How to get into Club Intercontinental Lounges – 2020

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Why Club Intercontinental Lounges?

Club Intercontinental Lounges are often brilliant and can make an enormous difference to the quality of your stay at the hotel, and can give huge value. Just consider the cost of eating out or dining in the hotel for breakfast and dinner, including drinks, for each day of your stay.The lounges have a lot of other important benefits, but how do you get into Club Intercontinental hotel lounges?

Neither the IHG Rewards Club or the IHG Ambassador Program offer guaranteed lounge access as a perk of membership. It’s very easy to earn points for IHG Rewards Club with the IHG MasterCard, and the IHG Ambassador Program has useful benefits and both schemes have the potential for massive value from free night certificates. It’s easy to collect points, you can get some incredible savings by using points instead pf paying cash, but when you stay on points or you book a cheaper room you won’t get lounge access. Is there a way to change that?

intercontinental club lounge drinks

Eating in the lounge can be a massive time saver. No need to book a table and no need to take a taxi to a restaurant. No waiting around to be served, no waiting around to pay the bill. Just turn up when you like, eat as much as you like, stay as much as you like, leave when you like, no bill to pay.

Sit in relaxed and comfortable surroundings instead of a formal restaurant. There’s often a TV area. There’s usually a great variety of things to eat, so no agonising over the menu and then having menu envy when your companion’s dish looks better than yours.

Even if you just want a pre-dinner drink and an appetiser, the lounge is a winner. If you’ve had a busy day of work or sightseeing, just popping in and chilling out is great. Help yourself to wine, prosecco, spirits, beers, and you’ll be looking at a massive saving compared to eating out.

One of the best things about Club Intercontinental lounges is that you nearly always find yourself in a quiet and privileged environment without a load of people or noisy children. Very often there’s a great view too.

Don’t forget that Club access often brings other perks depending on the property. These can be welcome drinks, free laundry or pressing, concierge services and a dedicated check out service.

You know you want it. How do you get it?

intercontinental regency bahrain club lounge canapes
Intercontinental Regency Bahrain Club Lounge

How to get into Intercontinental Club Lounges

Pay for a club room

The first rule is that if you definitely want Club lounge access and don’t want to risk missing it, then you have to book a Club level room. If you’re re-visiting a hotel where you know that the lounge is great and you definitely want it, you should consider just booking it. Often the price difference is quite small and easily offset by the free breakfast, free drinks and snacks through the day, and free cocktails and canapés in the evening. If you haven’t been there before, don’t assume the lounge will be as good as others you’ve used. There can be a lot of variation.

Pay for a standard room but get extra benefits and lounge access through Virtuoso

There is another way to get lounge access when booking a standard room at some Intercontinentals. Some Intercontinental hotels are part of the Virtuoso network of luxury hotels. These can be booked through a small selection of travel agents.

When you book a Virtuoso rate you have to pay the standard flexible rate, so it won’t always be the cheapest, but you do get extra benefits such as $100 credit for the restaurant or spa, an upgrade on arrival, free breakfast etc.

A credit of $100 to spend in the hotel, combined with free breakfast, and free drinks, snacks and evening canapés in the Club Lounge is more than enough to beat the saving you would make by booking the cheapest non-refundable rate.

You get a better deal, with lounge access, a probable upgrade, and a refundable rate, and Virtuoso bookings do qualify for earning points just like a direct booking.

The Virtuoso benefits vary by property. At some Intercontinental hotels one benefit is lounge access. You can check for Virtuoso benefits and Club lounge access at a Virtuoso agent like Classic Travel. You can see them all by searching just for “Intercontinental”. You need to click through to see the full details of the benefits for a particular hotel.

classic travel intercontinental search
Classic Travel Virtuoso benefits for Intercontinental

Classic Travel show 27 Intercontinental Hotels. Ones with lounge access include:

  • Davos
  • Ljubljana
  • London Park Lane
  • Madrid
  • Malta
  • New York Barclay
  • Paris Le Grand
  • Sydney

Here’s an example of the Virtuoso rate for the Intercontinental Syndey:

Access to the exclusive Club InterContinental, Sydney’s only rooftop Club with a wrap around terrace and panoramic views of Sydney Harbour.
Within the Club lounge, your guests will enjoy the following benefits:
• Daily Buffet breakfast, for up to two in-room guests
• All day light refreshments
• Complimentary Wi-Fi
• Twilight drinks and canapes (5-7 pm)
• Comp wireless internet access
• Personalised Concierge and business centre facilities
• Early check-in from 11am and 2pm late check-out (subject to availability)
• Room upgrade on arrival (subject to availability)
*Amenities/Virtuoso rates not valid for New Year’s Eve as only restricted package rates are offered. For evenings of 29, 30, 31 December 2018, complimentary full buffet breakfast will be served in Cafe Opera as the Virtuoso amenity of Club InterContinental will not be applicable.

The great thing about Classic Travel is that you can view Virtuoso benefits, availability, rates, and make bookings online. Most other Virtuoso agents operate by phone or email. These Virtuoso benefits are not available through Amex travel or Amex Fine Hotels.

intercontinental syndey club lounge roof
Intercontinental Sydney club lounge roof terrace

Pay for access, and how to get in for free

It’s a shame that only a handful of the Virtuoso rates include lounge access, but the Virtuoso benefits mean it’s still a good option at all the others.

The biggest challenge comes when you want to stay on points. In that case, booking a room with club lounge access isn’t an option.

If you book a cheaper room or you’re staying on points then what strategies can you use to get lounge access? I’ve stayed in dozens and dozens of Intercontinental hotels, nearly always on reward bookings with points, and had pretty good success with lounge access. Here’s what I’ve found to work.

All you can really do is ask. There’ll be one of three outcomes. They say no. They say yes. Or they say yes but you have to pay.

It’s always worth emailing the hotel in advance to find out what the prices are. This gives you information you can use to your advantage when negotiating. When you contact the hotel in advance of your stay it lets them know you are an interested and organised person and a frequent traveller, and they will often try to help you. You may find you are offered discounted or free access, and sometimes you’ll be offered other benefits. It doesn’t hurt, because if the answer is no you can try again at check-in.

intercontinental club lounge martini
Intercontinental Dubai Marina Club Lounge

It’s all about how you ask. Approach it the right way and you increase your chances of getting a yes. If you’re told the only way is to pay then there are some things you can do that stand a good chance of bringing the cost down.

Ask when you check in. It can sometimes work in your favour if the check-in desks are quite busy. Sometimes they’ll just say yes to get rid of you and move onto the next guest. If instead they say no just to get rid of you then you haven’t lost anything because you can come back later and try again.

Don’t just say “can I have lounge access”. Dress it up. Make it personal, tell them why you want it and what it means to you, get them on your side by presenting it as a polite and hopeful request from a nice person who has a particular reason. People are more often inclined to say yes to something just because a reason was given. Any reason.

Psychologist Martin Seligman wrote about an experiment where psych students were sent to push into a queue of people at a post office or similar. Some of them were told to simply push in without saying anything. Others were told to push in with a polite “may I get in here?”. The third group were instructed to push in and give a spurious reason. “Excuse me but may I get in here because I have to do this soon”.

Observers recorded the reactions of the rest of the queue, in particular whether anybody rejected the request, spoke up about it, or grumbled about it.

The first group mostly had either direct refusals or challenges. The second group were met with challenges almost as much as the first group, but a few successes. The third group, who simply gave some insignificant reason, were rejected or challenged less than 20% of the time.

I often say something about how Intercontinental is my favourite because the service is amazing and I really love the lounges and I always pick out hotels with lounges and I’m really hoping to get lounge access because I have work I need to do and I’m traveling by myself so I really don’t fancy sitting in a formal restaurant on my own and blah blah blah blah.

It doesn’t really matter what you say, but say something. Give a reason. Make it personal. Say how important it is. How much you’re looking forward to it, whatever.

There’s one strategy that works really well for getting lounge access and upgrades and other perks, on the few occasions you’re in a position to try it. If you are travelling on a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary, contact the hotel in advance to let them know, and mention it again when you arrive.

If I’m travelling on my birthday I always make sure to book a room in a nice hotel with a lot of scope for great upgrades. Even if you’re there by yourself, the staff will be more inclined to help you out because there is a reason, however trivial it actually is.

Politely asking if they could “make sure I had a room with a nice view because it’s my birthday” is how I got upgraded to a Royal Suite with a jacuzzi and a sauna in the bathroom, at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Dubai. The cash rate for that suite was £2700 per night. They also brought me a cake and a bottle of wine, all because I simply said “It’s my birthday”. That’s my top tip. Don’t book into a Holiday Inn Express if it’s your birthday. Book a hotel that can give you a nice upgrade.

More psychology to help you get what you want

Sometimes you get a rejection, but persist. Sometimes they just say no because they can’t be bothered or because they think the lounge might be too busy. Sometimes they’ll tell you the only people allowed are those with Club level rooms. This is untrue. You can always pay for access, always.

Politely, don’t take no for answer. Here’s something that won’t work. Try saying “but I’m Spire Ambassador” or “But I stay here all the time”. They hear it every day. Ten times a day. “Hey can I have an upgrade? I’m a gold member.” Nah. Get out.

Here’s something that does work. If you’re travelling solo you’re in a good position. Point it out. “I really like to use the lounges because I’m travelling alone and I don’t like being in the restaurant by myself but I don’t want to eat in my room on my own.” You’ve given them a reason and you’ve pointed out that you’re not going to take up a lot of room, be noisy or eat all the food. It works, I’ve used those lines loads of times and turned a ‘no’ or an ‘only if you pay’ into an ‘oh alright then’.

If you’re not alone you can instead make it clear that you’re not going to be a noisy and greedy irritation in the lounge by saying you just want somewhere to work in comfort.

Give a reason. Make it personal. Don’t act entitled. Suggest that your presence in the lounge will be a low-impact one. Half the time, this works.

intercontinental phoenicia beirut club lounge menu
Intercontinental Phoenicia Beirut Club Lounge

Then we come to the times when you’re asked to pay. First of all, consider the cost of eating out and weigh up your options. Sometimes you’ll be told a very cheap price that you’ll be quite happy with. Sometimes the price can be quite high, and this is where you need to work it.

The most important rule is to never accept the first offer. Whatever they say you will have to pay for lounge access, refuse, say it’s too much, ask if they can do something better.

Express surprise and disappointment, say that you’re of course quite happy to pay but this is much more than you were expecting and that you usually get it much cheaper at other lounges. Mention again how important it is to you and why you want to use the lounge. It takes 3 seconds to say and it works. I’ve often had a $100 charge dropped to $50 just by saying that I’m surprised and it’s normally cheaper and asking if they can do something.

If they won’t drop the price, or your goal is to get in for free, here’s where we use some psychology again.

Step 1, ask them to do a very small favour. “Oh, before I forget could you do me a small favour? Could you let me have a pen and some paper?” Whatever. Make something up. Why? Psychologists have learned that once someone has agreed to doing a small favour for someone then they are much more likely to agree to a much bigger favour. Psychologists and marketers exploit this all the time, and it works.

Even though giving you a pen is a trivial part of their job, just asking them to do it for you opens the psychological pathways for them to do something bigger for you. Don’t believe me? Have a read of the excellent Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, a brilliant book if you want to know how to bend people to your will or how to become immune to the tricks that the marketing trade use to part you from your money. The bigger favour you want them to be more inclined to do is to give you reduced cost or free lounge access.

Step 2, and this is crucial, ask if they can show you around the lounge so you can decide whether you want to pay. As well as being a good idea for your own decision making, this works in a few subtle ways to increase your chances. First of all, they now have to take the time to escort you to the lounge. Some are quite happy to do this, some want to get on with something else. The second type may well give in at this point and offer a discount.

While they’re walking you to the lounge they now have time to think about your request and you have another chance to show them how charming your are and how much it would improve your stay and how grateful you would be. Their resistance starts to weaken. Get into the lounge, say how that area would be perfect for you to get your work done but also say something negative. Oh it’s a bit smaller than I hoped.

Now wait. Let them speak first. People like to fill the silence and often the only thing they can say is to offer you free or reduced access. If they’re not forthcoming then it’s up to you to again say how much it would improve your stay, how you’d been looking forward to it, and how disappointed you would be, and “are you sure you can’t do something for me?”

It all sounds simple but most people don’t persist, or they have the wrong attitude, or they don’t give a reason for their request, and they don’t make the staff member walk them to the lounge and invest that time and effort into trying to satisfy you.

It is simple, and it works. Half the time I get in free. Most of the other half I get a discounted rate. And Club Intercontinental lounges can be well worth this small effort.

To summarise

  • Book a club level room if you want to be sure
  • At some properties, book through Virtuoso to get lounge access and other benefits
  • Email the hotel before your stay
  • When you ask for lounge access, say why you want it and why it is important to you
  • When asked to pay, never accept the first offer
  • Ask to be shown the lounge
  • Don’t fill the silence – wait for them to speak
  • If it’s a special occasion like a birthday or an anniversary, say so
  • Say that you’re there to work
  • If you’re solo, point it out
  • Smile and be nice
  • Don’t ever say anything like “But I’m a Platinum member!”

FAQ

Does IHG membership give club lounge access?

No. Only Royal Ambassador status, which is invitation-only, gives lounge access.

What’s the cheapest way to get lounge access at Intercontinental hotels?

The best deal at some hotels is to book a Virtuoso rate which can include lounge access and other benefits. See the main article for details.

Can you buy lounge access at Intercontinental hotels?

Yes, sometimes you can, especially if you have IHG membership. Prices vary by hotel. It’s not always possible.

Can you get into Intercontinental hotel lounges for free?

Sometimes, if you approach it the right way, but it is at the discretion of the hotel. Read the main article for tips to improve your success rate.

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