Asia

Battered India’s on the Mend

written by | Posted on February 1st, 2009

Swain Tours has five suggested itineraries that can be customized for your clients priced from $1,245 to $4,010. On its 8-night Highlights of India itinerary priced at $2,850, clients spend two nights in Delhi, one night in Agra for a visit to the Taj Mahal, two nights in Jaipur, two nights in Udaipur and one night in Mumbai. The price includes all internal air, city tours, transfers between major cities by private 4×4 vehicle and a Lake Pichola cruise.

sita world tours SITA World Tours, which has had India tours for years, also saw some slowing, but reported minimal cancellations and are currently stepping up promotions because they still feel there’s a demand.

“We’re strong in India. Of course, the Mumbai attacks certainly affected all companies but we’re continuing our efforts, along with the India Tourism Board, which is a very strong supporter. We’ve been very fortunate because we’ve had minimal cancellations,” explains Laudie Hanou, v.p. of SITA. “So we’ve been fortunate in that sense, the issue is going forward. We’ve been trying to pull these programs together with some really excellent new reduced rates on our core signature programs. We’re starting to see an interest because I think, all companies are going to have to provide a value and we’re doing that across the board with all of our destinations. We’re recognizing something has to be done. It’s not business as usual.”

In terms of travel agent reactions to Mumbai, Hanou says, “I just had a meeting with our outside sales staff and they said the agents were just appalled, because they know Indian people are very kind-hearted, very hospitable and it was just awful that these things so arbitrarily happened and in such a way. I think we’re seeing absolute support from our agency groups and the consortiums we’re preferred with did not cancel any of the programs to India that we have in place. We’re still doing as much promotion, if not more, to the U.S. market.”

The company is also ensuring that their clients traveling in India feel secure and check with them personally on a regular basis. “We’ve had communication from our experienced reservations staff and we keep track of passengers on a day-to-day basis—we’re very personalized that way—and we do check in with our passengers every few days. We’ve done that especially in India and had very good discussions with our clients. They feel more comfortable by being able to hear from the company they’re working with and they know they’re being tracked and I think it often eases their mind.”

The company has also initiated an “India on sale” program at what Hanou calls “absolutely rock-bottom prices,” with savings as much as $1,000 per couple. Its 16-day Regal Rajasthan tour, for example, visits Delhi, Agra, Fatehpur Sikri, Jaipur, Mandawa, Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Manvar, Jodhpur, Ranakpur, Udaipur and Mumbai and is priced from $5,195 to $6,195 pp dbl—a $500 savings pp. Its 10-day Highlights of India and Nepal tour visits Delhi, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Kathmandu, Patan and Bhadgoan and is priced from $3,345 to $3,845—a savings of $250 pp. Its 14- or 17-day Best of India and Nepal visiting Mumbai, Udaipur, Ranakpur, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra, Khajuraho, Varanasi, Delhi and Kathmandu is priced from $6,895 to $7,995—another savings of $500 pp.

a classic tours collection Like many other tour operators, Debika Sen, president of A Classic Tours Collection, which does 18 different itineraries to India in group, independent and luxury categories—as well as programs to other exotic destinations throughout the world—says, “Our business has been pretty good—it’s not been as hectic as it usually is, but we haven’t had any cancellations. We haven’t had any problems convincing people to travel to India and we’re still getting inquiries so it hasn’t been a big issue for us in that respect.” In fact, she adds, “At the time the terrorists attacked Mumbai, we had clients over there and we asked them if they wanted to interrupt their trip and come back and they said no.”

One advantage, she says, is the fact that because the summer season is coming up, there’s less of a demand for travel there, which will give time for the Indian Tourism Board to get their message across in the marketing program they’re creating.