Picking the perfect hotel room is a draw of the straw. You could be seeing something in the picture, which is a professionally shot image, and finding something totally else as you get there. You can’t do much about it. But you can do enough to make sure you pay just right for your hotel stay, wherever it is.
I know in India, the focus is a lot on getting the lowest possible price. The OTAs sure do a good job of getting you the lowest possible price, by stacking up discounts and passing you on a large slice of their 20 to 30 percent commissions which they get from the hotel, but is that the best value? Not really.
Over the years, I’ve noticed, and come around to the fact that some of the bigger hotel chains are the ones which can get me the best value from my hotel stays for work and pleasure. This could include staying at an airport hotel in Delhi while on transit, a city hotel in Bangalore for business and a leisure resort in Mahabaleshwar for a weekend break, and the same hotel company can take a different shape to accommodate you and your family. All of these are examples from this year for my own experience.
So, for a frequent, and even not so frequent traveller, it makes sense to look at one or a few hotel chains to be a member of their loyalty programmes. The perks are many, and if you look at it from a perspective of what you get in terms of value, you would appreciate it more. When you book directly with the hotel chain (via their website, phone), you get the opportunity to earn points at these hotel chains. You also get the best available rates, and by being a member, you get a discount of 5 to 15 percent on the published prices for the night as Member rates. And contrary to popular notion, some of these hotels start at about Rs 3000 a night, so just because it has a chain behind it does not mean it would become an expensive hotel.
The points can then be redeemed for free room nights at the hotel chain anywhere across the globe. For instance, I am using points from my Marriott Bonvoy account to take my entire family (parents, in-laws, wife and my sibling) to the JW Marriott Resort in Mussoorie this year, which usually costs about Rs 20,000 a night, apart from the GST. In earlier years, I’ve taken my family to places far and wide, such as a luxury holiday in the Maldives at the Park Hyatt Hadahaa or the Bora Bora islands in French Polynesia (at the InterContinental Resort there), all with the power of points.
And as you stay more, you also unlock more benefits, which increase your
value from the hotel stays. For instance, when travelling alone and staying at a Marriott or Hilton hotel, I hardly have to pay for my meals. In the mornings, I get breakfast free as a benefit of my loyalty, and I usually don’t have to step out for dinner, because I get granted Lounge access, which comps me a usually large array of snacks (30 items large), apart from beverages.
Hotel chains also frequently run offers which provide you more value, without being a loyalist. Just last weekend, I stayed at the Le Meridien Mahabaleshwar, a quaint resort in the lap of nature, by booking up the
Marriott South Asia Resorts offer. At approximately the same price as just the hotel room, I got a package that included all the three meals of the day. And, besides that, if you have kids, the kids can stay free of cost with you, and their meals are also paid for at the same cost.
Other hotel chains are also offering, which can only come when you book direct, such as Hyatt’s buy 2, get 1 free night packages, and the Hilton India up to 35 percent off sale. So it always helps to check with your favourite hotel chain before you book up the hotel.
The next time you are headed out for business or leisure, I do hope you compare the
value of your hotel stay rather than just the price you pay for it before you check-in. Ajay Awtaney is a business travel & aviation journalist based in Mumbai, and the founder of the Indian frequent-traveller website Live From A Lounge ( www.livefromalounge.com .) Ajay flies over 200,000 miles every year, and tweets about The Business of Travel at @LiveFromALounge .