If you want good deals, book that hotel for the summer vacation sooner than late3 min read . Updated: 25 Feb 2019, 10:50 PM IST
When you book a hotel directly, it saves you the hassle of having to pay upfront and you can earn privilege points
While I have been battling sky high airfares over the past few weeks, trying to get to meetings for ₹5,000 but paying ₹15,000 instead, I’ve come to a conclusion: Last minute airfares are not going to be cheaper any longer. So, I am here to remind you to book that summer vacation now, or risk paying more when the day arrives, and your bags are packed.
I’m sure you all know a thing or two about picking your destination and finding your way around there. It could be in the Swiss Alps or the valley of Kashmir, but what about where will you stay? As a business traveller for over 15 years, I’ve become used to a certain minimum level of hospitality when I travel, and I certainly cannot live without the basics.
That is why, I usually lean towards chain hotels to make sure everyone gets what they want. For instance, Marriott has a footprint of 118 hotels in India and over 7,000 around the globe. The Marriott hotels in India play to all strata, and I’ve stayed at Marriott hotels for ₹3,500 a night onwards up to ₹15,000 a night sometimes. Shangri-La, my favourite luxury brand, only has 100 hotels globally, two in India and two in Sri Lanka, but they are a class apart when it comes to luxury.
I’ve long advised friends and family to book directly with the hotel of your choice, or with a trusted travel adviser, to get the most satisfactory outcome for your stay. You may land yourself one of the hotel’s promotional offers, like stay two nights get one free. Many hotel chains also offer their loyalty programme members anything between 5-20% discounts for booking directly.
To give you an example, I’m heading to South-East Asia this summer to meet friends coming from all over the world. Everyone had different requirements. Some wanted to be near the beach, others near the market. Some wanted a baby crib, others wanted breakfast inclusive rates. Because we reached out to the hotel directly, we could get a 20% cheaper rate than their own website, and as a sweetener they added breakfast for everyone. It, of course, helped that we were booking nine rooms.
A lot of hotel chains have over the years made it mandatory for online travel agents to match their prices, so they cannot undercut the brand anymore. When you book a hotel directly, it saves you the hassle of having to pay upfront, but also provides you with the privilege to earn points for your hotel stays as well.
On the other hand, if you have earned points through your days on the road, you could redeem your hotel points for your summer vacation too. For instance, the Park Hyatt Vendome, Paris, which usually goes for $1,500 a night, is redeemable just for 30,000 World of Hyatt points per night, which is great value in my book. Closer home, the JW Marriott Mussoorie just costs 35,000 Bonvoy points a night as compared to ₹ 20,000 upwards a night in cash.
Frequently, we overlook the fact that various credit card companies are able to offer you an opportunity to transfer their reward points to hotel loyalty points as well. For example, American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Hilton and Marriott points, which means, even if you are not a frequent hotel guest, you can transfer your Amex points to these hotel chains and redeem them for a free stay.
For luxury holidays, another mode to get a great value for your hotel stays is your bank and trusted travel advisers. American Express has Fine Hotels and Resorts (FHR), which offers perks at over 1,000 carefully curated hotels globally. These include room upgrades upon arrival, daily breakfast inclusive, and unique amenities from the property. For instance, at the Ritz-Carlton Bengaluru, you get $100 to spend at the property, while the Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur will host your dinners during your stay.
Similarly, individual hotel chains have their own curated partnerships as well for travel agents. Shangri-La has The Luxury Circle, and Hyatt has Privé, where participating travel agents can book hotel stays for their members at the same price as the best available rates, but give perks similar to the Amex FHR programme.
Business travel is no fun, but the perks you get courtesy your days on the road can win you brownie points with your friends and family on your vacations.
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.