The Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) is one of the largest hotel companies in the world, with over 5,000 hotels in close to 100 countries, offering over 700,000 rooms! With 168 Million guests per year, chances are you have been to one or at least heard of one of their hotels! Their brand Holiday Inn is one of the best known around the world!
If you are looking to pick a hotel group for your preferred reward program, it’s important to know if they fit your typical travel needs as well as your aspirations for reward redemptions. Do they have the kind of hotels you like? Do they have hotels in the countries you travel for work – or want to travel on awards? So, here is an overview of the IHG group of hotels (updated with numbers from their 2015 financial reports) to help you choose:
Regions: Focus on America
Three quarter of the IHG hotels are located in the Americas, 15% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and only 8% in Asia and the Pacific. If you are traveling a lot in the US, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a hotel anywhere you go. While there are a lot fewer hotels in Europe or Asia, keep in mind that with 5,032 hotels globally, they still have about 1,200 hotels in those regions – that’s more than Hyatt or Carlson have worldwide! The number and distribution of hotels worldwide gives IHG a distinct advantage over other chains as your go-to rewards program – that’s why I ended up moving a lot of my business spend to them when I started to travel internationally.
Brands: Holiday Inn / Express is the core
IHG has a staggering 10 different hotel brands – it’s hard to keep up with all of them as a casual traveler (click on the brand names for more details on each brand). But, don’t despair, the Holiday Inn Express (48%) and Holiday Inn (24%) brands are the backbone of IHG hotels, making up three quarters of all hotels. The slightly more upscale (and targeted for growth) Crowne Plaza brand is next followed by the extended stay hotels Candlewood and Staybridge Suites. The flagship InterContinental hotels make up less than 4% of the group and all the remaining brands, Indigo (boutique), even (holistic wellness) and Hualuxe (China) make up less than 1.5%. Oddly, there are 100 “other” hotels – I assume they are being re-branded at the time of reporting.
Price: Mostly mid-level hotels
Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express and the extended stay hotels are mid-level hotels with limited service offerings: You get a nice room and breakfast, maybe even a pool or gym, but don’t look for a concierge or bell boys. They make up 86% of the hotels. The Crown Plaza, Indigo and recently acquired Kimpton hotels are upscale and full-service hotels, typically featuring restaurants, conference rooms, pools and gyms, as well as more staff on hand. Only the Intercontinental brand qualifies as luxury hotels, making up only 4% of the portfolio. The overall share of upscale and luxury hotels is much smaller than any of the other big chains, so if your company allows more upscale properties for your business travel and you travel mostly in the US, Hyatt or Starwood might be a better fit!
Rewards: Affordable awards!
Another reason why I like the IHG group from a rewards perspective is that so many hotels in the IHG Rewards Program are available at low rewards levels: Few programs have more than 10% in the lowest category. In some programs (looking at you, Hilton), the lowest award category is only a marketing tool with a handful of hotels in it! After the recent reward devaluation, more than 3% of the hotels fall into the top categories, making the most desirable hotels more expensive. I would consider the category 7-11 hotels “aspirational”, including great hotels that I happily will save points or certificates for, including the InterContinental Ko Samui, InterContinental Bora Bora or InterContinental Hong Kong!
Conclusion: If you need hotels all over the world, are looking to stay mostly at reliable mid-level hotels and splurge every once-in-a-while at an upscale luxury hotel, the IHG group will be a good fit: 5,032 hotels in close to 100 countries, the vast majority at affordable rates, combined with about 150 gems for aspirational stays is worth checking out for you!