A pioneer in the international upscale hotel industry, the hotel chain created in 1946 by the founder of Pan Am is today one of the world’s leading luxury hotel brands . At the forefront, InterContinental has always favored local roots for its establishments, as illustrated by its 6 premium French hotels
. A look back at a rich history.
InterContinental’s history began in the post-war
It was a time of peace and economic recovery supported by the “good neighbor policy” instituted by President Roosevelt in 1933. Between the United States and Latin American nations, the time was ripe for cooperation, mutual defense agreements and mutual trade development.
The growth of air travel in the continent goes hand in hand with this grand design. Its key player was Pan-American World Airways – the famous Pan Am, founded and managed by Juan Trippe, the father of many innovations in the civil aviation world. Since the 1920s, he has been expanding his network throughout Central and South America. Sensing the rapid and continuing growth of international tourism, this visionary had an idea that would revolutionize the tourism industry of his time: to offer the emerging generation of travelers who regularly flew his routes accommodations that met their expectations at each stopover served by his planes. Thus, in 1946, the International Hotels Corporation was born, the very first international luxury hotel chain
. Renamed “InterContinental” the following year, this subsidiary relied on Pan Am’s local networks to expand in each stopover city.
In 1949, three years after its founding, the InterContinental brand opened its first hotel in a Belle Époque building in Belém, Brazil – a strategic crossroads between
South America and Africa and the site of a major World War II military base. Each of the four floors of this 80-room building has
only one telephone: an attendant runs from one room to another all day long to make their calls. The hotel’s laundry is located in the central courtyard of the building, where about 20 employees wash guests’ clothes by hand. The hotel even has its own ice factory. The palatial hotel turned a profit in its first year of operation – a feat – and doubled it the following year.
<img width=”985″ height=”614″ src=”image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fwww.w3.org%2F2000%2Fsvg%22%20viewBox%3D%220%200%20985%20614%22%3E%3C%2Fsvg%3E” alt=”Grande Hotel Belem” data-src=”https://www.jet-lag-trips.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Grande-Hotel-Belem.png” />Grande Hotel Belem
Conquers the World
was the beginning of an uninterrupted expansion
that continues to this day.
After Latin America and the Caribbean, the chain set out to conquer other continents. It opened the InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut in Lebanon in 1961 – its first establishment outside the Americas but also the very first of an international chain in the Middle East – then other establishments in Monrovia (Liberia), Jakarta and Melbourne. Three hotel resorts were also opened in Ireland
, an important refuelling centre for transatlantic flights at the time.
InterContinental opened 43 major resorts
in its first 20 years and 134 in the next 20. Originally catering to Americans traveling abroad, it wasn’t until 1973 that the company planted its flag in its home country with the opening of the Mark Hopkins San Francisco in a grand 1926 building – a true hotel institution that remains one of the brand’s most renowned.
With 206 hotels currently in operation and 70 hotels in the planning stages, InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has grown to become the world’s first truly global luxury hotel brand
. InterContinental is now one of 17 brands in theIHG Hotels & Resorts Luxury & Lifestyle portfolio. The IHG Group has become the world’s second largest luxury and lifestyle company in terms of the number of hotels opened (more than 430 hotels, or some 100,000 rooms) and under development. The acquisitions of the iconic Regent Hotels & Resorts and Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas brands, and the international expansion of Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants and Hotel Indigo
original philosophy of the chain is brilliantly illustrated by the six InterContinental hotels in France (Paris, Cannes, Marseille, Bordeaux and Lyon): InterContinental Hotels & Resorts has opened its six French establishments* in five key cities in France, which are among the most impressive in its global portfolio. Whether in the City of Marseille, the Capital of Gaul or the capital, the chain has invested considerable effort in restoring life and lustre to emblematic historical monuments, such as the century-old Hôtel-Dieu in Marseille and Lyon, the iconic Carlton s
ublime witness to the Belle Époque, or the Grand Hôtel Paris with its inimitable Second Empire splendor.
Reflecting the historical and architectural heritage of their city, these prestigious hotels perfectly illustrate the philosophy that has guided the chain’s development since its inception: to give its guests the opportunity to capture the essence of their destination through authentic experiences – the opposite of any standardization of its hotels and their offerings. This local rootedness is reflected in the food, with a gastronomic offering based on local products and revisiting some of the great regional specialties with a contemporary twist – such as an astonishing “bouillabaisse milkshake” at the starred restaurant of the InterContinental Marseille or the “K’nelle” by young chef Mathieu Charrois in Lyon. It also translates into a wide range of local experiences that allow guests to immerse themselves in the culture and culture of each city.
When InterContinental hotels make history
– The Grand Hôtel de Paris – now the InterContinental Paris Le Grand, which has just been completely renovated – was inaugurated on May 5, 1862 by Empress Eugenie. One of the masterpieces of the capital’s metamorphosis plan initiated by Baron Haussmann, the establishment located on Place de l’Opéra is the largest in the world, with its 800 double rooms and suites and its “table d’hôte” gourmet restaurant, the legendary Café de la Paix. Planned to welcome visitors to the 1867 Universal Exhibition, it was the first and most modern large international hotel of its time, prefiguring the rise of long-distance travel. Three years after its opening, the Grand Hôtel de Luxe was equipped with the very first hydraulic lift in France.
– It was in the lobby of the InterContinental Washington DC – The Willard that the term “lobbyist” was coined, a term that has now become commonplace around the world. And its author is none other than Ulysses Grant, 18th President of the United States, who coined the term to describe all those who came to pester him to plead their cause while he sat comfortably enjoying his cigar and cognac. On February 23, 1861, Detective Allan Pinkerton smuggled Abraham Lincoln into the same hotel to protect him from numerous assassination threats. The future president lived there until his inauguration on March 4 of that year, holding meetings in the lobby and working in the early days of his term from his room. It was also where Martin Luther King wrote his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 before his March on Washington.
– In 1945, the walls of the InterContinental San Francisco – Mark Hopkins welcomed world leaders for the creation of the United Nations. The final discussions to finalize the UN Charter took place in the hotel’s garden room. A plaque in the five-star palace commemorates
he event was proudly celebrated.
– In January 1922, the spotlight of the international media was on the InterContinental Carlton in Cannes, where a decisive conference of the young League of Nations, the forerunner of the United Nations, was held. This summit meeting of the victorious powers of the war drew the contours of the new intra-European international relations following the signing of the peace treaties of the First World War. In 1954, Alfred Hitchcock shot key scenes of “The Hand in the Snare” with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. It was in the palace that the American actress met Prince Rainier of Monaco. Several other famous couples were formed there over the years, including Gregory and Veronique Peck and Kirk and Anne Douglas.
– The InterContinental Sydney is nestled within the historic former Australian Treasury building dating back to 1851. Its key original architectural features remain largely intact, including a hidden underground vault that once housed the nation’s wealth, within its “golden rooms” that remain fully intact in the basement of the designer hotel.
former Hôtel-Dieu that has housed the InterContinental Marseille – Hôtel Dieu since June 2013 was inaugurated on 15 November by Napoleon III, on the feast day of his wife, Empress Eugenie. During the transformation of this historic building into a luxury hotel, an ancient 12th century chapel was discovered, buried under the current reception hall, leading to extensive archaeological excavations. Ancient remains were discovered, including a mosaic dating from the 1st century BC, which is now on display in the hotel’s ground floor Cultural Space.
– The InterContinental New York Barclay was built in 1926 as part of the urban renewal of New York’s Grand Central Terminal neighborhood. It was one of the very first major resorts to have 24/7 electricity. And for good reason: it uses the station’s turbine room as a generator! In 1945, a huge birdcage was installed in its lobby, allowing guests to house their birds for free. Up to 200 of them have cohabited there together!
– Opening in June 2019, the InterContinental Lyon – Hôtel-Dieu is the new benchmark in Lyon’s luxury hotel industry for both leisure and business guests. This establishment is nestled in the heart of the most grandiose historical monument in the capital of Gaul: its Grand Hôtel-Dieu. A former hospital that functioned without interruption for 8 centuries until its closure in 2010, and which has seen the birth of one out of every three Lyonnais over the last few decades.
s ! This unusual building with a colossal 360-meter façade running along the Rhone River and an impressive 32-meter dome designed by Soufflot, was the subject of the largest private renovation operation of a listed site in France from 2013 to 2019.
– InterContinental Hotels & Resorts was the first international hotel group to plant its flag in the Middle East, opening the still-legendary InterContinental Phoenicia Beirut back in 1961
– Opening in 2018, the InterContinental Shanghai Wonderland is the brand’s 200th hotel. An architectural marvel, it is the world’s first-ever hotel built in a former quarry – a perfect example of the brand’s original pioneering spirit. The 18-storey luxury resort
(16 underground and 2 underwater) hugs the rock face and offers an unreal bucolic setting. This prestigious hotel reinvents the relationship between the city and nature.
– This year, InterContinental returns to Rome with the opening of the InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace. The existing property – which includes 160 rooms and suites, a restaurant, bar, wellness area and public spaces – is being restored. Built in the early 1900s by architect Carlo Busiri Vici in a neo-renaissance style, the palace originally hosted ambassadors staying in Rome. From 1946 onwards, it housed the library of the American Embassy before becoming a grand hotel
in 1993. Intercontinental Lyon
Hotels with a grandiose service
only have to set foot once in one of their hotels to understand that the pleasure of luxury is a given. A leitmotiv, one might even say. We had the chance to stay a few nights at theIntercontinental Bangkok
, a grandiose place that we cannot recommend enough. Everything there was fabulous. It is therefore difficult to talk about failures. The double rooms were perfectly equipped, spacious and comfortable with a safe, a minibar, a king-size bed, a flat screen TV, a bathtub, a living room and a desk area.
The hotel residence has a lounge bar, ideal for a cocktail, a gourmet restaurant, a fabulous wellness area for exceptional massages, an outdoor pool ch
auffée. There was also a fitness area with state-of-the-art equipment. Everything to enjoy a moment of relaxation in the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. But I especially remember the patio with those receptions to spend a night in a hotel. The hotel proposes rooms, the intercontinental hotel had placed at our disposal a comfortable Junior suite in this boutique hotel. It is to this day one of the best hotels
I have ever stayed in. With its room service that delivers a great brunch to your room. The concierge had pointed out some tourist attractions to see around the resort… Aerial view of the InterContinental Ho Tram Staying at the InterContinental Ras Al Khaimah Mina Al Arab Resort & Spa – seafood restaurant Staying at the InterContinental Paris le Grand – Charles Garnier Suite ©Eric Cuvillier <img width=”1024″ height=”682″ src=”image/svg+xml,%3Csvg%20xmlns%3D%22http%3A%2F%2Fwww.w3.org%2F2000%2Fsvg%22%20viewBox%3D%220%200%201024%20682%22%3E%3C%2Fsvg%3E” alt=”InterContinental Paris le Grand – Suite Royale ©Eric Cuvillier (5)” data-src=”https://www.jet-lag-trips.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/InterContinental-Paris-le-Grand-Suite-Royale-©Eric-Cuvillier-5-1-1024×682.jpg” />Staying at the InterContinental Paris le Grand – Suite Royale ©Eric Cuvillier Le Dome bar (c) STUDIO JEAN-PHILIPPE NUEL_INTERCONTINENTAL LYON HOTEL DIEU_NICOLAS MATHEU A good opportunity for a drink, isn’t it? The lobby of the Intercontinental Willard – Washington DC
I’m Michelle, and I love to travel. As a former hotel expert for one of the world’s largest hotel chains, I’ve stayed in nearly every type of room imaginable (including many that were not so desirable!). Nowadays, I am fortunate enough to be able to explore the world on my own terms. From international flights to learning different languages, there is nothing too far out of reach!