InterContinental Hotels & Resorts, the first and largest global luxury hotel brand, is undergoing a reinvention that will include using the latest tech to cater to the modern traveler, redefining how to celebrate in a hotel and reimagining the concierge desk.
Parent company IHG Hotels & Resorts, whose collection includes Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza, has been steadily increasing its luxury and lifestyle stable, now at 479 properties in more than 70 countries. IHG acquired Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants in 2015, Regent Hotels & Resorts in 2018 and Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas in 2019, and it launched its own brands, including voco in 2018 and Vignette Collection, in 2021. Now, it’s revamping its marquee luxury brand, InterContinental, a company started in 1949 with a hotel in Brazil.
The impetus behind InterContinental’s transformation is the need to serve the future luxury traveler. By 2025, 61% of luxury consumers will be millennials and Gen Z, according to Tom Rowntree, vice president of Luxury Brands at IHG Hotels & Resorts, who spoke to us from Windsor, England. Generation Alpha also gets its say, he said, pointing to the fact that 73% of families in the U.K. consult their children about where to travel in the summer. Of course, InterContinental had to evolve as well. Here’s what you can expect from the brand:
Adapting to Travelers’ Changing Needs
While traveling is rejuvenating, the physical aspect of it can be draining. And it’s not just long-haul trips. A short business trip likely means you will start the day earlier and then retire later while packing a lot in the middle.
“What we see with luxury travelers and specifically with the InterContinental customer is constant shape-shifting in nanoseconds,” Rowntree said. A traveler, for example, can be a businessperson one moment, a dad the next, then a partner and then a friend. “You need your space around you to accommodate that, but also you need an environment that will build up your energy levels. Because that could be quite exhausting, especially when one’s on the road.”
To help guests adapt, InterContinental will provide free access to Timeshifter, an app that uses NASA-backed science to combat jet lag. It maps out a program for your departure and return journey, including when to sleep, wake up, get daylight, drink coffee, etc. The app will be available to guests at the end of the year.
The brand will battle travel fatigue on another front: food. InterContinental consulted with nutritionists and wellness experts to develop science-based nutritious dishes that provide hydration to prevent an energy slump. The dishes will be localized to the destination and get a special callout in the menu.
InterContinental also wants to optimize accommodations for weary travelers. It’s collaborating with neuroscience-based designer Isabelle Sjövall to make guest rooms part of the restorative process. They are exploring ways to adapt these and other hotel spaces to your evolving needs at different times of the day.
Accommodating Celebrations Big and Small
“There’s this element we’ve seen post-pandemic, which is part of one’s wellness, is to make time for celebration,” Rowntree said. “Micro as well as macro moments.”
To celebrate these events, InterContinental will launch Incredible Occasions, a program that goes beyond big parties in ballrooms and rethinks how to use other spaces in the hotel. For example, you might throw a birthday party in a suite without staying the night and can customize the intimate gathering with a special tablescape, candlelit dinner or private masterclass. And moving forward, suites will be designed to accommodate these different celebrations.
Hotels also will add thoughtful, spontaneous touches to these Incredible Occasions. Rowntree gave the example of influencer and model Jordyn Woods, who recently stayed at InterContinental Paris le Grand for Fashion Week and her 26th birthday. Knowing the jet-lag-inducing California-to-Paris flight and the demanding Fashion Week schedules would take a toll on Woods, the hotel created a travel tincture to help boost her immune system. One of the ingredients was an essence made with sapphire, Woods’ birthstone. “It’s how we go further thinking about those individuals, and making those occasions really incredible occasions,” he said.
InterContinental plans to help make small moments more festive as well. If you gather with your friends at the bar to mark getting through the week, the staff will look for ways to make your celebratory drink a little more special. “We’re looking at amplifying the spontaneous moments that guests have,” he said.
A New Approach to Service
The brand wants to evolve the concierge desk. The desk itself will be replaced by a concierge gallery. Built to look like a boutique, the lobby space will have interactive displays, a library, informative features and perhaps art installations or designer or community pop-ups. The concierges will still be there, but you’ll speak to them around a more comfortable worktable rather than a stand or traditional desk.
Each hotel will create a network of colleagues in other departments with relevant insider expertise to bolster the concierge services. If you’re at InterContinental London Park Lane, for instance, and talking to the bartender about a hot new bar in town, he will contact the concierge to request information about the establishment get sent to you. And the concierge will also set you up with VIP access at the hot spot bar. While all of this goes on in the background, it will be a seamless interaction with you and the concierge via an in-the-works chat functionality.
Some of these initiatives have been rolled out to InterContinentals worldwide, while others (like those involving room design and the concierge galleries) will be phased into existing properties, setting the mold for the 93 new hotels and resorts in the pipeline.