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We had mentioned that changes were forthcoming to InterContinental Hotels Group Priority and those were officially announced on March 29. Usually when news starts trickling out about changes, it means the change is going to be big, whether it be good or bad (think Hilton HHonors early in 2010). However in this case the majority of the changes are not very significant but do represent some industry firsts. The new benefits/changes to the program are as follows:

Last Minute Reward Nights:
A hotel industry first, “Last Minute Reward Nights” will allow Priority Club members globally to redeem Reward Nights at a 50% discount off the regular point price, for selected properties. Members will receive an e-mail on Monday providing a list of hotels where this offer will be available the following weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Initially, this program will be offered on the first full weekend of every month, starting with May 6, 7 and 8, 2011.

This is the best enhancement to the program, it is always nice to get discounted reward nights especially for last minute travel/getaways. The one big concern that may come up here is whether IHG will keep their Priority Club Point Breaks feature where reward nights at select hotels ranging from lower end HI Express to luxury InterContinenal Hotels can be had for 5,000 points. I think we will find out about this at the end of April as the current selection of Point Breaks hotel offers expire on April 30 with the following weekend being the first “Last Minute Rewards Nights”.

The other changes/enhancements are not that exciting but are technically additional benefits:
Points & Cash for Merchandise Rewards: Also a hotel industry first, Priority Club members in the U.S. will be able to redeem a combination of Priority Club points and cash for brand name retail merchandise rewards. Priority Club Rewards currently offers points and cash capability on Reward Nights, but this will expand that functionality to merchandise rewards, a feature not offered anywhere in the industry. The program will roll out globally beginning late 2011.

“Lucky Points” Sweepstakes: This feature will give members based in the US, Canada, and UK the chance to turn their extra points into great rewards. Members will be able to redeem a very small quantity of Priority Club points (e.g., 100 or 200 points per entry) in exchange for a chance to win the prize or prizes that are most appealing to them. Typically, members will have 6-8 different prize draws to select from, ranging from terrific hotel packages (e.g. 4 nights at the InterContinental Times Square- New York) to popular merchandise (e.g., iPads), and even 1 million Priority Club points! Priority Club Rewards will be the only travel loyalty program to offer members this chance to turn a single stay into a huge prize! The program will roll out in China and Japan beginning fall 2011.

Downloadable Media Rewards: Priority Club Rewards will be the first travel loyalty program to give members the flexibility to redeem their points directly for downloadable media, including the latest music hits and millions of other songs, plus eBooks, mobile games and applications, and computer software. This will open up a terrific opportunity for members to turn relatively small quantities of points into tangible rewards. The program will initially rollout online in English globally and in several European languages beginning late 2011.

Source (and a good examination of the changes): Loyalty Traveler

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