Unlike some lucky people, most of us don’t travel every month. For the majority of Indians, traveling means family vacation, once or max twice a year. No wonder, all those fancy hotel loyalty cards fetch us nothing. I spoke to at least 15 people to figure out how many free nights they have enjoyed till date. The answer was not surprising at all. Each one of them was a member of more than 2 hotel loyalty programs and only 2 have ever got a free stay. And that too because they travel for work and their expensive stays are paid for by the company.
So all these loyalty programs are useless for a regular Indian traveler? Of course not. However, not all programs suit an average Indian traveler. The three major reasons for that are:
- Sorry, there are no hotels in this area. Most of the international chains are restricted to metros and semi-metros. So if you are not staying in Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore etc, 90% of hotel loyalty programs are useless anyway. And why would you go to a metro for vacation? Most don’t. It’s a catch 22 situation.
- Free stay too expensive. Staying in a reputed hotel with a good loyalty program generally means a fat bill. Again, I am talking about regular holidays, where you are paying from your own pocket. For most of us, it doesn’t make sense. Especially if the stay is going to be for 7-10 days with the family. To summarize: the hotel that fits your budget and requirement doesn’t have a loyalty program.
- Divided we fall. At the end of the year, you end up with few thousand miles in 4 loyalty programs. It happens. The problem is we need so many programs because no loyalty program meets our need single handedly.
So, the ideal hotel loyalty program for a regular Indian traveler should be:
- With enough number of hotels in non-metros / tourist places as well.
- Rooms should be affordable (and we can’t spend our holiday without some pampering and luxury)
- It should have enough variety to meet most of our annual travel needs.
Now the question is: is there any hotel loyalty program that meets this criteria? Unfortunately, no. However, there is one that comes very close – Club Carlson. In fact, it is the first loyalty program where I earned a free night immediately after my first stay.
Club Carlson Pros:
Enough number of existing/planned hotels in India and abroad. It claims to be one of the world’s largest hotel chain. And yet, their loyalty program is quite generous. See the list of Indian cities Club Carlson Hotels is present in.
What I love most about Club Carlson is that they have both affordable and luxurious hotels. So depending on my need, I can choose any and still earn my points. Even when you are going for a vacation abroad, you may continue earning Club Carlson Gold Points for free stays.
The other good thing about Club Carlson is their love for promotions. There is always something up their sleeves to surprise you.
PS: Use this Club Carlson private sign-up page with 2000 bonus miles on next stay.
Several of their hotels are ‘Coming Soon’. So you might have to wait little longer to use the program fully. Plus lack of/low presence in other South East Asian countries like Hongkong, Thailand, Malaysia etc means lost opportunity.
I would suggest give Club Carlson a try. If it has a property in your frequently visited places, it can be a handsomely rewarding program.
Some Other Programs:
2. Accor Hotels
A chain with a lot of hotels in SE Asia as well. From low budget to premium hotels, Accor Group is a good chain though I never found their loyalty program exciting enough. Still not a bad card to have in your wallet if you travel to places where you don’t have your favorite hotel presence. Use this link to join Le Club by Accor Hotels directly as a platinum member (sometimes you may need to try a couple of different email addresses).