The Novice Perspective: Benefiting from hotel loyalty programs

Shipra is my fiancée and the first of contributors at the blog. She has worked with one of the largest airline conglomerates in the world, and is now based in Mumbai. Shipra has lived, worked and travelled across 4 continents. We travel often enough, together and separately. These are her perspectives, as she gets used to the world of business and leisure travel and our hobby!

Brace yourself, for this is going to be a long one.

My first holiday with Ajay in Goa almost led to a break up.  Ajay asked me to choose a property to book and I opted for a nice vacation villa. Ajay tried convincing me to choose a chain hotel such as a Hyatt or a Marriott instead but I stuck to my love for boutique hideout holiday homes and decided to book a 100-year old charming, riverside Portugese villa in the quaint village in Aldona.

While I loved having the bungalow to the two of us, visiting the local fish market and reading a book in the long veranda of the villa, I noticed Ajay feel like a fish without water. The home having no internet access made matters worse because he would insist we go out everyday, while my aim was to disassociate ourselves from the world and spend some quality time together.

In short, the holiday turned out to be a disaster and on my flight back from Goa, I spent all my time thinking that we could never enjoy a vacation together. Our choice in the kind of places we like to stay at are very different. He likes it all structured with the bigger hotels brands and I love boutique properties, often properties people would have not heard about.

A year down the line today, I’m writing this post from our 11th destination and our 19th hotel stay together. Well I guess, we must’ve figured out something to keep both our interests going.

So, Here is my learning about hotel loyalty programs.

Lesson #3: Hotel loyalty programs can help you go places and that too, for free.

Our second trip together was to Kerala. Ajay picked up the Courtyard by Marriott near the Cochin airport. I wasn’t very happy with the location but after the Goa fiasco, I decided to go with the flow. The hotel was new, beautiful and had a lovely pool. What I did find odd was that Ajay had booked the first night in my name and the second one in his and then the third night stay was in my name again. So essentially we would spend 5 minutes at the reception everyday signing off and signing back in. I didn’t get the logic but as long as our room was upgraded and we were not asked to change rooms, I really couldn’t care. It turned out to be a great holiday.

What I didn’t know then was that Ajay had enrolled me for the Marriott Rewards program and as a new member, for every 2 stays at a Marriott branded property I earned myself 1 free night at a category 1-5 Marriott hotel across the globe. And then there was another Marriott promotion happening simultaneously, that Ajay made good of, where for every 2 stays, I got 1 free night at a category 1-4 hotel. He did the same thing for himself and completed his second stay during a work trip.

So, to sum it up for the 3 nights we stayed at Marriott in Cochin, and the one night Ajay spent at a crappy Marriott near London Heathrow, we earned ourselves 4 free nights that we could redeem at Marriott hotels across the world.

Now, for approximately INR 20,000 that we spent in Cochin we could get a return of over USD 1000/ INR 60,000. That’s a 300% increase in price value. Some Marriott properties we considered for short vacations to were the JW Marriott in Bangkok and the JW Marriott in Ankara. This got me interested to learn more about hotel loyalty programs. With Ajay’s regular insights,  I have spent the last couple of months learning about some these hotel programs:

1. Hyatt Gold Passport, when Ajay did the Hyatt Diamond Challenge
2. IHG Rewards Club
3. Marriott Rewards
4. Hilton HHonors

Now take a guess where we redeemed these free nights?

For the 26th January long weekend we travelled to Vietnam and redeemed 2 nights at the Renaissance Riverside Saigon. It is located downtown and offers a beautiful view of the Saigon river, and usually goes for USD 200 upwards per night. And right now I am sipping tea with a lovely view of the Himalayas the newest JW Marriott luxury retreat in India. The JW Marriott Mussoorie Walnut Grove Retreat and Spa, which recently featured on Conde Nast Traveller’s 11 hot new hotels list as well. That is an INR 15,000 a night hotel for free!


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. I am a regular reader of ur blog and an points/mile collector myself. Somehow I read ur this article 2day only and I must tell u I also did the same thing at Marriott Rewards and now going to enjoy JW Mussourie next month.

  2. Thats a fantastic return on your stays in Cochin !
    So now that you’ve spent time going through the hotel loyalty programs, which one are you more inclined towards?

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