More than two decades of experience has made Tirun Travel Marketing head Gautam Chadha well placed to cater to the local market. His company represents Royal Caribbean Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, and has been instrumental in introducing India to a slew of brands, including US Airways, Hertz and Hyatt Hotels. With the number of outbound tourists expected to triple in the next decade, we asked Chadha to share some of his insights on the new Indian traveller. Edited excerpts:
How has the Indian travel industry changed in the last decade?
Well, there are two things in this. One is that there are many more travellers; the second thing is that the Indian travellers, once they’ve had the exposure, are no
different from any other traveller from any other part of the world. Of course, we do have our peculiarities, our needs. For example, food is important. But, of course, that’s not unique. If you ask the American to stay away from his hamburger, he would react the same way as the Indian will, if he’s not going to get his dal and roti.
Trip advisor:Chadha has two decades of industry experience.
Do you have to specially cater Indian food?
Well, as a standard operating situation, we have a range of cuisines on board. Customers have the ability to choose the kind of food they want to eat, and we do provide Indian food. But, I keep reminding people that you’re not going to get ghar ka khana (home food). That, in fact, is the most misleading terminology I’ve ever heard. Because I’m a firm believer that no two homes, even mother and daughter, can ever give you the same kind of food. So, there’s no such thing as ghar ka khana, but certainly we will try and give you food so as not to leave you hungry.
How have you had to market cruise vacations to Indians?
When we came in, we were the first, so we had to basically educate the traveller in terms of what the concept of the cruise is. The perception of the cruise is, this is where old people in their old age go and spend 60 days if they have nothing else to do. But the whole concept of a cruise vacation was changing through the 1980s and 1990s. It’s a vacation option, it’s not a getaway, it’s not a place to go park yourself for retirement.
Any routes that Indians particularly love?
There are two routes that hog the limelight. One is the Mediterranean, the other is Alaska.
Has anything ever surprised you about the Indian traveller?
Well, there’s a guy who says, I’m going to fly economy for a nine-hour flight, but I want the best suite. And you turn and say that’s a contradiction, isn’t it? And he says, no, it’s a nine-hour flight, you’re going to get on board and fall asleep. So, why would I pay pot loads of money to the airline when I’m going to go to sleep anyway. So, I probe even further and say, but what about the size of the seat, you’re going to sit upright. But, he says, I can sleep sitting upright. It’s peculiar to Indians: to say that they want the best for that vacation, but they prioritize and put a value to their priorities.
How come we don’t have any local cruise ships?
It almost happened, except government regulations kind of nipped it in the bud. There’s a multiplicity of things involved in this: There’s infrastructure, there is a mindset. But, the real reason it was grounded was because of a tax regime that was implemented. And if that tax regime hadn’t been there, I think cruise lines would be experimenting.