In November, two ex-students of the Indian Institute of Technology, Powai, self-confessed travel aficionados, set up a website to sell holidays which they felt would appeal to their kind of traveller. “Essentially people who want to experiment, get a flavour of local life, go to places which are not necessarily touristy,” says Mumbai-based Chirag Bhandari, founder and CEO of High On Travel (HoT). A chemical engineer, Bhandari now works on building partners, sourcing content and marketing the dotcom, while his partner Rakesh Verma, an aerospace engineer, is the chief information architect of HoT.
“Our website is not just about booking packages. We also try to give our prospective clients complete audio-visual content which can help them to know more about the holiday they are about to undertake,” says Bhandari. It took the duo almost eight months to perfect their model and it was only in July that they rolled out a newer, more finite version of the business, with the latest addition being Travelers Club (launched on 29 August).
Experimental holiday: Acres Wild offers a cheese-making course.
Currently, HoT’s website (www.highontravel.com) has three sections—Local Experiences, Special Stays and Special Interest Tours. Under Local Experiences they have a photography and tea-tasting package in Munnar and a Jaipur crafts bazaar and cuisine walk; under Special Stays they offer packages at Aranyakam Homestay in Wayanad, Kerala, and Yangsum Heritage Farm, Rinchenpong, Sikkim; under Special Interest Tours they offer a Beyond the Batalik tour which includes a visit to Darchik, the hometown of the Brokpa tribe, believed to be direct descendants of Alexander the Great, and a trip to Meghalaya to explore caves.
Some of the packages on offer don’t really sound cutting-edge experiential travel and the site needs to work on that aspect fast.
The Travelers Club, explains Bhandari, is an invitation-only one. The site sends out invitations to people; members can then avail of discounts on packages. They have 850 members right now. The first offer under this, which concluded on 14 September, was a five-day, four-night stay in Coonoor. The trip included a two-night stay each at Acres Wild and Tenerife Hill and a basic workshop in cheese making and tea-tasting, respectively. The total trip, minus the travel expenses to the location, costs Rs 14,400 (taxes included), almost 25% less than what it would have been normally. Outside the package, a one-day stay at Acres Wild costs Rs 2,700-4,500 per night, taxes extra, and at Tenerife Hill, Rs 4,000 per night, including breakfast and evening tea (taxes extra).
Other optional activities, such as a heritage train ride, a visit to Kotagiri, etc., were charged separately.
Next on offer for Travelers Club members is the Alaknanda Encounter, a 70km rafting expedition spread over three days from Chamoli to Rudraprayag. Payment details and discounts are being worked out.