IHG Rewards Club Launches Direct-Booking Program
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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is the latest hotel company to join the direct-booking movement in 2016.
IHG announced Tuesday the rollout of "Your Rate by IHG Rewards Club," an exclusive room rate that will be offered to IHG Rewards Club members who book through one of several direct channels moving forward.
The program will launch this month at IHG hotels in the Americas and Europe and will eventually be rolled out at IHG properties in Asia, the Middle East and Africa later this year.
Much like recent initiatives launched by Hilton Worldwide and Hyatt Hotels, the exclusive IHG hotel rates will be made available to members who book direct on IHG branded websites, the IHG app and over the phone through an IHG call center.
The company said that in the near future the rates will also be made available for bookings made through select travel partners who book on behalf of an IHG Rewards Club member.
IHG didn't release details regarding the exclusive rate but Hyatt, the most recent company to launch a direct-booking campaign, offers Hyatt Gold Passport members up to a 10 percent discount when they book direct.
What's also not entirely clear is whether the rate is agent-inclusive. However IHG's language reflects that of Hilton and other hotel companies that have made their exclusive room rates available to members who book through approved travel agents — agents who book direct through the company's website — or, in Hilton's case, agents with access to the company's global distribution system.
There's a difference, though, and it matters, especially in the eyes of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA).
In April 2016, just two months after praising Hilton for its agent-inclusive direct-booking campaign, ASTA was critical of Hyatt's campaign, claiming it "makes comparative shopping harder for agent and consumer alike, and adds to an agent’s workload by disrupting the standard booking process."
The organization also spoke out against Marriott International's direct-booking initiative last summer. However the group recently applauded the company for including agents in its direct-booking campaign.
Although it remains to be seen whether and or how the travel agent community will respond to IHG's approach to encouraging customers to book direct, company leadership is convinced that the program puts customers first.
"IHG is a consumer-driven company and we are committed to ensuring that we provide a superior and personalised experience for our millions of guests around the world," said IHG chief commercial officer Keith Barr in a statement. "Offering exclusive rates to our most loyal guests who know and trust IHG’s family of brands is a key part of this."
"The launch of Your Rate by IHG Rewards Club is another important milestone for our loyalty program, which last year launched a new top-tier membership rate, Spire Elite, alongside a series of other benefits."
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