[ 60 Seconds ] with InterContinental Hotels Group

Unheard of? In the hotel industry, at least.

We, of course, are talking about Priority Club’s decision to offer an American Express lodging card, which members can earn as a reward, and use at any hotel in the world where American Express is accepted.

We had a chance to sit down with Steve Sickel, Senior Vice President, Loyalty Marketing for InterContinental Hotels Group, and chat about this bold move.

InsideFlyer: “Any Hotel, Anywhere” – How did you come up with this idea?
Sickel: When you boil it down, loyalty programs have three basic “verticals.” Earning value for the points, what can you do with the points and hotel deliveries – what will the hotel give me. Basically, we locked ourselves in a room until we came up with ideas.

IF: What length of time did it take to make this happen?
Sickel: This idea came about two years ago. We had other things on our plate at that time. About a year ago, we launched our research. In March of 2004, if really took off. In total, about a year.

IF: You’re not really worried about competition? That’s unusual.
Sickel: Yes, we know that Priority Club members are very much devoted to our brand. Over 50 percent of their travel wallet goes to our brands. I was convinced that the benefit to the customer would far outweigh any minor risk.

IF: Was there a moment of truth when they (InterContinental) balked at “any hotel?”
Sickel: Yes, but we did research and it showed that there would be more loyalty to us and our brands. I was able to convince our executive committee of this. We also took the time and did the research with the owners. Everyone at first said it sounded bad, but after I explained it, they were asking, “Can you do it faster?”

IF: Adding this value to Priority Club – is this something your members will engage in?
Sickel: We’re going to make sure everyone knows about this. If no one knows, how can they be excited about it? Will they take advantage of this? Some will, some won’t. We don’t have properties in Las Vegas and Hawaii; this is where the benefit can be really appreciated.

IF: So there’s some lack of distribution. Are you looking into adding properties to these areas (Las Vegas, Hawaii) where you don’t have brands?
Sickel: Our development department is looking into this all the time. I don’t have anything I could share at this time.

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