Mumbai/New Delhi: It’s a price war that promises to send the cost of your summer break plunging this year. Lean times for the travel industry could spell a bonanza for the traveller with a slew of packages, discounts and deals by travel portals, hotels and airlines.
Lifestyle Holidays, promoted by Bulls and Bears Finance Ltd, is offering to buy shares from travellers in return for holiday packages. It is accepting equity shares of 72 firms and is even willing to pay a premium of 10% for those stocks. Mandar Sahasrabudhe, assistant manager (operations), Lifestyle Holidays, says the firm is willing to buy shares of companies including Reliance Industries Ltd, Reliance Communications Ltd, ICICI Bank Ltd, Jet Airways (India) Ltd, DLF Ltd, Colgate-Palmolive India Ltd and companies of the Tata group.
Wadia Group-promoted GoAirlines (India) Pvt. Ltd is offering base fares of zero to all destinations in a bid to fill in empty seats. Rival carriers, including SpiceJet Ltd, IndiGo and JetLite (India) Ltd, have introduced base fares of Rs875, where a passenger can get a Mumbai-Delhi one-way ticket for a little more than Rs2,500, all inclusive.
Online travel agent MakeMyTrip India Pvt. Ltd has something different to offer—the option to book villas, service apartments and holiday homes in 60 countries across the world. Both leisure and business travellers can choose from at least 110,000 options of vacation house rentals. The service apartments will also serve as an option for business travellers who need to stay overseas for an extended period of time. And that’s not all. Accommodation options range from budget properties ($70, or Rs3,577, a night) to luxury properties ($200 a night).
So what’s the logic behind these deals? “Overall, the downturn has affected the airline industry. But the problem is that the incentive to buy in advance is missing. We need to urgently bring the leisure travellers back,” says Keyur Joshi, chief operating officer, MakeMyTrip.
Adds Rajji Rai, president of the Travel Agents Association of India, “There is a 15-20% downturn in the tourism industry. Both inbound and outbound tour operators are desperately trying to retain their profits. Add to all this the fact that the airline industry across the board is fighting for survival. Things are only going to be more depressing in the coming months.”
But then are these deals really cheaper? Pooja Shukla, a Mumbai-based teacher and her husband, an investment banker, recently bought an eight-night/nine-day tour package from a city tour operator to Bangkok and Malaysia. “The tour package worked out at least 45% cheaper as compared to last year. This was mainly due to low airline fares and discounted hotel room rates,” she says.
Atinder Pal, an executive in a Delhi-based export firm, agrees: “Given the recession, these are indeed good times if you are willing to travel. Most tour operators have started adding much more to a regular package.” Pal went to Pattaya and Bangkok in February on a five-night/six-day package with his wife. “We got so many extra facilities, including free city tours, airport transfers and even meals, which were not in the original package. At the end of the holiday when you look back, you realize that it was indeed the best time to take a break.”
Fishermen’s Lodge in Uttarakhand
“The slowdown could be a reason for these cheap deals. But there were more incentives such as relaxed check-in and check-out times in both Bangkok and Malaysia. The tour operator has definitely offered more incentives this time,” Shukla says.
Wary of the economic slump, players in every link in the international tourism supply chain are going all out to woo customers even if it means breaking convention.
Ezeego One Travel and Tours Ltd, an online travel agent, has agreed on a first of its kind tie-up with Globus Stores Pvt. Ltd and Cosmos, worldwide leaders in escorted travel. Earlier, Indian customers had to rely on travel agents to book Globus and Cosmos products—both companies offered products only through business-to-business channels. But now one can book packages easily online. Escorted travel allows you to have plenty of time to explore on your own and experience a destination without worrying about details such as transfers, transportation and hotels.
SOTC has launched an exclusive offer in which one pays just for one person while booking one of its “World Famous Tours” of Europe and get a partner and a child holiday for free.
Concludes Keyur Joshi of MakeMyTrip “We have to be smart about pricing our product. At Makemytrip.com, we offer leisure prices for our leisure customers. You offer a great package and people would love to travel with you. Downturn or no downturn, you have to offer value packages to woo the customers.”
• The leisure arm of Sri Lankan Airlines is offering a Second-Passenger-Travels-at-One-Rupee-Only package for a two-day/three-night tour of Sri Lanka’s coastal splendour. Every second passenger on the package pays only Re1. The tours take you to the country’s popular seaside destinations on the south-west coast and, of course, the bustling capital city Colombo. In addition, you also get a discount booklet—Shop-Over Booklet—that is valid in at least a dozen popular establishments in Colombo.
Price: The special packages start from Rs13,599 ex-Bangalore/Trichy/Chennai/Thiruvananthapuram; Rs19,599 ex-Mumbai/Goa; Rs23,599 ex-Delhi.
Package includes: Visa on arrival, return economy airfare on SriLankan Airlines, accommodation on bed and breakfast basis, and airport transfers.
Valid till: 1 May
Contact: email@example.com or call 011-23320285/0239, 0124-4595300/9818933550/09873250071
• Emirates Airlines offers super-value packages in partnership with Atlantis—the Palm Jumeirah’s flagship resort. The offer includes return airfare from India to Dubai, as well as three nights’ accommodation along with an extra night complimentary. All fares are on a twin-sharing basis. Alternatively, passengers opting for a six-night package at the Atlantis are also eligible for two complimentary nights stay.
Price: Starts from Rs66,189 per person in economy class.
Package includes: Buffet breakfast and unlimited access to Aquaventure (the biggest water-themed attraction in West Asia), the Lost Chambers (home to 65,000 marine animals) and preferential rates to play with dolphins at Dolphin Bay.
Contact: www.emirates.com/in/English/ or call 080-66294444
• Thomas Cook (India) Ltd is offering a “4 for 2” package to domestic destinations, where two children below 12 years of age can travel free with parents. The destinations include Kerala (six days/five nights: Rs15,660 per person for deluxe on twin-sharing, Rs12,800 for deluxe on triple-sharing basis), Uttarakhand (seven days/six nights: Rs19,850 per person in standard on twin-sharing basis, and Rs15,850 in deluxe on triple-sharing basis) and Ladakh (six days/five nights: Rs15,900 per person in standard on twin-sharing basis, and Rs12,900 in standard on triple-sharing basis), among other destinations.
Valid till: 30 September
• The Stic Travel group is offering holiday packages in Kerala, Orissa and Rajasthan. Among the various offers available, you get one full day sightseeing free with every three-night package and one night free with every five-night package. Additionally, if you book a group of nine guests, you get a 10th guest free.
Price: Starts from Rs1,999 per night per person in the economy class.
Package includes: Free sightseeing, free upgrading to deluxe car, free extra nights and more.
Valid till: 30 September
Contact: 011-46206600/ 0124-4595300, Extension: 358
• Yogi and Suchna, co-founders of The Backpackers Co. , are organizing a 10-day/nine-night driving holiday through Himachal Pradesh. The trip starts and ends at Chandigarh, and will go through Mandi, Sangla Valley, Thanedaar and Kasauli.
Package includes: Accommodation for nine nights, all meals, car rentals, fuel charges, all toll and other incidental charges en route.
Contact: 09820027727 or visit www.thebackpackerco.com
• The recently opened 12-room Fishermen’s Lodge in Bhimtal, just six hours’ drive from New Delhi (you could also take an overnight train to Kathgodam and on to Bhimtal which is 21km away), is a haven for activities such as fishing, cycling, trekking in the hills or boating in the lakes in and around Bhimtal.
Price: Rs16,000 for three days/two nights; Rs24,000 for four days/three nights.
Package includes: Breakfast, high tea and dinner for two.
Valid till: 15 July
Contact: 09910162244; 011-41328410; firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
• The Oberoi Cecil and Wildflower Hall, both in Shimla, are offering two-night packages under their Himalayan Vacations offer.
Price: Rs18,000 (taxes extra) at the The Oberoi Cecil, and Rs30,000 (taxes extra) for Wildflower Hall.
Package includes: Accommodation for two in a deluxe (Oberoi Cecil) and premier (Wildflower Hall) room, daily breakfast for two, 15% discount on spa treatments (Cecil) and most transfers.
Valid till: 30 June
Contact: 1800 11 2030 (toll free) or visit www.oberoihotels.com
• The Taj Hotels group has packaged holidays under specific heads such as spa and wellness, adventure and wildlife, authentic palace experiences and family getaways. Each break is a two-night/three-day holiday (which can be extended) aiming to deliver a specialized experience laced with local cues. Options include the Royal Retreats package comprising accommodation for two nights (inclusive of breakfast), airport transfers in a luxury car, heritage tour of the palace and dinner for two with a bottle of house wine (prices start at Rs40,000 per couple for two nights, taxes extra).
The Family Getaways package gives you the option to choose between a speedboat ride and a backwater cruise at Kumarakom, adventure activity in Goa, a Catamaran ride at Fisherman’s Cove, Chennai, or treks to a bird sanctuary at Kumarakom.
These family vacations will include accommodation, buffet breakfast and prices start at Rs6,000 per couple for two nights (each child under the age of 12 will be charged Rs1,650, taxes extra).
Valid till: 1 April to 15 June
• WelcomHeritage also has packages for 60 properties spread over 19 states. Some options to stay include a country manor, a colonial hill residence with tea gardens or a jungle lodge. Two-night/three-day stay at Mistry Sahib’s Bungalow, Jorhat, Assam will cost Rs8,299 (taxes extra) for a couple and will include daily American breakfast and a dinner while two-night/three-day package in a deluxe room at Shambhala at Leh-Ladakh will cost Rs7,599 (taxes extra) and will include all meals.
Valid: 30 September
• Unreal Asia is offering a unique experience you cannot afford to miss: a nine-day cycling tour around tropical Hainan Island, China’s southernmost province. Cruise through Hainan’s newly developed roads before heading back to Sanya for the beach and cocktails. The dates for the fixed tours are 20-28 June, 21-29 November and 23-31 January 2010.
Price: $1500 per person (Rs76,650)