Why InterContinental have lost their spot in the top tier of luxury hotels worldwide

Having stayed at many InterContinental hotels worlwide, I have grown accustomed to a level of expectation in such a way to avoid unpleasant surprises.Subconsciously,  I have built up a map of features I am automatically associating with InterContinental.

On my recent stay at the InterContinental Park Lane in London, a flagship property for the InterContinental Group internationally, I have once again asked myself a set of key questions to understand my perceptions and inner thoughts.

What do I expect from an InterContinental Hotel ?

- a standard room to be a large one according to local standards? No !

- a good location ? Definitely !

- a WOW factor in room decor, technology and amenities? No !

- a good standard of service throughout the hotel ? Yes !

- to find a luxury SPA ? No ! Do I event look at the SPA menu, if the respective hotel has a SPA? No !

- a good breakfast ? Definitely !

- reliable and efficient concierge ? Definitely !

- competitive rates ? Maybe !

Then, I asked myself why I kept renewing my Ambassador membership card annually, if I stay less and less at InterContinental properties. The simple explanation is that, for some destinations, fewer and fewer, InterContinental is still the best hotel in the city (Kiev, Warsaw, Cannes), basically having no other alternatives for an international five star standard hotel.

But coming back to my recent stay at InterContinental Park Lane in London, I chose the hotel due to the fact that the newly re-opened Four Seasons Park Lane was fully booked on room categories and the Claridge’s quoted their usually insane rates. So, I was back at the InterContinental more than 4 years since my previous stay, to discover a well kep hotel with a good standard of services in F&B, housekeeping, front desk and concierge, yet, as during my first visit, a property which provides many ”challenges” and generates frustrations regarding room types (size, view, set up etc).

I used my Ambassador card to make sure I get an upgrade from the standard room which I had booked. I did get a Superior room, instead of a Classic room upon my check in. Both room types are identical in size, decor, features and amenities, the only difference being the view. My room had partial (very) view of Hyde Park, yet I could hardly ignore the very small bathroom (no separate shower) and the king size bed which was made up of two queen size mattresses. After a three hour flight and having woken up at 6 am that morning, I felt too tired to change my room, but again, it seems like no choice, since I noticed my king bed was actually a bed made up of two adjoining queen mattresses, this despite having mentioned my back problems to reception. So, I went down to front office and the receptionist insisted they could put a board on my bed or another duvet so I would not feel the adjoining mattresses, which I had to refuse.

Then, I was told that there were no other rooms with a ”proper” king bed available, unless (of course) I upgrade by paying GBP 100 per night to an Executive Room. I was also informed that this discounted upgrade fee would even provide me with Club access. After two hours waiting for the new room to be ready, I finally moved…

While waiting for my new room, I was kindly invited to the Club Lounge on the 7th floor lounge, but, unfortunately, I arrived right after they had closed the buffet, therefore only a selection of drinks being available.Two large LCD screens were playing football matches and news which different guests were watching loudly. The lounge attendant gave me a very ”fake” smile and asked if I was ok, otherwise, not knowing my name which is automatically shown on her computer once a guest enters using the room key. My new room, an Executive Room had the most beautiful views of London, including Hyde Park and Knightsbridge and the bed was a real king size one. However, the room itself, which I was told was 6 sqm larger, felt the same in size and the bathroom was identical with the one in the previous category room (very small and no separate shower), displaying the same Elemis amenities, hardly a luxury line, with artificial ingredients and preservatives.   

All in all, my recent experience, is the perfect reflection of why such a reputed chain, with a huge reputation, heritage and a glorious past (most properties used to be  the best hotels in major cities such as the Grand Hotel in Paris or the property in Hong Kong).

And then I suddenly remembered the InterContinental Park Lane was featured in MTV’s Sweet Sixteen show, which I had briefly watched during my previous stay in London (at the Four Seasons) and I felt sad about the perspectives of the Park Lane flagship to ever reclaim its past glory…

Oliver Petcu