Thanks to the likes of the mighty maharajahs who built sumptuous palaces throughout the continent and the daring adventures and entrepreneurs who built fortunes from the 18th century all the way through to contemporary times, India has learned how to provide unparalleled luxurious comfort to those who can afford it.
And provide it, they do. Its hotel inventory reads like a who’s who of legendary hotels such as Oberoi Hotels & Resorts and Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces, as well as upstarts like The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts, Amanresorts and even Four Seasons, which opened its first India property in Mumbai just last year. Add to that hundreds of boutique and small, charming hotels around the country—all geared to the discerning tastes and cultural interests of the higher end traveler.
Carole Cambata, president of Greaves Tours, which specializes in luxury travel to India, points out that the luxury hotel and resort choices are growing all the time. “Obviously, we know Taj and Oberoi very well—we’ve worked with them for many years now. But there are a lot more hotels venturing onto the marketplace—Four Seasons is now in Mumbai, and Amanresorts, they already have a name out in the marketplace for having chic properties and they have three in India. And Leela, too, is there and they’re building more properties every year,” she explains.
But Cambata also adds that Greaves doesn’t just stick to the big hotels. They look for variety and the best quality in the country’s various regions, pointing out that southern India still hasn’t caught up to northern India in terms of luxury product. “There are good hotels and very lovely,” she hurriedly explains, “but the luxury product just hasn’t arrived in that area just yet.”
The important thing, she says, is to listen to what the client wants because the typical high-end traveler, she reminds agents, knows what they want. “We listen to what the clients are saying and we’ll do heritage and the boutique hotels and palaces that have been turned into hotels. We regularly check to see that they are of a standard that everyone will be happy with. We try to give people a cross section, but if they say we just want to stay in a Taj or we just want to stay in an Oberoi, we’ll do that. We might suggest that they stay somewhere else, but ultimately, they know what they’re looking for.”
Greaves does have some unique offerings for your high-end client, but there’s one in particular that makes putting an FIT together a lot easier and making travel from one region to another a lot more efficient and comfortable—their own Super King Air B200 prop plane that can carry from one to six passengers. And if you’ve ever driven on any of India’s roads, that is a very big deal.
“One of the things we used to sell—the Ultimate India Safari—was the trip from Varanasi (the holy city on the Ganges) to Bandhavgarh National Park for tiger safaris,” she explains. “If you were to do it ordinarily, the transfer would take all day. On the plane, it’s only 70 minutes, so we’d say, ‘Your clients can be on the Ganges in the morning and in the afternoon they can be out on safari hunting tigers.’ So it’s a huge difference. You can fit so much more in when you use the plane.” She also adds that the plane makes for an easy day trip from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal—a must-do for every first-time traveler to India—since it’s only a 25-minute flight each way, as opposed to a 7- or 8-hour roundtrip by road.
Add to that other little Greaves exclusives such as their ability to “…meet clients on the jet bridge on arrival into Delhi—which is always very nice and very comforting, especially when the clients have been on a long journey,” she says. “We also give everyone a little card that has a 24-hour phone number so that should they need anything at anytime, they can get hold of us. We try to explain that we’re their security blanket. They can go out there and have their adventure, but we know where they are all the time and if there’s ever a problem, we can get to them immediately.”