren’t even directionally moving the program towards what they need in order to competitive or attractive.
I do love the following, though from their press pitch:
With a wealth of recent research pointing to travelers’ loyalty to specific brands declining, hotel brands making it more and more difficult for consumers to earn/redeem reward points, and the spawning of a cottage industry of so-called “points consultants” – IHG Rewards Club is transparent, designed to benefit the traveler, and will not require a mathematician to decipher how to redeem points! In what will be an ensuing battle for consumer loyalty, IHG has fired the opening shot.
I suppose this amuses me most since I’m part of the ‘cottage industry of so-called “points consultants”‘ either through this blog or my award booking service.
But the ‘complications’ that require guidance when redeeming points really are predominantly an airline issue.
Though it’s tough to decipher point values from hotel programs, too, and these changes would seem to do nothing to reduce those challenges. Further, they appear to retain the confusing bifurcated elite recognition systems for Intercontinetal hotels and the rest of their hotel properties, leaving Priority Club as quite complicated for many members to understand. Announcements thus far do nothing to make the program more transparent than before, or more transparent than their competitors.