India Inc high-fliers splurging on bespoke vacations


Cookiecutter itineraries are so yesterday — for India Inc’s high-fliers, holidays are all about the path less trodden.

Promoters, CXOs and senior professionals are splurging on experiential luxury trips — from igloo stays for an Aurora Borealis experience to private yachting on the Mediterranean, and leopard sightings at private concessions in Africa to glacier and volcano helicopter trips in Iceland — which could end up costing from Rs 1.85 lakh to Rs 4 lakh per person per day.

Recently, a promoter-CEO holidaying with his family in Ibiza, a Spanish island in the Mediterranean Sea, was very specific — he wanted to rent a black yacht. The travel planners searched high and low, only to find that black yachts were notoriously hard to maintain, and thus few and far between. Finally, they zeroed in on one belonging to Juventus ace Cristiano Ronaldo. It cost €27,000 (Rs 21 lakh) for six hours, nearly thrice the rent for a white yacht. Clubbed with private plane rides and top-end hotels, the eightday trip cost the six-member family nearly Rs 78 lakh.

Another promoter, with an interest in painting, requested for art historians who could take him through the Louvre during a recent holiday to Paris. Classical art one day, contemporary paintings on another, meeting with art critics on the third — just having these experts on board cost about Rs 1 lakh a day.

“There has been a huge increase in high-end evolved travellers looking for more experiential holidays. It’s no longer just about going where no one has gone before; it’s about doing things no one has ever done before,” says Abraham Alapatt, president (marketing), Thomas Cook India.

Well-travelled, well-heeled professionals want access to places and one-of-a-kind experiences, for which they are shelling out steep premiums. “Indian travellers are becoming more mature and discerning,” says Amit Kalsi, CEO of boutique travel design company Experiential Travel Journeys. One of Kalsi’s clients is keen on viewing the solar eclipse from a Chile valley — the cost of a five-day trip for a couple comes to Rs 60 lakh.

“It’s no more about bling, but more about experiences that are exclusive and personally emotional. Then money isn’t a barrier,” says Sanjar Imam, founder-director of Panacheworld, which customised the Ibiza and Paris trips for the promoters.

The global market has seen an increase in luxury travellers from India, experts say, fuelled by a growth in numbers of high net-worth individuals. Luxury travellers can spend six times or more on trips compared with others. According to a report by Amadeus, India’s luxury travel market is set to grow at an annual rate of 12.8% between 2015 and 2025. Online travel company MakeMyTrip says it is witnessing a growth of 100-200% to destinations such as Japan, South Africa, Seychelles and Maldives.

There has also been a big jump in holidays that are focused on families and kids.

Raj Khosla, managing director of MyMoney-Mantra, has watched the great migration in Kenya from a hot air balloon and trekked in the Canadian Rockies. His holidays now revolve around unusual, hard-to-reach destinations where he can spend quality time with family. “I love to travel, and I’m only limited by the amount of time I can spare,” he says.

Bragging rights are also up for grabs.

“You may have done this trip, but have you done it like this? It’s about newer experiences, being the first to experience something,” says Imam of Panacheworld.

A debit-to-credit economy and professionals who increasingly want to measure wealth by the kind of experiences they’ve had, are major reasons for this trend, says Alapatt of Thomas Cook.

“Business has been growing 30% year-on-year for the past two years, and this year, we’re looking at 45-55%,” says Vasim Shaikh, founder of bespoke tour company The Q Experiences. This June, he is organising a luxury cruise through the Svalbard archipelago off Norway. Ticket costs could go up to Rs 15.25 lakh per person, excluding air fares. Catering on the trip will be overseen by celebrity chef Vicky Ratnani.

Karan Anand, head (relationships), Cox & Kings, says this summer they have a trip across Italy that costs Rs 30 lakh per person. Highlights include private visits to glass-making workshops and wine-tasting sessions in Tuscany.

Luxury is, after all, about intimate experiences.