IHG program allows members to redeem for rooms elsewhere

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InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is allowing Priority Club Rewards members to use their points at competitor hotels through its “Hotels Anywhere” program. The company introduced the initiative May 18 after an April soft launch.

IHG created the program to encourage Priority Club members to stay at its hotels and accumulate points, but leave the network only if necessary, said Brian Ericson, director of loyalty program development at the lodging conglomerate.

“We don't have properties in Hawaii, for example, so we want to serve a member who loves us, loves Priority Club, but still wants to take his kids to Hawaii for summer vacation,” he said. “Instead of people splitting their business, staying at Marriott or Hilton to bank points for a Hawaii trip, we're making our currency universal.”

Hotels Anywhere, however, can be used even in markets with IHG hotels. The company is hoping loyal customers will usually select an IHG hotel to get more value for their rewards night, Ericson said.

“The math will work out that our IHG reward nights will be significantly more attractive from a value perspective than a comparable hotel across the street,” he said. “We don't feel there's a need to artificially filter that out.”

IHG's seven lodging brands include Crowne Plaza Hotels & Resorts, Staybridge Suites and Holiday Inn.

IHG soft-launched the program April 28, but announced it May 18, to limit traffic while testing the technology behind Hotels Anywhere. The company's technology vendor is EzRez Software.

The company will promote Hotels Anywhere with a member-focused campaign, Ericson said. It will begin distributing direct mail, e-mail and print member communications in June. The campaign will also include ads in industry trade publications. Ogilvy & Mather, named IHG's agency of record for global customer marketing April 13, is creating the effort, Ericson added.

IHG has promoted Priority Club Rewards heavily in recent months. In February, it launched a campaign drawing attention to changes in Hilton's rewards program. IHG also released an iPhone application in April that awards club members extra points for rooms booked through it. It also used a portion of a $100 million campaign for its Holiday Inn brand to target Priority Club Rewards members.

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