It is almost 75 years since the InterContinental brand became a pioneer for luxury travel and still more properties are popping up in cities across the world

6 August, 2020

It was back in Apr-1946 that famous US airline Pan American World Airways launched its new hotel concept and the birth of the InterContinental Hotels brand. The first opening was in 1949 in Belém, Brazil and since then the InterContinental brand has extended to all corners of the world housed in historic buildings and city landmarks to immersive resorts.

The Covid-19 public health crisis may have left an indelible mark on the hotel industry, but the InterContinental brand remains as synonymous with luxury travel today as it was almost 75 years ago when it was among the pioneers in the sector.

Now a firm part of the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), which franchises, leases, manages or owns approximately 5,900 hotels and nearly 882,000 guest rooms in more than 100 countries and encompasses brands including Regent, Kimpton, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, avid, Staybridge Suites, Atwell Suites and Candlewood Suites, it still has development ambitions. As at the end of Mar-2020 there were 213 trading InterContinental properties in 68 countries, offering more than 70,000 rooms.

While 2020 is a very different environment and prospects for 2021 are set to be similarly challenging for the hospitality sector, the brand intends to extend its portfolio in emerging travel hot spots, with signings and new openings in brand-defining new builds and heritage restorations.

IHG has already signed three new InterContinental properties this year. These comprise the InterContinental Rome, a neo-renaissance style palazzo set on the iconic Via Veneto, close to the Villa Borghese, is also set to open in 2022, while in 2023 the InterContinental Halong Bay Resort, which will feature 175 guest rooms, and the InterContinental Residences Halong Bay, made up of 60 apartments and 41 villas will debut in Vietnam.

The third, and perhaps most notable, will be in Fiji where the Grand Pacific Hotel in Suva - whose rich history has a special place in the hearts of Fijians, to the extent that an image of the hotel features on the Fijian ten-dollar note - will be rebranded as an InterContinental by 2022.

Two exciting openings in Thailand will also be revealed in the coming year. Two and a half hours north-west of Bangkok, InterContinental Khao Yai National Park is situated in the Khao Yai National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site. Opening with 45 luxury rooms in Q4 2020, 16 suites created from repurposed heritage train cars will be added in 2021.

The second, the InterContinental Chiang Mai Mae Ping is a conversion of the prestigious Imperial Mae Ping Hotel, which has been at the forefront of Chiang Mai's hospitality scene for more than 30 years. The hotel will portray the timeless and lavish beauty of the Lanna era through a modern luxury lens and is also set to open in Q4 2021.

Further new planned openings include the InterContinental Luanda Miramar (set to open in Q4 2020 in the Angolan capital and the first internationally-branded luxury hotel in the city); InterContinental Yao Yai Resort (opening Q3 2021, located on Koh Yao Yai, an up-and-coming, yet serene and unspoiled island in Southern Thailand, easily accessed from the transport links and buzz of Phuket or Krabi); and the InterContinental Mina Al Arab in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE (set to welcome guests in Q3 2021, with 350 guest rooms and suites in the diverse, up-and-coming emirate steeped in heritage and just an hour from Dubai).

But, IHG is also well aware that to continue to capture the allure of international travel for the modern luxury guests its existing properties need to adapt not just to new health and safety protocols but also to meet modern traveller needs. As such many of its InterContinental properties are "evolving their aesthetic" says IHG to showcase "a new standard of modern luxury design".

Refurbishments and expansions are being completed at several properties around the globe, including the InterContinental Sanctuary Cove Resort in Queensland, Australia, which completed a multi-million-dollar refurbishment in January, spanning all 251 rooms, suites and its popular breakfast destination, Cove Café; and the InterContinental London Park Lane, launched as part of the Mayfair Collection in early 2020 and which will reopen on 01-Sep-2020 with an assortment of rooms and suites.

In South Korea, the InterContinental Grand Seoul Parnas in the famous business and entertainment district of Gangnam is currently undergoing a one-year renovation (its restaurants and bars are still in operations) with rooms set to reopen in Q4 2020.

In Japan, the much-anticipated expansion of ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort was launched in early Jul-2020. Surrounded by blue coral seas and colourful marine life, the expansion marks a significant milestone for the Japanese region, now welcoming guests to the island's only true international luxury hotel and Japan's first dedicated Club InterContinental destination.

Elsewhere in the country, The Strings by InterContinental in Tokyo completed its multi-million-dollar refurbishment in early 2020, unveiling an all-new Club InterContinental Lounge, overhaul of its restaurant and bar concepts and redesign of its lobby. Meanwhile, also in the Japanese capital, the ANA InterContinental Tokyo has recently opened its all-new Club InterContinental Lounge with a complete overhaul of furnishings and design; the Club lounge is the largest in Tokyo.

There are also further key developments at properties in Europe. An investment of EUR60 million will see the transformation of Intercontinental Berlin with all 558 rooms and public spaces under a carefully-staged refurbishment while the hotel remains open. The room renovations are slated to be completed later this year and the entire project is due for completion by the end of 2022.

On the Cote d'Azur, the prestigious InterContinental Carlton Cannes is currently undergoing a meticulous two-phased restoration programme. A revitalisation of the hotel's famed Belle Epoque façade is now underway and the renovation of the hotel's exclusive Carlton Beach Club with beach restaurant, bar and pier is now complete. An extension, with two new wings, set to house 37 new branded suites, a 2,000 square metre interior garden with bar and pool, a spa and 765 square metre conference centre is set for completion in 2023.