As reported by Live from a Lounge, Priority Club sent out their monthly e-statement with this ominous note,
Effective 18 January 2012, Priority Club will make changes to the number of points required for Reward Nights.
No clue as to what the changes would be were included. However, at this moment, the Priority Club Reward Night page brings up new award levels when using the Google Chrome browser, strangely when using Internet Explorer only the old rates come up.
It’s not an across the board devaluation. Rather, whereas Priority Club has historically charged a single points level based on the brand of hotel you were redeeming for, and in recent years has added some segments within each brand (so that an Intercontinental might be 30,000 or 40,000 points). Now they’re adding greater segmentation:
- Candlewood Suites will cost 15,000 or 20,000 points per night, rather than just 15,000.
- Crowne Plaza properties will cost 25,000 or 35,000 points per night, rather than just 25,000.
- Hotel Indigo will be 25,000 or 35,000 points per night, rather than just 25,000.
- Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Express further segment — going from 10,000/15,000/25,000 to 10,000/15,000/20,000/25,000.
- InterContinental adds a new 50,000 points level. Ouch.
- Staybridge Suites will cost 20,000 or 25,000 points per night, rather than just 20,000.
I frankly hate redeeming Priority Club points anyway (except when they’re an exceptional value for specific properties listed in PointBreaks at just 5000 points a night) because it’s the only chain that specifically doesn’t honor most elite status benefits on award stays. There’s also no option for premium room redemptions for additional points. So a top tier elite member, who spends all year with the chain, based on the terms and conditions of the program should be ‘rewarded’ with the most basic room when they finally cash in the points – the supposed ‘fruits of their loyalty’.
Priority Club points are easy to earn, but I tend to prefer gifting them to friends and family for whom upgraded accommodations are less important. Or if I’m going to use them, it will be on short stays where I simply need a place to sleep.
Two years ago, Priority Club ran the “Luckiest Loser promotion” to highlight that Hilton HHonors was devaluing its points and highlight that you could trust Priority Club’s value. Intercontinental Hotels execs even personally threw down the gauntlet over this.
From Priority Club’s press release at the time:
“If you want your loyal customers to stick with you during tough times, it’s vital to show you appreciate them and give them more value, not less. So it’s no wonder there was such a negative reaction to Hilton devaluing their points programme,” said Tom Seddon, chief marketing officer, IHG.
… “We know from research that the value of loyalty points currency is paramount to members,” said Don Berg, vice president, Loyalty Programmes, IHG. “Travellers depend on their rewards to help them cover the costs of their summer vacations and weekend-getaways, and they don’t expect their points to suddenly lose value overnight.”
And yet now they’re the ones devaluing. We don’t actually know by how much since we don’t know how many and which hotels will go up versus staying the same. I suppose that it’s only during ‘tough times’ that you have to show loyal customers that you appreciate them, and now they’re unconcerned about “giv[ing] more value, not less.”
Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo properties that do go up to the higher category will see an increase of 40%. We’ll have to wait until January 18 to see just how bad and across the board the increases are for the program as a whole.
Update: According to Barbara De Lollis, Priority Club will provide a grace period through mid-March for members who specifically call in and ask for the older award prices.
Berg says that IHG hopes to take the sting out of it by building in a two-month grace period.
Through mid-March, members will be able to book the old rates – without too much of a hassle.
…”We don’t want to say, ‘Here’s the increase. It’s going to take place two, three months from now,'” Berg says. “That doesn’t help the customer who may have already planned a vacation.”
To give customers who had planned to use points in 2012 a break, any Priority Club member can use the old rates by calling IHG’s service center.
“We’ll automatically give them the old price for 60 days,” Berg told me.
IHG Vice President Don Berg misleadingly claims “We know Hilton, Marriott and Starwood and everybody else has raised their prices in the last 18 months,” when of course Hilton’s devaluation was longer in the past than that, Marriott’s wasn’t quite as large, and major devaluations are much farther in Starwood’s past. Of course, it’s not as though Priority Club hasn’t devalued before either — all Intercontinentals used to cost only 30,000 points. The De Lollis piece also cites IHG misleadingly with the claim “IHG is dropping the point requirements for 20% of hotels, Berg told me. The rest of IHG’s hotels will remain the same.”
It’s also far from clear why Priority Club won’t just implement the chnages with two months’ notice rather than offering a backdoor for ‘in the know’ members, other than that they hope most members won’t be in the know.