R-Day packages set to lure the footloose

New Delhi, Jan 20 | Updated: Jan 21 2007, 06:38am hrs
Branding seems to have sneaked into the travel sector with a vengeance. After a lean season, a slew of of travel operators have come out with Republic Day specials targeted at the FIT (free Indian traveller) sector. But heres the catch: on the face of it a two day-three night package worth Rs 4,000-6,000 may seem like a great bargain, but the reality is different. Most of these packages promote unused inventories at hill stations.

In other words, there are no R-Day specials for destinations like Goa or Rajasthan, which are fully booked for the season. At best, the tour operators may bundle off their offers with freebies, such as an extra days stay or a pick-up, but if you look closer at these deals, they are just regular weekend packages branded differently, reveals Prateek Chawla, director, Outbound Travels. There is really no discount on offer, he adds.

The ploy, however, is working as tour operators have started to make heavy bookings. We are expecting a jump in occupancy from 40% to 60-70%, towards the close of the deal, as Delhiites are notorious for making last-day bookings, says Anita Manchanda, marketing manager for Solang Valey Resort, a ITC-WelcomGroup property in Manali. Solang Valley Resort has a three-night-four-day R-Day Package for a deluxe room for a couple (all meals and taxes thrown in), besides a candlelight dinner and folkdance for Rs 11,999. Its our regular Honeymoon Package, but we are co-branding it with Republic Day in order to encash on the long weekend opportunity, says Manchanda.

Normally, the occupancy rate in hill destinations during this season is very low; but next weekend promises to be different, informs Sanjay Bhari, owner of Jharipani Castle in Mussoorie, which has a two-nights-three-days per couple package for Rs 6,999. Similar offers have also been lined up by makemytrip.com. Our packages work out cheaper than a normal weekend package, claims Dushyant Prakash, the marketing manager for the portal. And, we have worked out deals for Goa too, he adds. The portal's Goa package is priced Rs 1,650 per person for a three-night stay and its Manali package comes for Rs 1,200. The catch The stay is at two- or three-star properties because thats where tour operators enjoy better margins. He adds: Weve sold the rooms that we pre-booked with these resorts. We are promoting a Star Cruise in Goa, a sell-out.

Chawla of Outbound Travels is sceptical of the price band. At that kind of pricing, you can only expect a two-star accommodation, but it works as Delhiites like the promise of great deals, he says.