Decide on a hotel chain and let their loyalty programme kick in for extra perks
If you’re travelling 40-50 nights a year, consider choosing a hotel chain to do business with
I am writing this from my executive suite at the Le Meridien, Gurugram, where I arrived for a day’s work-related stay, but I’m considering adding more days to enjoy the fabulous green views of the Aravallis outside my window. Not only did I get one of the best suites in the hotel while paying for a standard room, I was also invited for breakfast at the hotel restaurant and drinks at the hotel club lounge, and not charged for the privilege.
If you are like me, travelling 40-50 nights a year, at least on business or pleasure, you’d want to consider choosing a hotel chain to do business with. They’d like to have you, and over a period of time invite you for the same perks as they hold out for people like me.
There are numerous international chains you can pick from—Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton and IHG are a few that operate in India. Marriott now has 111 hotels in India and is the biggest hotel chain in the country by number of rooms. This is a small part of their global footprint of 6,700 hotels. Hilton is a tad bit smaller at about 5,500 hotels around the world and has a small footprint in India: 18 hotels open right now, and another two coming up. However, doing business with hotel chains means knowing their brands. Marriott, for example, has 29 of them, and you could choose the brands you like according to your taste. Sheraton, Le Meridien, Aloft, W, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton are just some of them.
Apart from the wide footprint, the generous loyalty programmes also bring back customers to the chain hotels. World of Hyatt, which asks of you to stay 60 nights at their affiliated hotels in a year to get top-tier status, promises to upgrade you four times a year to a suite, for up to a week. These confirmed upgrades can be applied ahead of arrival and help me with getaway with friends, where everyone gets a suite.
Beyond that, every time I check-in at a Hyatt property for a short business trip, they upgrade me to the best available room or suite anyway. Marriott Platinum members and Hilton Diamond members receive comparable benefits.
To get loyalty benefits, one key change comes in the way you book your hotels. Loyalty benefits are always provided when you book directly with the hotel, or through a corporate travel agent such as American Express or Carlson Wagonlit Travel. While booking through an online travel agent, the hotel would not count it towards your status nights and not offer the benefits. Most hotel chains offer a 5-15% discount when booking is done via their own website, so it’s always good to have a look.
The points you earn by booking directly also come in handy for your vacations. For instance, I used just 25,000 Hyatt points a couple of years ago per night at Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa. A room at this secluded island usually costs about $1,500. If islands are not your cup of tea, you can look for options in a city. I stayed right in the centre of Times Square at the Crowne Plaza for just 60,000 IHG Rewards Club points a night over New Year’s Eve, when a standard room shoots up to $1,500.
The perks don’t just end there. You could also earn points for events you host for your company, or your own personal one too. Hyatt offers up to 150,000 points for weddings at its hotels, which are good for at least five free nights.
If you are shopping around currently for a hotel chain, Hilton would make your life easy. It is currently running a status challenge, where it would offer to make you a Gold member through March 2020 in just four stays as compared to the usual 20 stays in a year. Alternatively, American Express Platinum Charge cardholders get the status with the card as well.
To sum it up,we may not need the points or the status when we are travelling on business. But the status comes in handy on a vacation where your expenses can go down substantially by using the reward points for paying for the hotel stay and using the status achieved to keep the cost of consumables such as breakfast, and evening canapés and drinks down. Why not just take it off the table when you have the chance.
Elevate Your Travel is a column for the business travellers by a business traveller. Ajay Awtaney is founder and editor of Livefromalounge.com, a frequent-flyer website.
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