Hotel Rewards Flyer Programs For India Travel

Much like the airline frequent flyer programs, hotels too win the loyalty of their guests by inviting them to loyalty programs. You earn points for stays in their properties at different places, for dining at their restaurants and renting their banquet halls or seminar rooms. And like airline miles, you can earn hotel points through other means too e.g. through credit cards (Citibank Premier Miles, American Express Platinum etc.) and through their partner network (airlines, car rentals, shopping and lifestyle).

It is better to join loyalty programs of international hotel chains since it is where the value lies. Again, I emphasize on consolidation, rather than spreading yourself thin and getting membership of many hotel loyalty programs. There are many reviews and posts which discuss the merits of the popular programs. You may also consider joining a hotel loyalty program in your city even if it is not part of any chain for rewards like discounted rates at the restaurant, usage of pool, gym, spa etc. Like airline FFPs, hotel loyalty programs too have membership tiers from basic to the big whale categories where every wish is a command.

Loyalty programs offer following benefits:

Free Stays. You can redeem your loyalty points for free nights. Depending on the number of points you have, you can stay for free. Now, all hotel chains have levels or categories of hotel properties all over the world, depending on the popularity of that destination. e.g. Club Carlson’s Radisson Blu at London will be Category 6 (highest) where you get a free night at 50,000 points and its Radisson Blu at Agra is Category 3 where you can get a free night at 28000 points. This is so designed to ensure that visitors don’t abuse the system by earning points at low category hotel properties and redeeming them at higher category ones. Therefore, to compare hotel programs, we need to look at three aspects – first, number of points earned per Rs. 100 and the next is amount of Rupees required to earn free nights. As of this writing, Club Carlson was the most beneficial of them all, although the number of properties of Club Carlson (Radisson Blu, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn and Country Inn & Suites) across the globe is about 1300, while Hilton (and its associated properties) has more than 3000 across the world. Do keep track of all hotel programs and their properties by subscribing to their newsletter.

Deals. Since I subscribed to hotel newsletters, I get regular offers from them. Offers can be something like 4th night free or weekend offers or it can even be bonus loyalty points in addition to the points you are already earning. This is an excellent way to rack up those points. Usually one has to register for such offers. So, when you get the email or you happen to read it in some travel forum, you simply click on the link to that promotional advertisement and head over to the landing page especially for the offer. Register your details – usually they ask for your membership number and / or email address which is associated with your membership. After you register, you can book and stay anytime in the period that is given in the landing page. Please note that the booking dates are usually not the same as stay dates, although there might be some overlap. e.g. The offer is valid for booking before 31 March and stay between 01 May and 31 July.

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Upgrades. You can redeem your points for upgrades to better / higher class rooms with more area, amenities, views and meal plans. Sometimes you may be lucky to be offered a free upgrade -meaning you are offered a higher class room / suite without redeeming of points, simply because you are a member of the loyalty program and the hotel is overbooked. Isn’t that sweet? So, don’t be shy of asking for an upgrade while checking in – they are used to being asked. Perhaps your wife prefers a room with a nice view and you just realized that your room is facing the inner courtyard…ask Do you think it would be possible to make my wife happy by giving the river-view room? (Add a smile and cut the attitude). You may be offered an upgrade by the hotel for a small amount (this is especially true in the lean season). These upgrades are offered AFTER you have completed the booking and are a rate that is less than half the cost of difference. Say, you have booked a standard room for Rs. 12,000. After the payment screen, you are thanked and also offered an upgrade to the Deluxe Studio with ocean view for just Rs. 2,500, (total = 12,000+2,500=14,500) whereas booking this Studio earlier would have cost you Rs. 19,500. That is a saving of Rs. 5000 per night. But there is a catch (oh no!) – You get the upgrade at you check-in, if and only when there is a vacancy. So, the hotel gets to fill the higher category room, even if it means lesser profit and offer the standard room, which is more in demand, to other interested guests. Like the airlines which use yield management systems for filling the seats, hotels too utilize IT systems for optimum room utilization.

Discounts. You can either redeem your points for discounted price or by virtue of your higher membership tier you may be offered a discount. For higher membership tiers, the discount is a given.

Other Freebies. For loyal guests, other services at the hotel may be provided complimentary. e.g. laundry, Wi-Fi, airport transfers, gym, bottled water in room, welcome drinks / chocolates etc. These freebies not only reduce your overall costs, but they also offer convenience in many ways. In Singapore, we got free lounge access with complimentary drinks because of my membership to InterContinental loyalty program

Priority Check-In. Picture this – you have just arrived after a 10 hour flight from Bangalore to London. Add the 2 hours before and 1 hour after the flight. You really are whacked and cranky after seeing surly faces at both airports. When you enter the hotel, you see people waiting to get their room keys at the check-in counter. You just feel like blowing the top. Now, if you are a higher tier loyalty card holder of that hotel, you just flash the card and you are taken to a separate desk for check-in formalities by the concierge with the waiting crowd gawking enviously. How about that? You get to the room faster and in style.

Early Check-In and Late Check-Out. The check-in time for hotels is in the afternoons usually and check-out time before noon, to cater for the time housekeeping makes up your room If your flight arrives early, do you wait in the lobby twiddling thumbs? Or if your flight is departing in the evening, do you sit in the airport hearing that entire hubbub? So instead of wasting time at the airports or lobbies, hotels will allow you to check-in / out as required. But the caveat is that rooms should be available during those times. And yes, you must make it clear when booking, so they can reserve / book accordingly or inform you if otherwise.

Access to Premium Lounge. Some hotel chains like Hilton, Radisson, Inter Continental etc. have a lounge which offer an exclusive area for socializing and relaxing and where they offer complimentary high-tea or drinks (with snacks ). This is usually applicable to guests occupying higher room types or if you hold higher status / tier of the loyalty program (above the basic tier).

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