A five-star hotel can become your second home even when you’re not there on company account. All you need to do is sign up for a loyalty programme—most of the big hotel chains in your city offer them. “The interest in loyalty programmes has increased because people are entertaining more. We have seen a 50% growth in demand for the JW Preferred Card in the last year. It has reached a stage where we have had to slow down the issuing of memberships,” says Vinay Jayaraj, assistant director, F&B, JW Marriott, Mumbai.
Some surprising facts emerged when we compared the perks and downside of six loyalty programmes: It is not so tough to get on the invitation list and most hotel chains (in addition to discounts on F&B bills) will also let you transfer some goodies to your family and friends. There’s no uniformity across properties as far as extra privileges are concerned, which is a bit of a letdown, and most hotels don’t offer any of the package deals during peak season.
The Taj Group
Plan: The Taj InnerCircle.
High points: There is no membership fee for acceptance to the programme, and it is valid for two years. Instead of discounts, guests earn points which can be redeemed against meals at Taj restaurants, exotic holidays at Taj hotels (600 points equal a free night’s stay at Taj Ganges, Varanasi) or exchanged for select gifts such as portfolio bags (1,000 points), 18 carat gold earrings (5,000 points), Sony camcorders (10,000 points), and so on. A member needs a minimum of 150 points to get started.
The more you stay and dine at Taj properties, the faster you move through three levels of membership, from blue to silver and then gold. Blue- and silver-level members earn one point per Rs100 spent, and gold-level members earn one point per Rs80 spent at any of the 150 participating Taj properties.
Add-ons: The Epicure Plan of the Taj InnerCircle allows members to earn back 10% of their food and beverage bill (net of taxes) while the Epicure Plus Plan allows members to earn back 25%.
Cost: Annual membership fee for the Epicure Plan is Rs2,500, while that for the Epicure Plus Plan is Rs9,750.
A minus: Keeping track of points can be tiresome.
Getting invited: Apply at your nearest Taj. Also, an online form is available at www.tajhotels.com .
ITC WelcomGroup Sheraton
Plan: The Sheraton Plus.
High points: Valid at 13 ITC, Welcom and Sheraton properties across the country, including The WelcomHotel and ITC Hotel Maurya Sheraton & Towers in Delhi, the ITC Hotel Sonar Bangla Sheraton & Towers in Kolkata, and ITC Hotel Grand Maratha Sheraton Towers in Mumbai. Food discounts include 50% off for two people and 25% off for four; you get a 20% discount if you dine alone or with a group of five or more people. Plus, there’s a flat 20% off on your drinks bill.
Add-ons: You get 14 complimentary transferable vouchers, of which nine are dining-related. Two vouchers can be gifted to friends. Also, cardholders in Delhi can avail of a 20% discount at the Mithai Shop at the Maurya Sheraton and 20% at the barber and beauty shop.
A minus: This card cannot be used at Maurya Sheraton’s hot spot, Bukhara, during dinner.
Cost: Annual membership fee is Rs6,173 (including taxes).
Getting invited: Call 1800 117 722 or log on to www.sheratonplus.com for more information.
Plan: Preferred at the Park.
High points: It includes a 50% discount on the total food bill for two, a 33% discount for three people and a 20% discount when 5 to 10 people dine or the member dines alone. There is a 20% discount on the drinks tab for a table of up to 10 guests. Valid at all The Park hotels in India.
Add-ons: Also available only at The Park, New Delhi, are transferable benefits such as four certificates, called ‘Privilege for a Friend’, entitling the bearer to the dining discounts that a card member can avail of, and two certificates entitling the bearer to a complimentary use of the swimming pool for two persons. A 10% discount on the health club membership at The Park, New Delhi (on new membership only), a 10% discount at all Oxford Bookstores in India and invitations to some exclusive events at the hotel.
A minus: Dining and beverages discounts are not valid at the nightclub, Tantra, and Roxy, the cocktail bar, at The Park, Kolkata.
Cost: Annual membership fee is Rs5,612 (including taxes).
Getting invited: Any individual can apply for membership but The Park gives you a membership only after a profile check, which includes assessing your spending capacity, credit card limit and so on. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Plan: The Club at the Hyatt.
High points: Like the others, the Club at the Hyatt offers a 50% discount on the food bill for two, 33% off for a table of three, and a 10% discount when you’re dining alone. There’s 10% off on all drinks. The card is valid for dining benefits at 50 Hyatt Hotels across Asia-Pacific and Europe which subscribe to the programme, but the member has to be residing in that property to avail of the discount.
Add-ons: A special selection of nine certificates to use at Hyatt Regency, Delhi, includes a voucher to book one night (Club at the Hyatt rate) and get the second night free at Hyatt Regency, Delhi, two celebration vouchers offering a complimentary cake or a bottle of Indian wine when celebrating your birthday or anniversary at any of the restaurants, a Club-feel voucher that can be presented to a friend or colleague.
A minus: The Hyatt Regency, Mumbai, does not run the Club at the Hyatt programme, but offers dining benefits only to members from other cities.
Cost: Annual membership fee is Rs6,200 (including taxes) and the spouse card costs an additional Rs3,000.
Getting invited: Call 011 2679 1032 for more information.
JW Marriott Hotel
Plan: The JW Preferred Card
High-points: Avail of a 50% discount on food when dining with one person, 33% discount when dining with two people, 25% discount on food when dining with three people and 20% discount on food when dining with four people up to a maximum of 12 people. A 10% discount on all beverages except wines and champagne is also valid.
Add-ons: The programme also offers one 50% discount voucher on the best available rate for any room type category, and one complimentary Swedish massage voucher at the Club Marriott. Members get a 10% discount at the Bombay Baking Company. One-time gift vouchers in the welcome package include a bottle of sparkling wine and a box of chocolates for your anniversary and birthday.
A minus: Valid only at JW Marriott Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai; no discount scheme is available at the nightclub, Enigma.
Cost: Annual membership fee is Rs8,500 (including taxes).
Getting invited: Ask for membership forms at any of their restaurants.
Plan: The Prestige Club.
High points: Food discounts, including 50% off on the food bill for two and 20% if it’s a table of five to 10 people. Plus, a 20% discount on drinks. Applicable across Radisson properties in Goa, Delhi, Shimla, and at country inns and suites by Carlson in Haridwar, Jaipur, Katra, etc.
Add-ons: Transferable benefits such as a Rs500 gift voucher for a single use of the beauty salon, Espace, in Radisson MBD Hotel, Noida, a gift voucher for one mud cake from The Chocolate Box at Noida, and a non-transferable 50% discount voucher on food at their Oriental cuisine eatery, Red, for lunch for up to 15 people are available to members.
A minus: Maximum add-on benefits are available only at Radisson MBD, Noida.
Cost: Annual membership fee is Rs6,100 (including taxes).Getting invited: Call 0120 4300 000 for more information.