Mumbai: Good times or bad, people still get married.
And some of them want to get married overseas, extended family and friends in tow.
To target such individuals, SOTC, a unit of Kuoni Travel (India) Pvt. Ltd, entered the business of wedding tours. “We are now getting into wedding tours, which boasts (a global market) as big as $10 billion (around Rs50,000 crore). We have already handled four-five wedding tours,” says P. Srinivas, senior vice-president (special interest tours), SOTC.
Wedding tours are the latest in a long line of special-interest tours—a relatively new trend in the business. On offer are special domestic and international tours for women, bachelors, students, senior citizens, sport lovers, even wildlife lovers.
Srinivas claims it isn’t the tough times that are encouraging travel companies to diversify into special-interest tours. “There is a huge market which is still remaining untapped. There is no organized player in this niche travel segment. (Profit) margins are also good.”
A senior executive with a Mumbai-based travel firm, who does not want to be identified, says profit margins are as high as 20-25% on customized tours.
According to Srinivas, Thailand, Malaysia and Dubai are the favourite destinations for wedding tours. “Indian families that used to organize weddings in Hyderabad, Goa and Jaipur are now looking at overseas destinations. A family spends an average Rs2 crore to Rs3 crore on a wedding tour.”
Apart from wedding tours, SOTC is also looking to increase its presence in the area of golf tours. Study tours, for executives and students, is another area in which travel firms are looking to expand their presence. “There are several study tours planned to Switzerland, France and Singapore. Recently, we took a group from (the) construction industry from India to Dubai,” says Srinivas.
Mumbai’s Kesari Tours Pvt. Ltd organizes student tours to Australia, Switzerland and Singapore and also offers customized tours for senior citizens and women.
Kesari’s tour packages for women only are branded “My Fair Lady” while SOTC’s are branded “Monalisa”. The Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board, better known as Tourism Malaysia has also launched a package for women travellers and young mothers.
While these special-interest tours are catching on with customers, so-called community-based tours continue to be popular. These are tours where most members of the party are from a particular community and share dietary habits. For instance, SOTC recently launched a world tour aimed at Gujaratis in India. The tour comes with Indian vegetarian meals and a Gujarati-speaking tour manager.