InterContinenta Hotels Group revealed an alliance with an important Las Vegas landmark at its annual convention, along with the progress of the Holiday Inn relaunch and other initiatives. Asian Hospitality was at the conference…

INTERCONTINENTAL Hotels Group used the backdrop of its annual convention at the Venetian in Las Vegas to announce its new partnership – an announcement that was met with thunderous applause from more than 4,000 conference attendees.

IHG announced the partnership of Las Vegas Sands and InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. The alliance will bring the Venetian and Palazzo resorts under the InterContinental umbrella and the IHG reservations system.

‘It was a long time coming due to the situation here [Las Vegas]’ said Las Vegas Sands CEO Mike Leven. ‘We wanted distribution channels. We’re hoping for increased room rate capability.’

The Venetian and Palazzo resorts will keep their individual identities and signage, though will maintain InterContinental brand standards. IHG’s Priority Club members will be able to redeem their points for stays at the resorts.

‘Las Vegas was independent from the industry and reservation systems,’ Leven said. ‘No one here thought they would have to look outside their own world. We had this opportunity, so we took the ball and ran with it.’

And while Leven would ‘love to have the Venetian Macau the same way,’ there are currently no plans for partnerships with other Las Vegas Sands properties. ‘It’s a little early for that,’ Leven said.

In recovery
After a sustained period of uncertainty in the Great Recession, hotel companies are now out of survival mode and in recovery. IHG is seeing an upswing in RevPAR, revenues and even employment.

‘We will not let the economy keep us from our goal,’ said IHG Americas President Jim Abrahamson.

The company expects to employ 350,000-500,000 workers in the next few years. Revenues stand at $17bn from 4,500 hotels worldwide. RevPAR is up 4.5 per cent.

Industry-wide recovery is on the horizon, though there is plenty of caution.

‘There is no different view of the world now than a year ago,’ said Adam Sacks, managing director of Tourism Economics. ‘The industry is growing as expected. History will tell us that the end of the world is not now.’

‘We will move forward with confidence knowing that the heart of the system is strong,’ Cosslett added. ‘The recovery is underway. We are committed to work more closely on the things that matter… We have a golden opportunity and genuine momentum.’

Holiday Inn rebirth
The Holiday Inn relaunch remains a top priority for IHG, with properties already reaping the results. RevPAR is up 8 per cent for relaunched Holiday Inns and 7 per cent for Holiday Inn Express. ‘RevPAR growth has begun and will continue,’ Abrahamson said. ‘We will welcome people back to Holiday Inn. We will welcome associates back to work. We will welcome investors.’ Nearly 2,800 hotels have been relaunched – nearly 80 per cent of the global portfolio – since the billion-dollar project began.

The chain is also making its breakfast and bar area into a single integrated space to be the main social hub for the hotel. Breakfast options for Holiday Inn and the Express Start for Holiday Inn Express will be enhanced with both hot and grab-and-go options. And for six months, Holiday Inn Express has been testing its new pancake machine at 30 hotels. The machine will officially launch in March 2011 and will be free to hoteliers with the purchase of pancake batter.

Mobile key technology is also being tested and developed, where guests would use mobile phones to unlock rooms for a more fast and efficient check in.

Priority Club relaunch
The new year will also bring a new look and feel to IHG’s Priority Club rewards program. Changes will include a new logo and new ways of point redemption. ‘The big thing is for customers to know their points are safe and won’t expire,’said Don Berg, IHG’s vice president of loyalty programs.

The new alliance with IHG and Las Vegas Sands will give customers a new hotel redemption option. Priority Club also has the Hotels Anywhere program with a third-party site that will allow members to redeem their points for non-IHG properties anywhere in the world. Guest can also use points and cash to for flights with Flights Anywhere. ‘We are telling the customers they can use their points as they wish,’ Berg said.

Marketing innovations
IHG is seeing success with its precision marketing model, designed to be more targeted. ‘Precision marketing was born of the recession,’ said Del Ross. ‘We needed to be smarter about where we put our marketing dollars.’

Described as ‘the difference between a spotlight and a laser,’ the marketing model seeks to find why people are traveling and their preferred demographic. ‘We’re seeing a much greater return on investment,’ Ross said.

‘We’re adding additional dimensions to the planning process,’ Ross continued. ‘We have a library of what works and what doesn’t. This is the very beginning of the journey.’