As conventioneers were descending upon Las Vegas for IHG’s annual conference, word came from IHG that it had signed a 10-year licensing agreement with the Las Vegas Sands, a global developer of resorts with a market capitalization of $25.6 billion.
The agreement between these two big players in their own markets will allow each of them distinctive perks not realized before. The Sand’s Palazzo and Venetian Hotels will gain access to IHG’s global operating system, which includes websites in 13 different languages, 10 worldwide call centers, global sales force, and Priority Club Rewards—the world’s largest hotel loyalty program with 52 million members. In return, IHG gains entry to the Las Vegas Strip for its members of the Priority Club Rewards and Ambassador loyalty programs. These customers will have access to benefits and recognition at the Palazzo and Venetian hotels—both of which have received AAA’s Five Diamond Award.
“Las Vegas is the most requested destination for our Priority Club Rewards and Ambassador members,” said Jim Abrahamson, president of the Americas, IHG, of the reason for developing such a relationship.
Other big news from the conference included IHG’s acknowledgement of the near completion of its big three-year relaunch of the Holiday Inn brand as well as its official unveiling of its repositioning plans for the Crowne Plaza brand for 2011. Changes include modernizing the logo but not changing the signage. (Early indications are it might result in a slightly different color scheme.) Also included in the changes are a sleep strategy using upgraded bedding; its meeting enhancement emphasis including the creation of their Lobby Connect Lounge and creative meeting spaces; and emphasis placed on in-room dining.
IHG implemented a new conference segment called the “Brand Experience” where IHG executives who are working on the individual brands briefed the audience on results and talked about implementing various elements of the steering wheel—four areas of concentration including the financial returns, people, guest experience, and responsible business segments—and how they were applicable to their brands for the coming year.
And even Indigo, IHG’s boutique brand, appears to have gotten into the act. During the brand experience for Indigo, Janis Cannon, vice president, hotel Indigo brand management, spoke of “tinkering with the concept.” This tinkering includes the company placing a large emphasis on it being “the local brand.” IHG has begun to incorporate the use of local elements into properties to reflect the local flavors and culture including renaming restaurants, using local produce and craft beers to drive home the point.
Whereas, IHG’s 2009 conference might have centered around retrenching and holding the line with costs even downsizing to some degree, this year’s show was about reinvigorating the brands.
“Last year was about rolling up our sleeves and talking about what we were going to do. We understood it was tough out there and we were going to help you,” explained Gina LaBarre, vice president of brand delivery, the Americas at IHG. “This year we have celebrating to do. We are making great enhancements.”