So you wanna stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa Bora Bora? Not with your rewards points

If you think loyalty programs are a win-win, meet Elizabeth Poon. She doesn’t feel like much of a winner right now.

Poon is a loyal IHG Club Rewards program member and recently decided to cash in some of her hard-earned rewards for four nights at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa Bora Bora.

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The cost? An eye-popping 60,000 points per night.

Assuming she could get it.

“I have been searching for the availability for two months,” she wrote to us. “It looks like they block off every day for the next 365 days. No one day you can redeem points.”

Poon had emailed the property and contacted it via social media.

“They’ve given me different answers,” she says.

“The reward club promise is that there are no blackout days for any properties,” she adds. Poon wanted our advocates to ask IHG for help.

Normally, we would would not get involved in a case like this. But for our team, this wasn’t so much a loyalty case as it was a broken promises case. (Indeed, IHG guarantees no blackout dates on its site, leading the average guest to assume that actually means no blackout dates.)

Poon wants to take her husband to Bora Bora for his birthday next year, and she wants her rewards the club promised.

The paper trail between her and IHG looked pretty standard. Here’s the boilerplate answer to her request for a room:

It seems that there are [sic] no availability yet for your requested date (June or May/July of 2017). We encourage you to try to book your reservation at a later time as the hotel may have not allotted room availability yet for these months.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us as we value your patronage. Should you require further assistance, please feel free to contact the IHG Rewards Club Service Center again.

This seemed like a reasonable request to our advocacy team, so we reached out to IHG on her behalf.

The response? “At this time it is too early to book that far in advance,” a representative told us.

Something doesn’t make sense here. IHG allows you to book rooms 351 days in advance. If there are no blackout dates, is it possible the hotel is already sold out? I checked with the property and there were still plenty of rooms available — for sale.

Poon faithfully collected IHG points, having been promised that there were no blackout dates. She feels betrayed by the program because it won’t let her cash in the points for the stay she wants.

Now, I know those of you who participate in these manipulative loyalty schemes will use the comments on this post to explain that IHG isn’t under any obligation to make its entire room inventory available to its Rewards Club members — indeed, that’s not how these programs work.

But shouldn’t IHG throw its customer a bone on this? Can’t it offer her something?

And why offer canned responses to one of their best customers? Is it that they got what they wanted (her money spent on all of those previous hotel stays) and that they couldn’t be bothered with helping one of their best customers?

You might be forgiven for thinking so.

Did IHG break its promise to Poon?

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19 thoughts on “So you wanna stay at the Intercontinental Thalasso Spa Bora Bora? Not with your rewards points

  1. Maybe they’re calling them “Red Out” dates or something to get around the “Black Out” date name? IDK…but something is off and I bet it’s in the semantics.

  2. I do know some hotels don’t “open up” rooms for non-revenue/points redemption until a period of time has elapsed that gives the property time to ‘sell’ the room thru conventional channels… and that can mean redemption rooms don’t open up until say 30, 60, 90 days etc.. away from stay date. Some properties may do this sooner and others later..
    I don’t think there is anything unduly wrong with this per se.. but.. I think it should be made clear at what point in time will room allocations actually be made — be that 360, 180 or whatever.. that way, everyone knows at what time/date will the inventory be up for reservations..

    1. This is exactly the answer. It is far too early to request rooms and they will only add them if the hotel isn’t sold out, usually at a late date.

      Why doesn’t she try a slower time of the year? October and November and traditionally lower times and she might be able to get

      1. I agree – that’s why I think the title is perhaps a bit misleading in that I don’t think this is case of “not available” or “blacked out” (when the program said no blackout dates) but is more a case of ‘too soon’ — which I don’t think is anti-consumer/hotel-apologist thinking.

    2. I agree in that some hotels do not open up awards inventory until much sooner, especially premium/resort hotels. The hotel wants reservations for paying customers first, then will accept the award redemptions.

      However, Bora Bora is not a destination most people can make at the last minute. I have no doubt she want to get her airfare and hotel reservations made at the same time and have that portion of her itinerary completed.

      Someone with that many IHG points is a loyal customer. Too bad that are not treating her like one.

      1. Jeff, that’s true that Bora Bora is probably not a last-minute kind of thing.. I agree that.. but… given that it looks like she was/is asking about dates in May/Jun/July of 2017, that’s a window of 7 to 9 months off..
        To me, I don’t think it’s a case of not treating her like a loyal customer if the hotel is choosing to hold off on releasing award availability 7 to 9 months early.. I think that at *minimum* a window of 90 days or so would, to me, be a fair, but still a bit late, window for redemption bookings. A larger one – or one that I think a location like this – might be in the 120 day range….. but I don’t think there’s any fault in holding off (I assume that’s the case here) allowing 7 months advance redemptions (210 days) are wholly unfair or fails to acknowledge someones program loyalty level.

  3. I know nothing about Intercontinental Hotel Group, but that aside, I don’t know what 240,000 points may be worth, or if she could use them for any other purpose. It may be less expensive to book the dates that she wants & pay out of pocket. IHG, however should be responsible for establishing a time frame (with their hotel clients) for when points booking may commence. I sometimes book 6-8 months in advance & shouldn’t the industry think a little bit about us consumers? The hotels themselves should be responsible for posting the same info (when points can be used) on their websites. Personally, I feel that all mileage / points / loyalty plans etc. should have a MINIMUM cash value that could be used for gift cards, cashback or ? The value for travel & hotels (destinations) should also be posted. The travel industry ( air, hotel car rental ), for the most part seems to want to penalize us with mis-information, hidden fees, and poor customer service ( canned responses, long phone waits, disinterested employees, rudeness, bogus rules) instead of treating us for what we are………..their bread & butter. Perhaps Elizabeth can move up the corporate ladder with IHG & the hotel. Voted yes, but don’t know the RULES that IHG & the hotel have in place.

    1. I’m not much for loyalty programs, but a couple of summers ago, we were taking a long driving trip in the northeast (NY, VT, etc.) and various Best Western hotels seemed the easiest and most reasonably priced for my not too demanding family. After the trip, I was able to use the “points” or whatever to buy a couple of $25 gas cards at Shell, our preferred station, so in this case the loyalty program was like a cash rebate. I agree it would be nice if other programs allowed this. (I guess I can always burn up airline miles by buying unnecessary magazines, but that seems pointless).

      1. That was my point, & I am not sure which airlines promote magazines, but I agree that they are pointless ( yes, a play on words was intended)

        1. United, at least, always seems to have “mags for miles” deals, if you have points and I just googled it and found a site that lets you exchange miles from several airlines for magazines.

  4. I will assume Chris was being tongue in cheek with the “hard earned” loyalty points. Here, I agree. The company was dishonest. The property was not booked and did not allow the promotion on the dates selected. Earth to IHG, that’s what we call “black-out” dates. As if if didn’t already know this…

    1. T&C CLEARLY do state space is limited, and may NOT be available until closer to departure – as this is peak season, they may actually want to sell space first, and 3-4 months prior offer free rooms. If she really wants to stay there, she might want to reserve the room, and THEN see if later she can convert a night or so to the free stay – might have more clout that way as well!

      1. That’s a good work around. I like that idea. I may use it. Just so long as she is prepared to pay full price if the hotel declines.

  5. Seems to be alot of excuses below for a loyalty program that promises “no blackout dates”. If they mean that and don’t spell it out further, than there are NO EXCUSES. If they want paying customers first, then it should say “Rooms may be booked thru the loyalty program starting at 6 months before your requested dates, no sooner”.

    1. But they do spell out that NOT all resorts are open for booking 365 days in advance – and she was clearly told was too early — usually for peak season in resort areas, it is 3-4 months prior.

  6. All loyalty programs have their procedures. All that’s needed is an understanding of IHG procedures regarding rewards nights. They may not make rooms available in high season until a certain time. As is often the case, read the rules and you shall be enlightened.

    She would probably have much better luck booking two nights for cash and two nights on points. While I’ve never booked on Bora Bora, I’ve not had a single problem booking a room at IHG in 25 years.

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