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Indian women go on a travel spree

Bitten by the travel bug, more and more Indian women are taking a break from the drudgery of home and office to visit exotic locales.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2006 20:57 IST

Bitten by the travel bug, more and more women are taking a break from the drudgery of home and office to visit exotic locales overseas or maybe a trek or a chilled out beach holiday within the country.

And tour operators, of course, are cashing in like never before on this emerging market.

"Around five-six per cent of over five million outbound tourists from India are women travelling in groups. Most of them are part of various women's organisations or clubs that plan a group holiday for women," Subhash Goyal, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) and chairman of Stic Travels, told IANS.

A travel industry veteran, Goyal recalled that 30 years ago he had organised a trip for a group of 100 women from the Lakshmi Ladies Club of Ludhiana.

Three decades and more later, Stic Travel continues to handle the holiday plans of not just Lakshmi Ladies Club but those of several others as well.

These days, organisations like the women's wing of Rotary Club, FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO) and Delhi University lecturers associations are among the many that plan group holidays for women.

Recently, the Indian Women's Press Corps (IWPC) here had to hold a draw to finalise the list for proposed trips to Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bhutan, the response having been overwhelming.

Among the tour operators catering to the needs of women keen to travel in groups is Women on Wanderlust run by travel writer Sumitra Senapaty who has successfully forayed into this niche market after a wonderful experience of handling a group holiday to Kerala.

Now into her second year of operation, Senapaty said: "Around 80 per cent of women who travel with me are single - whether unmarried, divorced or widowed. Others are married women who are seeking to have a break and come for the holiday with full support of their families."

Women's groups have been found to be finicky about their accommodation with the stress being on clean and comfortable hotels rather than luxurious hotels that are expensive on the pocket.

Good food, hassle free travel, excellent sightseeing and good shopping experience are also among the top priorities for women's groups, which have travellers usually in the age group of 20-60 years.

Exceptions are made for those over 60 years if fit and willing to travel.

"It is interesting how quickly the women in the group mingle and become friends. In fact, they want time in the programme for chatting up and chilling out with their new friends," said Senapaty, who reported having repeat clients.

Unlike most tour operators, Senepaty accompanies the group to the destination to ensure that nothing goes wrong.

However, the fact that a number of large travel and tour companies like SOTC and TCI India are not offering any special packages for women shows that the demand for packages exclusively for women is still not a major market segment.

Nonetheless the number of groups comprising only women is not insignificant.

A study done by Singapore-based Mastercard International has revealed that of 139 million travellers in the Asia Pacific region, 56 million or 40 per cent are women. Considering the numbers, tour operators are increasingly catering specifically to women clients.

If tour operators like Stic Travels arrange special pick up and drops to the airport to smoothen the journey, hotel chains like Oberoi Group, Leela Kempinsky and ITC Limited have dedicated floors or wings for their female guests travelling alone or in groups.

However, Goyal pointed out that the trend of couples and families taking holiday breaks together is still the strongest.

"More than groups, we find individual women travelling all over the world, particularly those connected with the fashion and export businesses," he said.