One of the best features of the InterContinental Ambassador program is the “buy one get one free” weekend night certificates (BOGOs) that Ambassadors receive. Given that it costs only $150 to join the Ambassador program and you receive a BOGO when you become a member, it usually more than pays for the price of membership, not taking into account all the other benefits you get. In the past I took full advantage of these certificates. A few years back I stayed at the InterContinental Singapore with some friends and we booked an Executive Suite for a weekend and received the Ambassador Suite, which is the second best suite at the hotel. Given that the second night was free, it was quite a deal. Well last February they devalued the BOGOs somewhat by not allowing them to be used for suite bookings. At least they were still easy to use, since you could book any published rate and use them without letting the hotel know in advance.
While it hasn’t officially been communicated to members, this FlyerTalk thread suggests that there’s going to be another hoop to jump through when using these. It looks like all BOGO stays will require booking code IBAMB, requiring bookings to be made through this link.
What are the practical implications of this? The rate using this code seems to be the same as the best flexible rate, so this means no more advanced purchase rates, AAA rates, or other rates that you could previously use them on. Second, in practice this might very well mean less generous upgrades. While I realize it’s probably not IHG’s intent, most of the hotels are individually owned and will probably be less likely to give good upgrades when someone is getting the second night free. My biggest long run fear would be that they decide to restrict the amount of inventory available for this booking code. That would be bad.
So it seems like we can keep booking as usual for now, but this change seems to be imminent. Until I receive direct communication about it I’ll continue using BOGOs as before, but be warned….