Review: InterContinental Tampa

I stayed at the InterContinental Tampa recently on a $79 Travelzoo rate, which included breakfast. I had no real need to stay at the hotel, but given the rate and the fact that I could finally check out my home town InterContinental, not to mention the fact that I would be earning credit towards the “Sweet Dilemma” and “Crack the Case” promotions, it seemed perfectly justifiable in my mind.

Before I start my review, I want to briefly discuss one of the biggest challenges in the hotel industry (from my point of view), which is more evident here than anywhere else. Specifically, the challenges of managing customer expectations but at the same time trying to be everywhere that your customers want to be.

I’ve said many times before that I believe InterContinental has the best top tier status level. I know the most common complaint from frequent InterContinental guests has been that InterContinental needs to build more hotels, since there’s such a huge quality gap between InterContinental hotels and the next “grade” of hotels in their chain, which is probably Crowne Plaza.

So that’s exactly what InterContinental seems to have done in Tampa. They rebranded a Wyndham to be an InterContinental a few years back, and while it’s a nice hotel, the challenge is that Tampa hotels can’t charge “InterContinental prices.” It’s very tough to deliver the services you want when the yields aren’t there.

And to be clear, this was stuff going through my head before my stay. I guess the point is, given that I was paying $79/night, should I expect InterContinental quality since I’m staying at an InterContinental (since surely they want brand consistency), or do I expect Holiday Inn Express service, since that’s the price I paid? More than likely, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

Anyway, the InterContinental is located off of Kennedy Boulevard, across from a large shopping mall with several attached restaurants. It’s not really the best part of Tampa, but then again, there aren’t really any “central” parts that would meet everyone’s needs. The hotel I usually stay at in Tampa is the Grand Hyatt, which is on the Bay, though it’s totally isolated otherwise.

Anyway, I had been in the lobby of the InterContinental a few times, and it’s nice enough, though nothing grand.


Lobby

Check-in was prompt, though lacking any kind of “welcome” or status recognition. The agent simply acknowledged that my Priority Club number was on file, and gave me a room key. There was no mention of free wifi, free minibar beverages, or a complimentary in-room movie as a Royal Ambassador. It’s just sad when hotels don’t capitalize fully on the goodwill they’re generating by providing upgrades. I remember a stay at the beautiful InterContinetnal LeGrand Paris a while back, where at check-in the agent said with a smirk “I hope it’s alright, we have taken the liberty of upgrading your accommodations to a junior suite.” If you’re already providing an upgrade, that’s the cheapest form of goodwill you can get!

Furthermore, the rate included breakfast in the restaurant, so I wanted to confirm that the restaurant opened at 6:30AM (I had a 9AM flight), though the front desk agent said that the restaurant only opened at 7:30AM. Confused, I asked him again, and he insisted it was 7:30AM. I eventually had to walk to the restaurant to look at the posted hours, where it clearly said 6:30AM. I went back to the front desk agent just to ask if the posted hours were wrong, and he simply responded with “oh yeah, it’s 6:30, I guess you’re right.”

I don’t know what it is about Tampa hotels, but they all seem to be half hotels and half office buildings. At least that’s the case at the InterContinental and the Grand Hyatt. So while the InterContinental has an atrium, you’re really looking at cubicles in the other building while in the glass elevators.

My room was on the 4th floor (not sure why they didn’t assign me a higher floor room, but that didn’t really bother me). I had been upgraded to a junior suite based on what my reservation showed online before I arrived. The suite was definitely on the “junior” side. On the plus side, there were two separate rooms, though unfortunately the bedroom and living room were very small, almost to the point of being claustrophobic. In that case I typically prefer a larger, executive room.

The decor of the room was nice, though.


Living room


Living room


Bedroom


Bedroom


View (or lack thereof) from the room

The bath amenities were decent and the water pressure was good. The minibar was reasonably well stocked, too.


Bathroom


Minibar

The welcome gift was two bottles of Fiji water (of which there were about a dozen scattered around the room otherwise, so it was of limited use) and a fruit plate.


Fruit plate and water

The bed was quite comfortable, and after a quick shower in the morning I went to Shula’s, the hotel restaurant, for breakfast. The spread was quite good, with just about everything (basic) you could want. There was even an omelet station. The service was lacking a bit, as there wasn’t anyone at the entrance to seat me when I first arrived, and at one point there wasn’t anyone at the omelet station, so my waiter took my order and insisted he would take care of it. I never got served the omelet.


Shula’s Restaurant

On an unrelated note, there was some sort of sorority breakfast that morning in the lobby. I was kind of excited, until I realized it must have been the 50 year sorority reunion, or something.

Check-out was prompt, and I waited downstairs for the 7:30AM airport shuttle. I had to ask several times where the shuttle was, and they kept insisting it was still coming. At around 7:45AM I pushed it with the bellman and asked him to check on the shuttle, at which point he made a call. Literally 10 seconds later the shuttle showed up, as it was waiting around the corner.

The shuttle bus driver, while very apologetic that I had to wait, had some less than kind words to say about the hotel — “This place is hell to work at, they’re completely disorganized. They’re supposed to call me when there are people waiting.” He was very nice otherwise, but I had a feeling he was pretty spot on.

Overall was this one of my better InterContinental stays? No way, probably my worst. Was it a pretty good stay given my rate, not taking into account the brand? Absolutely, for $79 it was an absolute bargain. Unfortunately, though, rates like these are about all they’ll be able to charge with the service level of the employees.

The rooms are actually pretty nice, as are the facilities. I actually prefer the hotel as such to the Grand Hyatt, which is the hotel I frequent in Tampa. The views at the Hyatt are much better, though what really sets the hotel apart are the people. A little bit of training would go a long way at this property…

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Comments

  1. We stay here about 2-3 times per year, and your experience sounds like our typical stay. It seems that there is some sort of service failure at this hotel every time we stay there. If only it were United, we’d be rich. ­čÖé

    Because of the string of service failures on our last stay, we are confirmed into the Presidential Suite for our next stay. Our rate is the same as yours — $79 with breakfast.

    Even with the service problems at this hotel, we like this hotel. If they would provide better service, this would be one of our favorite hotels.

    I hope to provide a glowing review after our next stay!

  2. I recently stayed at the Crowne Plaza Tampa which is just down the street from the Intercontinental. One of my pet peeves is when the hotel doesn’t honor their own stated benefits. One benefit is a Gold/Platinum check in line.

    There were about 5 people waiting in line to check in but nobody was waiting directly behind the person checking in at the Gold/Platinum check in desk. I stood behind that person but when they were finished, the check in person called over one of the 5 people (as if I was trying to cut the line).

    When I was finally served, I asked if those other people were Gold/Platinum and was told that they were only trying to be fair. I said that the point of the sign on the desk was that I didn’t have to wait in line behind the non Gold/Platinum people. At first she didn’t really understand my point, but finally got it. I didn’t want to make a huge deal out of it, but I didn’t like looking like the “bad guy.”

  3. I hope the hotel or some rep at the chain reads your review. You are absolutely right about the positive impression made by simply acknowledging your status, mentioning the upgrade, etc. Makes all the difference in the world from a customer experience standpoint. Nice review, Ben!

  4. Ben,

    Did you receive the free wifi, free minibar beverages, or a complimentary in-room movie as a Royal Ambassador?

  5. I expect that if I stay at an “Intercontinental” I will get an “Intercontinental Experience”. If I don’t I do strongly complain. The Intercon on the Island of Tahiti is a case in point. Terrible everything when I was there. Had the PC points completely refunded!

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