In mid-February, the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announced it would be acquiring the wellness-focused Six Senses brand, greatly expanding the company’s luxury footprint in Asia. The news made it clear that IHG isn’t content to sit back as its competitors grow with mergers. With more than 5,500 hotels in nearly 100 countries, IHG is busy filling gaps in its portfolio, such as with last year’s majority stake in Asia-based Regent Hotels & Resorts, and in 2012, the creation of its own wellness brand, EVEN Hotels.
Aside from its namesake InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, many don’t realize that IHG has several other successful brands, including Holiday Inn Hotels & Resorts and Holiday Inn Express. Now, it is working to fill in the midtier and top-tier luxury categories, and consumers—especially members of its popular IHG Rewards Club program—will benefit with more places to earn and redeem points.
The loyalty program, as with other hotel groups, is free and comes with perks like free wireless internet in all participating properties and access to member-only rates through IHG-managed booking channels like the hotel websites or app.
How to take advantage of the program
Once you’ve amassed points, free nights can be easily booked online based on a scaled award chart. Alternatively, look for PointBreaks awards, where some hotels offer sales each quarter, some for as little as 5,000 points.
You’ll rack up points even more quickly with one of IHG’s cobranded credit cards or during one of the numerous promotions it offers throughout the year. And even if you don’t have a lot of points, IHG lets you combine points and cash for a reward stay.
With a large number of familiar brands and a handful of new ones, it’s worth exploring some of the unique places you can stay using IHG Rewards Club points. The more you know about these brands, the easier it is to choose a hotel for your next business trip or vacation—so you can keep earning points for free stays.
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
InterContinental, a signature brand for the group, was started by aviation pioneer Juan Trippe. The Pan Am founder created the hotel company so passengers would have quality places to stay around the world. Founded in 1946, InterContinental has just opened its 200th hotel, and it’s an intriguing one: The new InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland is located in a deserted Chinese quarry, which was repurposed into a resort oasis for kayaking, spa wellness, and entertainment on the outskirts of Shanghai. With only two floors over ground (and 16 below), this hotel is an architectural feat of engineering; it joins other notable properties with impressive design like the InterContinental Paris Le Grand near the Palais Garnier and InterContinental New York Barclay. Looking for something more far-flung? The InterContinental Danang Sun Peninsula Resort in Vietnam is a short drive from a UNESCO World Heritage site, Hoi An, and located near famous Monkey Mountain, with plenty of furry animals jumping by your room.
Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants
Quirky and eclectic, Kimpton has a loyal following for its 60-plus hotels and 80 restaurants, many of which are independent from the hotels. The brand has generous amenities, including a free daily social hour with wine, beer, and snacks in the lobby and a minibar credit for anyone who joins its free loyalty program. Known for being pet-friendly and loaning free bikes to guests, Kimpton also wins fans over with its individuality. There is nothing cookie cutter about interior design at a Kimpton, and no two properties look alike. The hotels are mostly in the United States, but there are plans for rapid expansion into China, Europe, and the Caribbean. Some popular options include the Kimpton Fitzroy, in a 19th-century London building facing Russell Square, and the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Seattle.
Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas
With resorts in more than a dozen countries, Six Senses plans to grow to nearly 60 properties within the decade in places like India, Cambodia, and New York City, with the goal of expanding in more urban areas. Its resorts are at the forefront of culinary, wellness, and sustainability efforts in their respective destinations, and guests are pampered in over-the-top accommodations, such as overwater bungalows in the Maldives or tree-shrouded villas on Thailand’s Yao Noi island. In Yao Noi, guests use baskets to collect their own eggs from the hotel’s farm before heading for breakfast. Its unique Sleep Program features special moisture-wicking bedding, sleepwear, a tracking monitor and sound machine, and a consultation with a sleep expert.
Avid is a midtier hotel brand that delivers on the basic tenets of a short stay. While there’s only one hotel open so far, in Oklahoma City, there are plans for two more openings this spring. With compact guest rooms and a do-it-yourself approach to everything from grab-and-go breakfast items (from brands like Belvita and Vitamin Water) to an all-day coffee bar, hoteliers like Avid because it is inexpensive to build and operate. Customers, especially millennial travelers, will enjoy how it removes the friction points of other hotels. Still and sparkling water are free in the lobby (no overpriced in-room bottles), and there are power outlets and USB ports everywhere. The free breakfast buffet is purposefully round to reduce lines and allow more people to access it at the same time. The first property opened to great fanfare last fall, and it will soon be joined by hundreds more based upon successfully signed contracts for new hotels.
Holiday Inn Express
This is IHG’s largest brand, according to Elie Maalouf, who runs IHG in the Americas. As the famous commercial goes, you can do anything after a night at a Holiday Inn Express. The brand places price and convenience above all else, and rooms are designed with the business traveler in mind, with power outlets by the bed and desk. It’s a no-nonsense hotel with everything you need—and nothing you don’t. Perks include a hot, free breakfast with a pancake machine and a special Cinnabon pastry available at most domestic hotels. You’ll also find the brand in holiday destinations: the Holiday Inn Express Waikiki is close to the beach for surfing and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Mont Tremblant in Quebec is near the ski lift.
With more hotels than any other brand in IHG’s lifestyle and boutique hotel category, Hotel Indigo’s 100 properties are all about reflecting the local community through both design and cuisine. From spa-inspired bathrooms with Aveda products to bedroom walls coated in large murals of the destination, these design hotels balance price and modern style. Hotel Indigo is found in a variety of places, including downtown Los Angeles and the new Peranakan-inspired property in Singapore.
Focused on modern-day business travelers, Crowne Plaza is undergoing a major $200 million overhaul in the Americas, dubbed Crowne Plaza Accelerate. No stone was left unturned, including new bedding with a curved headboard and aromatherapy sleep kits, plus designer staff uniforms unveiled during New York Fashion Week. Patented WorkLife guest rooms have angled beds to create more working space, and you’ll find welcome stations by the door for keys and small items. Public areas are colorful, and there are plenty of bright coworking spaces with various setups for individuals or groups, with all the necessary tech bells and whistles. The newest Crowne Plazas are already in full swing in Atlanta and Denver, among other cities.
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Ramsey Qubein Ramsey Qubein is a freelance travel journalist covering hotels, cruises, airlines, and loyalty programs from around the globe.