If hotels and airlines could just cancel all the bookings they’ve received, so that they could then resell the flight or room at a higher price later on with no recourse, we’d be living in an awful world of travel. It would be carnage.

Why ever book a confirmed hotel reservation, if there’s no guarantee it will be honored and a hotel can just leave you stranded with no help if they get a better deal later on, or cancel it to charge you more?

Apparently, IHG thinks this is just fine, because the company continues to allow a London hotel, the Intercontinental O2, owned by the Arora Group, to laugh in the face of customers.

The hotel got a better deal, cancelled thousands of reservations and won’t even help members get their same rates honored at other IHG hotels in London, which they are bound to do, by IHG policy. Basically, the IHG booking guarantee is just a maybe, when it suits the brand, because it doesn’t want to aggravate one of its hotel owners.

Hotels And Loyalty Programs: It’s Complicated

Hotels are rarely owned by the loyalty program they are a part of. They’re typically owned by private investment groups, individuals or a mix of the two. Ultimately, each property is an investment looking to maximize revenue for all involved.

To do this, they turn to loyalty programs and turn the property into a known brand from a known hotel chain, which has huge marketing reach and baked in reservations from the millions of loyalty program users, to get more guests through the doors.

They are instantly plugged into millions of travelers around the globe, unlike a boutique which is instantly plugged into zero. Opening the doors to a brand new hotel and putting a sign that says ‘Intercontinental’ is going to create a lot more bookings than opening the doors and adding a sign that says ‘Gilbert Hotel’.

It’s not at uncommon for a Marriott Bonvoy hotel to become a Hilton Honors hotel, simply changing the names and signage, as the hotel owners look for the loyalty group which brings the most bookings with the lowest costs associated. It’s why Marriott’s CEO recently, blatantly, said hotel owners matter more than guests right now.

In other words, many hotels hate rewarding elite members of the loyalty programs they are a part of, but it’s a cost of business.

They also, from time to time, hate having to honor policies which are part of the brand guidelines, like reservation guarantees. A boutique hotel with no guarantee policy can be vicious and just cancel a reservation, perhaps at their own peril, or gain.

But as part of a brand with standards and guarantees, you can’t. IHG’s is rather simple, and the Intercontinental O2, owned by the Arora Group continues to believe that IHG will refuse to act to enforce its own policy, so the hotel is just blatantly ignoring it and hoping no one cares.

IHG clearly and simply states, if a hotel cannot honor a fully confirmed reservation for any reason, that it will help accommodate a guest elsewhere, and even says it’ll take care of the first night, on them, for the hassle.

Intercontinental O2 Hotel Continues To Refuse To help

Many readers have gotten in touch to say they abandoned all hope of a first night being comped on their unilaterally cancelled stays, which they should 100% be entitled to, and really just want their rate honored at a comparable hotel.

Still, the Intercontinental O2 refuses to do this, tries to send members to deal with IHG, and IHG continues to punt with inaction.

GSTP has viewed correspondence with numerous cancelled guests subsequent to the first article, when the hotel chose to boldly claim on Twitter that it was taking care of people. To be abundantly clear, it’s not.

The hotel correspondence since has been anything but helpful, and simply provides a list of hotels where once confirmed guests with locked in rates are welcome to make their own (new) reservations at current rates, without assistance.

  • they’re not trying to relocate them at all.
  • If they are, they’re taking no responsibility for higher rates.
  • they’re just telling guests to rebook on their own at current rates.

One of our readers simply wanted to move to another Intercontinental at the same rate, with no comped nights or anything else. It was flatly refused on numerous instances.

Unfortunately, as I’ve gotten entangled in this, they’re blatantly waving the middle finger in my direction too, which isn’t going to make this quite as easy to sweep under the rug, as perhaps the Arora Group, which owns the Intercontinental O2, hoped.

“We treat our guests like royalty and our staff like family.”

Surinder Arora, Founder and Chairman of the Arora Group

LOL. Perhaps that can be amended to “we treat our guests like royalty, unless we get a better deal, such as a government contract, and then we literally tell guest to go pound sand and refuse all guarantees of the hotel group we’re flagged under.”

Just Do The Least, Right?

Hotels that go above and beyond to recognize loyal guests or make things right beyond what’s required when things change (like cancelling reservations) are truly wonderful, but mounting cynicism through the years leaves me just hoping for the minimum required.

Just honor what few policies exist and are required, and anything better is simply a plus. It’s why this one is impossible to let go. Even for a cynic, this is a hotel waving the middle finger at the marketing and loyalty group it’s a part of (IHG) and profiting from, and also at customers who made good faith bookings at normal rates.

If IHG doesn’t step in to rectify the behavior of this hotel, it sends a clear message to all other IHG hotels that the IHG brand policies property they are supposed to honor, are truly toothless and customers can be left stranded at any time, without recourse. It will allow other hotels to treat customers with equal disdain, which means everyone loses.

Worse, it could allow hotels to simply swap prices on you at any time.

If you want to live in a travel world where you can book 355 days in advance only to be told at check in that the hotel wants to charge you double, and chose to cancel your reservation to force you to, then yeah, this is totally fine.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

Join the Conversation

12 Comments

  1. Great article about AURORA Intercontinental. Good to see you publicly shaming the hand that presumably feeds you. I for one will simply avoid the whole IHG group

  2. If it is written on IHG’s website about the guarantee, those affected should complain to the ASA if what IHG is advertising isn’t being honoured.

  3. Not the only IHG hotel in the UK doing the same. Booked the Crowne Plaza in Manchester airport at the beginning of July for a stay on Aug 14, they contacted me a week or so ago to let me know that the booking was cancelled and offer no alternative. Complaint and got 10k ihg points, but had to booked the Doubletree that cost twice what I was supposed to pay (and £40 more than the price it was at the time of booking the CP, so the 10k doesn’t even cover that…)

  4. This also happened to my 4-night stay at the Crown Plaza Kings Cross in October:

    “Dear Valued Guest,
    We are writing to you regarding your reservation at the Crowne Plaza London – Kings Cross. The safety of our guests is the number one priority and as one of our steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, we would like to advise that the hotel will temporarily close until further notice, thus the cancellation of your reservation. We apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. ”

    Cool cool

  5. Shameful behaviour. I got this reply when I contacted them – which I’m not sure is even correct?

    “As for the terms and conditions, I’d like to share that “A Guaranteed Room” promise appears to be a 72-hour Guaranteed Room Availability, a benefit applicable for Platinum Elite and Spire Elite Members. This case is different because the hotel became a quarantine facility as mandated by the government and we don’t have control over that.”

  6. Had a similar issue with Choice Hotels, trying to shirk their responsibility. If you have a confirmed booking, you have a binding agreement for accommodation, they are legally required to provide alternative at no cost. If they don’t, you can book your own & hold them accountable for all associated expenses, if needed in (small claims) court.
    Elliott consumer advocates have the contact info for most US hotel chains on their site. If you contact the IHG execs, stating that you know your rights and won’t give them up, you’ll likely get what’s owed to you.
    In my case, the cost difference was over $1,500, I escalated it step by step up the executive ranks and finally got a response from Choice when I wrote to the person below the CEO…
    Don’t give up, the law is on your side…

  7. Any idea what radisson/Park plaza reservation guarantee policy… Have looked everywhere and can’t find it….
    Similar prob, PP I booked is now quarantine hotel.

    Cheers
    Alan

  8. We had this experience with a family trip booked at the O2 IC.
    We actually didn’t even get notified that our reservation had been cancelled. It only came to light when I called the hotel to make an enquiry. Was still showing in my IHG account as booked.
    I actually wrote to the hotel during the original closure period and had an email from the hotel telling me “yes we will definitely be open from this date, go ahead and make your booking”.
    I had lots of back and forth with the hotel and eventually the IHG ambassador email address and basically got nowhere. I kept pushing and managed to get the free (up to 40,000) reward night voucher out of it for my trouble but didn’t really help getting our stay rebooked. Ended up in the Docklands Crowne Plaza, having to book it myself and we had quite a disappointing experience compared to what we were expecting with the IC suite. (The CP is fine – just wasn’t what we had planned for).

Leave a comment