Being downgraded from InterContinental Royal Ambassador, and not feeling too bad about it

For the past couple of years I’ve been fortunate enough to be a “Royal Ambassador” member in the Priority Club program. For those not familiar with the benefits of Royal Ambassador, check out this post I made a while back.

I’ve had some unforgettable stays as a Royal Ambassador, like my stay at the InterContinental Bali, where I got upgraded to a Jimbaran Suite, or my stay at the InterContinental San Francisco, where I got upgraded to a Bay Suite. Overall I’ve found Royal Ambassador status to be great, and many agree that it’s the best top tier status of any hotel chain.

Unfortunately I’m being “downgraded” to Ambassador at the end of the month, and I don’t see myself re-upping my status back to Royal Ambassador anytime soon. At first I was bummed about it, but then I’ve noticed that overall the program is slowly being devalued. Unlike other programs, this devaluation doesn’t come in the form of concrete policy changes, but rather more “consistency.”

Usually consistency is a great thing, but in this case it’s not. While all InterContinental hotels guarantee a two level upgrade for Royal Ambassadors, some hotels went above and beyond. One such example was the InterContinental Le Grand Paris, where I stayed this past summer.

What made the Le Grand so special? First of all, they provided more than a two level upgrade. They upgraded Royal Ambassadors to either junior suites or executive rooms with a nice view, and also threw in access to their incredible club lounge, which is probably the best one I’ve ever had access to. Add to that their full honoring of Royal Ambassador benefits on award stays (which they technically don’t have to do, and even in practice most hotels don’t honor), and this is one fantastic hotel.

Well, as of this week the IC Le Grand no longer grants Royal Ambassadors club access. They are, however, offering Royal Ambassadors a “special deal,” charging them 90 Euro/night for access, instead of the normal rate of 120 Euro/night.

While this might not seem all that significant, it’s just another example of consistency which sucks. The IC Le Grand is now a middle-of-the-road IC as far as elite benefits go, but it feels like so much less. Unfortunately there are other properties making similar changes in the interest of consistency, so I fear the best days of Royal Ambassador are over.

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted….

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Ah, good. I’ve been meaning to ask you about RA, and whether I should feel inferior as a human being because I am not one. Gooood to know. Whew.

  2. I am having serious second thoughts as to whether I should make a run for RA or not. I’m close but with all the changes I’m feeling less and less loyal to anyone.

  3. yyzatcqq, one serious consideration is the value of the RA referral cert which you would get for requalifying. Now that the value of those is way up, it might just make sense to have a few extra stays just so you can “mutually gift” that to someone else.

    At the end of the day, RA is probably still the best top tier status level. I’d say it’s not much better than SPG Plat, but it’s still damn good.

  4. I’m not sure I see the problem. There were always hotels that never gave free club access to RAs, like London. Now we just have another one join the group. These are the minority, of course. Most ICs still treat their RAs like gold.

    It’s still a great program. I would be sad not to be a RA.

  5. Scholar in Training, you’re right, some hotels are better than others. The problem is that those hotels that were better are slowly eliminating certain benefits in the name of “consistency.” It’s not just the IC Paris, but there are several other examples.

    Which IC’s are you staying at that still treat RA’s “like gold?” Most of my recent IC stays have given me either club access or a nice room or junior suite. That’s not to say that I’m not happy with that treatment, but I wouldn’t call that being treated “like gold.”

  6. Well for instance the Tel Aviv IC. I was treated better there than at any IC I can recall. Personal greeting from the manager at check-in, club floor upgrade, ocean view, etc.

    At the London IC this past fall I was upgraded to the club floor for free and didn’t even ask! I was just told “enjoy this complimentary upgrade.” Now maybe they were just really light that weekend, I don’t know.

    Even some weird hotels treat their ICs really well, like Cleveland. I’ve stayed there on $89/night rates and have gotten upgrade to the club floor suite with a bottle of wine gift that retails for $20 according to wine.com.

    Now, I would agree that the list of hotels not upgrading to the club floor is problematic, but I do think we need to look at the other side of this. How many new RAs are there because of word getting out there with respect to the referral coupons. The RA program was probably doomed the day we started to see lots of referral vouchers and it became more widely known that it exists.

  7. For $150 and if you make RA, still seems like plenty of perks at many other hotels, unless you only travel to the one hotel

    Sounds like the IC Le Grand is just being consistent versus being inconsistent, consistent with upgrades, etc. As you mention that they gave you…

    In your other post about the promo in Asia your peeve is inconsistency, yet you are bothered that the IC Le Grand is now being consistent…

    Still plenty of others that offer you great recognition based on all the feedback.

  8. I got your blog from IC board of Flyertalk.

    As a student, I found it almost impossible for me to stay more than 50 nights in IC group to qualify the RA, as my stays spread between SPG and IC. Have you achieved it by staying 50 nights or is there some leeway to get it?

  9. Believe it or not; i stayed more than 50 nights in differents IC around the globe and I just got downgraded.

    Good reason for me not to stay at the IC chain anymore.

    H. Schmidt

  10. Mr Schmidt, my understanding of the Royal Ambassador program is that it is not a total number of nights stayed, but the total amount spent in that year period. This is probably why your memberships hasn’t been carried forth.

  11. I think someone should forward this posting to this Paris Le Grand hotel since I found this on first page Google search result, click it, and seeit. Very bad for word of mouth.

  12. Just arrived after a year without IC (after really bad service in JOhannesberg and London) in HK, and again, nothing special with the RA anymore. Gave them my card, as I will not stay at IC anymore. Hyatt Group eg generally better, service as a Diamond much better than even RA. Also Westin etc. showed better care of normal high card holders.
    IC does not care about their 50+ nights clients anymore (and i can compare with more than 150 nights in hotels of same category around the world per year)

  13. In my experience as and IC Ambassador, perks have been spotty. Sometimes no fruit, desk staff is sometimes clueless at some US locations. Some retraining might be in order.

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