1. One-of-a-kind travels

One-of-a-kind travels

Niche holiday packages that cater to a specific demographic are the next big thing in the travel industry

By: | Published: May 15, 2016 6:00 AM

PRACHI KAGZI has been a ‘wanderer’ ever since she can remember. As a child, she used to travel extensively to offbeat destinations such as the Greek islands and Papua New Guinea, among many others, thanks to her ‘non-conformist traveller’ parents. The travel bug remained with her throughout. The ‘journey’ continued even after her son Arsh was born, and Kagzi wanted to replicate the same experience for the little one. So even before Arsh—now four years old—could read or write, he was already on his first overseas trip to China. “Many thought I was an out-of-the-box mom, but after listening to our delightful experience, a lot of them were keen to go,” says the Mumbai-based 35-year-old entrepreneur. Thus was born the idea of Little Passports, a travel company that arranges trips for children, in October 2015.

Kagzi believes every adventure is worthwhile, so her itineraries go beyond amusement parks. Past expeditions include safaris at Pench Tiger Reserve in Madhya Pradesh, a wildlife and zoo trail across China, snowboarding and igloo-making in Slovakia and a tour of South Africa’s natural reserves. “Little Passports is a novel concept in the children’s travel space in India. We organise educative tours for children aged between three and 15 years. The concept resonates with today’s parents who value ‘learning by doing’. These trips are in tandem with popular school holidays,” says the Cardiff University, UK alumna, adding, “I have a penchant for children’s destinations and aspire to convert all my experiences into trips through Little Passports.”

Kagzi started with about R35 lakh as investment for Little Passports, and although she has been approached for funding twice since inception, she wants to make the brand stronger before getting funded. “The revenues are increasing substantially, as the trips are getting more frequent and larger in size. We have started conducting international tours as well, which see higher revenues and margins,” she says.

Similarly, New Delhi-based Sumitra Senapaty started a niche ‘for-women-only’ travel company, Women on Wanderlust (WOW), in 2005 after she realised “the need for safety and companionship that many women travellers want”. Her ‘wanderers’, as she likes to call her customers, come from all walks of life and from around the world, but with a common passion—travelling. “I guess the idea just happened to me, as I am so passionate about travelling. Created 11 summers ago, WOW pioneered the concept, and empowered and taught women to take out time for themselves,” says the 53-year-old founder.

Senapaty’s customers belong to age groups ranging from 25 to 60 years. “On an average, our group size is 20 and we do about 100 trips a year, prices for which can start at R15,000 and go up to R7 lakh, depending upon the package and itinerary,” adds the former freelance travel writer.

So far, WOW has organised several treks to Sikkim and Uttarakhand besides several other trips to places like Ladakh, Kerala, Gujarat and the north-east. “We have also undertaken tours to international destinations like Jordan, South America, the Galapagos Islands, Hong Kong, Japan and Iran, among many more. We have actually managed to cover over 50 destinations in India and around so far,” adds Senapaty.

Even leading tour operators are now coming out with niche holiday packages that cater to a specific demographic. In June last year, Thomas Cook (India) launched Silver Breaks, a customised holiday experience for senior citizens. The package takes care of special dietary needs and includes on-trip medical assistance, handpicked ‘elderly- friendly’ hotels, entertainment evenings and high-quality easy-access vehicles.

“While much has been made of the ‘young India’ travel segment, Thomas Cook’s internal research has revealed the significant yet untapped opportunity that the senior citizen population provides,” says Abraham Alapatt, president and group head, marketing, service quality, financial services and innovation, Thomas Cook (India).

The company’s internal data says over 27% of its existing holiday business constitutes senior travellers. “We have largely seen senior citizens travelling in groups either with similar age-group travellers or with family,” explains Alapatt.

Incidentally, the demand for the Silver Breaks package is not just restricted to metros, but sees customers from mini metros and tier-II cities like Ahmedabad, Pune, Chandigarh and Kochi as well. From a destination perspective, Europe is the top favourite for this section of the population. “We are also seeing strong uptake for short-haul destinations like Singapore, Dubai and Thailand. Domestic destinations preferred include the Nilgiris, Kerala and the ‘golden triangle’ (Delhi-Agra-Jaipur),” says Alapatt.

India is said to become one of the largest ‘aged’/senior citizen-populated countries in the coming years. As per a 2014 ‘State of Elderly in India’ report released by the non-profit HelpAge India, 20% of the Indian population is estimated to be elderly by 2050. Another recent report ‘Shaping the Future of Travel in Asia Pacific’, released by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan and travel software and technology solutions provider Amadeus, suggests that the number of outbound senior citizen travellers from India is expected to increase seven-fold to 7.3 million by 2030—from 1.3 million in 2011—as the Indian elderly traveller is actively opting for leisure travel. “India comes second only to China, which will see a 641% increase in the number of such outbound travellers by 2030,” adds Alapatt.

Kagzi of Little Passports, too, feels that the niche children’s travel sector will grow in the near future. “The population of the Indian upper- and middle-class is increasing, which will give a boost to the sector. Earlier, trips were based on personal knowledge and word-of-mouth, which have now been replaced by online research and social media. As opposed to people taking less frequent trips and that, too, to only well-known places, new-age parents prefer weekend getaways and are ready to explore the unexplored,” adds Kagzi.

Catching ‘em young
Many travel companies offer curated packages for the little ones. The itineraries go beyond amusement parks and include educative safaris, wildlife and zoo trails, snowboarding, igloo-making, nature walks, etc

Women wanderers
For women who like to travel but worry about their safety, there are many companies now offering
the perfect solution: women-only trips. Catering to customers belonging to age groups ranging from 25 to 60 years, these packages bring together women from diverse walks of life

Seniors’ soirée
With the number of outbound senior citizen travellers from India expected to increase seven-fold to 7.3 million by 2030, travel companies are now offering customised holiday experiences for them. These packages take care of special dietary needs and include on-trip medical assistance, handpicked ‘elderly-friendly’ hotels, entertainment evenings and high-quality easy-access vehicles

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