Sujoy Mitra and his wife, Sharmistha Dey, were on a fun trip to Tashkent in January 2019. The intrepid travellers were booked in the first class of the airline and were to check in at the Diplomatic Suite at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in the city.
The Uzbek capital was ice cold at that time. For Sujoy and his wife, it was another hot deal they had managed to get. They had booked a two-day stay at the Diplomatic Suite, which then had a rack rate of ₹93,000 per night. They had used 32,000 Hyatt reward points for their two-day booking. A friend who had collected a lot of points after a monthly-long stay at the Hyatt had given it to him as a gift. Cost on their pocket? Zero.
The economy return tickets on the only direct flight from New Delhi to Tashkent on Uzbek Air were as good as free too. Against the fare of ₹26,000 per person, they had to pay only the taxes since the points collected on their credit cards was good enough for the fare.
“That is how our life is. We can sometimes travel and stay in luxury but minimise our other spend so that we can live our dream of travelling around the world,” Sujoy said, over a morning cuppa.
According to the Limca Book of Records 2019 , Sharmistha and Sujoy have travelled to 106 countries together, beginning December 9, 2011. They have used airline, hotel and credit card reward points to pay for their travel, and are aiming to be the first couple to travel to every country in the world.
Nursing the dream as a kid
Growing up in a middle-class family in Rae-Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, Sujoy had a dream-he wanted to travel and see the world. The sleepy town, about 650 kilometres from Delhi, does not have an airport and Sujoy had never taken a flight. When he completed his chemical engineering degree from Harcourt Butler Technical University, Kanpur in 2007, he joined a company to do a routine job. His dream was now ready to take wings.
Sometime in early 2011, he came across the idea of reward/loyalty points from credit card and hotel companies and started studying them. A little before he got married, he used to tell Sharmistha that he wanted to travel all around the world. Sharmistha did not say much because she had no clue how to fund such a travel itinerary.
When Sharmistha and Sujoy got married in December 2011, they travelled to Egypt – the first overseas travel for both – in style. Sujoy spent ₹609 each for the business-class trip on Kuwait Air and stayed at Marriott hotel there. The expense for travel and stay was ₹3000. If the smart deal did not impress Sharmistha, nothing possibly could.
That is just one of the many super deals that Sujoy has been able to get since his first international travel. He left his job in 2014 to focus on a career as a travel specialist.
A meeting with Dr. Ali Irani, the former physiotherapist of the Indian cricket team in July 2014 convinced him to start his venture. His mentor, Hemant Gupta, introduced him to Dr. Irani and soon they were talking business. Sujoy assured the busy doctor that he would take care of his travel schedule and get him great deals just like he was getting them. With Dr. Irani as his first client, he has not looked back since.
Since then, the perpetually travelling couple have got some amazing airline deals. New York to Buenos Aires on American Airlines for ₹156, New Delhi-Seoul on Air India for ₹208, Khartoum (Sudan) to Doha on Qatar Airways first class for ₹1450.
“We have now travelled over 125 countries and there are many such deals that we have got on airlines as well as hotel stays in several cities around the world,” Sujoy says. Over the next three to four years, the couple hope to complete their travel to every country in the world.
Whirlwind tour to Pakistan
In November 2018, Sujoy was at an embassy near the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi, working on getting his travel documents in place. He was asked to get photocopies of some documents. He ran into Parvez Ahmed, the representative of Pakistan-based news channel ARY News. The two got into a conversation and Sujoy spoke his heart out: “I want to go to Pakistan since I travel around the world for passion.”
Parvez managed to connect him with the right people at the Pakistan High Commission. Soon, he was at the High Commission office working to ensure that he had all the travel documents needed for the trip. He also connected to Iqbal Hasan, the First Secretary at the Pakistan High Commission.
At a formal meeting with the First Secretary, Sujoy told him clearly that he along with his wife, wanted to travel to Pakistan. The paperwork was completed and Sujoy and Sharmistha got the visa without the need for reporting to the local police station when in Pakistan. When they crossed the border at Wagah on December 16, ARY News was their host in Pakistan, taking care of their stay in the country.
Opportunity in the crisis
At the turn of the last decade, Kingfisher Airlines in India was turning into the preferred choice for business fliers. But with high aviation turbine fuel prices, some signs of headwinds were discernible. By late 2010, the airline was in trouble and it was hurtling towards disaster. Those who had accumulate frequent flyer miles were left in the lurch as Kingfisher’s licence was cancelled in May 2012.
For Sujoy, the crisis was a goldmine. He managed to contact some frequent flyers and requested them to transfer the miles to his account since they were of little use for them. Soon, he had accumulated 200,000 miles and was ready to book flights to some of his favourite destinations.
Have passion, will travel
The couple are such incorrigible travel enthusiasts that during December 2016 and March 2017, part of the period when Sharmistha was expecting, they took 36 flights and travelled by car and train on 15 trips. When they were meticulously planning all these trips, there was a doctor on call and they were covered by insurance, preparing for any eventuality. A few months later, they had a son and named him ‘Rahyl,’ which means traveller.
Sharmistha has always been a willing partner in crime for Sujoy’s passion. She has happily accepted the high and low that comes with the travel schedules booked using loyalty points. Once, when they landed at Seychelles getting off the first-class cabin of Qatar Airways, they wanted to take a bus to the hotel. The country wants the tourists to use cabs and prohibits them to travel with their suitcases in buses. But they did not want to spend the money on a taxi. They had to request the driver to allow them to travel with their suitcases since the rules prohibit that. They were allowed in!
When he is at work, Sujoy helps several people schedule their travel so that they can make the best of their budget. He charges money for the service, which keeps his small business running. As a start-up, it is a challenge to scale up the business, but Sujoy is trying his best.
Meanwhile, the couple are getting ready for their next travel to Beirut, travelling business class via Kuwait Airways. Cost? ₹802 per head. “We often travel business class. But we try to be frugal about our other spends,” Sujoy reinstates.