Ringing the changes - Insights

Ringing the changes

IHG anniversaryThe brand itself has been a pioneer in the luxury hospitality space since 1946 but, beyond this, our hotels have seen the birth of some of the most significant political, economic, social, and creative moments in the 20th and 21st century.
Read more about the changemakers and influencers who have passed through the doors of InterContinental hotels and resorts around the world.
InterContinental was the first truly global luxury hotel brand, bringing elegant accommodation to all corners of the globe where the fast-growing aviation industry was creating hubs and growth to what are now major world cities.

The beginnings of the InterContinental brand in 1946 are linked to the expansion of luxurious commercial air travel and the vision of Juan Trippe, founder of Pan American Airways and the InterContinental brand; Trippe saw the opportunity to create the InterContinental brand and grow a network of luxury accommodation in cities the airline serviced.

Since then, the brand has been the location of many major global events and hosted some of the world’s most significant personalities: leaders in politics and diplomacy, arts and entertainment. The Presidential Suite at the InterContinental San Francisco is a true presidential suite having hosted President Obama 13 times and the Presidential Suite of InterContinental Berlin was specifically designed by, and for, Bill Clinton for his stay. The iconic building of InterContinental Lisbon has been hosting Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers, other Diplomatic personalities as well as entertainment royalty, like the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Prince, Pavarotti, Whitney Houston, Brian Adams and Bruce Springsteen. When describing InterContinental Amman (Jordan), which became the first international five-star hotel in Jordan, no one could say it better than Her Majesty Queen Noor Al Hussein: “I always felt welcomed back to my refuge there with the unfailing warmth of our country’s legendary hospitality and the personal attention to detail of its professional staff….”


InterContinental hotels in the Middle East are part of the growth story of the region as the home to key political and economic meetings and conferences which shaped the development of the region.

When InterContinental Abu Dhabi first opened its doors in 1980, it was one of the largest hotels in Abu Dhabi consisting of 390 rooms and suites. On the evening of May 25, 1981, the hotel made history when six Gulf rulers came together and formed the Gulf Co-operation Council in one of the hotel’s ballrooms. The GCC was born as a regional entity that aimed at enhancing cooperation and strengthening ties among the member states. The leaders of UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman forged ties to give the region a united voice and set economic integration and social cohesion as their ultimate goals. The hotel has hosted five GCC Summits in total: 1981, 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2004, as have other InterContinental hotels in the region.


Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. But it was down the street at the now InterContinental Washington DC The Willard where Dr. King crafted the speech hours before delivering it to 250,000 people.

The story goes that, the day before the rally, Dr. Clarence B. Jones, one of Dr. King’s advisor’s paid bellhops to create a secluded area hidden with plants in the lobby so King and his advisors could work together uninterrupted. The first paragraphs of the speech were based on weeks of discussions but King retreated to room 310 (now the Martin Luther King Suite) to put the finishing touches alone on the famous speech overnight.

Guests and visitors often come to the hotel to retrace Dr. King’s historic stay and visit the hotel’s museum and the King family holds a private event each year at the hotel to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy.


InterContinental Genève has played its own part in history as the host of numerous events of global importance. The hotel’s ample meeting facilities along with its renowned security and service have made it the ideal venue for events such as the OPEC conferences. In 1973 the Soviet Union Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met for negotiations during the Middle East Peace Conference (and continued to meet there for the next five years); the Lebanese Reconciliation Conference in 1983, the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit of 1985, meetings between the Dalai Lama and Aga Khan in 1988, the final discussions between Tariq Aziz and James Baker before the first Gulf War in 1991, and meetings between Syrian Presidents Assad and US Presidents Carter, Clinton and Bush and, in 1994, Diana, Princess of Wales, stayed at the hotel to participate in meetings with the International Committee of the Red Cross.


InterContinental Paris Le Grand has always been a meeting place for the thinkers and writers of the time. At the end of the 19th century – the hotel’s regular clients included Guy de Maupassant, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Oscar Wilde and Arthur Conan Doyle (his hero Sherlock Holmes would meet his partner, Doctor Watson here). Later, in June 1948, Maurice Chevalier, Henri Salvador and Yves Montand met at the Café de la Paix to record This is Paris, the first radio show to be broadcast live to the United States. In the guestbook, Henri Salvador left these words to the wise: “Expand your café, and we will finally have world peace.” In the early 20th century, Café de la Paix hosted large gatherings presided over by Serge de Diaghilev.. InterContinental Paris Le Grand has a heritage of hosting some of the world’s most famed and infamous fashion shows. In 1976 tradition was shattered Saint Laurent’s showed his Fall collection at the hotel rather than the usual location of his couture house. Vivienne Westwood’s spring 1994 show “Café Society” will remain one of her most famous (and controversial) shows, with models parading down the runway topless as they licked ice cream bars seductively on a leopard print carpet. Hubert de Givenchy presented the last fashion show of his career in 1995 at the hotel.


The InterContinental brand is known for helping its guests discover the culture of each location. Some of the worldly travellers who have stayed at our hotels were also known for their own cultural achievements. Some of our favourite personalities have stayed, created or even lived at InterContinental hotels over the years:

  • The pool at InterContinental Chicago – Magnificent Mile was the highest in the world when it opened in 1922. Olympic champion Johnny Weismuller (made famous for being the first Tarzan actor) used to trained there.
  • Al Capone was also known to practice his putt in the mini-golf course at InterContinental Chicago
  • Between 1954-1958 Ava Gardner lived at InterContinental Madrid, during which time she divorced Frank Sinatra in the main lobby and fell madly in love with Dominguin, a handsome bull fighter.
  • Grace Kelly met Prince Charles Rainier de Monaco at InterContinental Carlton Cannes, whilst filming Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief
  • Ernest Hemingway chose The Barclay as his temporary residence while working on his final revisions for his novel For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • InterContinental Carlton Cannes was also a filming location for Elton John’s music video for “I’m Still Standing” filmed here.
  • Frank Sinatra and Whitney Houston performed at the opening of Sanctuary Cove in 1988 with Sinatra flying in just before the hour-long concert for a reported $1 million fee.
  • In 1974 Johnny Cash performed an impromptu duet in the lobby of the InterContinental Vienna with bell boy Kurt Bracke, singing Cash’s song San Quentin – much to the delight of the hotel’s guests. In 1975 Johnny Cash stayed at The George (now InterContinental Edinburgh The George) while playing a show at the Usher Hall and invited staff to use his limo to attend the show
  • InterContinental New York Times Square was the location for the video for “Perfect” by One Direction
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