Possibly no hotel group is more closely tied to the glamour of post World Ward II international airplane travel than InterContinental Hotels and Resorts. It was founded in 1946 by Pam Am to fill a need for quality hotels for its glamorous pilots, flight attendants and passengers who were spreading their wings around the world.
Well, we all know commercial airline travel is often no picnic these days, and private jets are the Pan Am of the 21st Century. InterContinental Hotels and Resorts is now part IHG with a portfolio of over 4,000 hotels, notably lots of Holiday Inn variations.
In fact InterContinental branded properties are somewhat of a hodgepodge of solid 4.5 star business hotels surrounding some true diamonds. Hong Kong and Sydney make numerous ‘best hotel’ lists, The Willard in Washington D.C. and Mark Hopkins in San Francisco get top marks, and the group has been growing its luxury resorts.
That said, it’s always a bit challenging to figure out how a new InterContinental property might fit in. Many elite travelers are probably familiar with the InterContinental Park Lane, for long a flagship of the global group with a plumb location on Hyde Park Corner. It sits in a virtual luxury row of hotels including The Dorchester, 45 Park Lane, The Metropolitan, The Lanesborough and Four Seasons. The InterCon Park Lane’s London Suite duplex and Royal Suite are popular with billionaires and royalty who can watch the changing of the guard while still in bed.
Late last year, Park Lane got a sibling: InterContinental London Westminster. A converted government building, its location in Westminster is adjacent to Scotland Yard, next to the Ministry of Justice and just down the street from Parliament. Former United Nations’ Secretary General Kofi Annan was the first guest in its Penthouse Suite, and that wing can be closed off to have a private section with up to nine bedrooms. Additionally there are 14 one-bedroom suites and 30 studio suites. There is significant meeting space that can accommodate groups up to 300 as well as space for board meetings that can accommodate up to 18 if you have a large number of directors.
On a visit to New York General Manager Andrew D. Coney said the hotel has become a hot gathering point for politicians and business titans. The bar is styled as an upscale pub providing a lively scene while its Blue Boar Smokehouse uses best of Britain local ingredients with a tip of the hat to American barbeque and smoking techniques. For the luxury touch, Ribs are served in a silver bowl.
Spaces are laid out so there are places to be seen and places to hide. There is lots of politically oriented art, and one regular who had settled on a favorite table requested a portrait of former Prime Minister Tony Blair be moved out of his line of sight. Another current political figure was caught recently by a reporter making unflattering remarks about his constituents getting lots of local media attention and perhaps cementing the new InterCon as a preferred watering hole for elite figures of power.
While the Westminster property is squarely in the Premier League of InterContinental’s hotels, will the company figure a way to segment its five star properties out from its 4.5 star ones? Unlike the filibustering politicos my breakfast mates offered no comments.