In the last few years, the tourism industry has witnessed a considerable boost in India, rising by almost 25 per cent. Taking advantage of the situation, Mumbai's travel operators too have begun offering clients what they call 'experiential holidays' apart from the usual attractions. These packages offer visitors and locals a combination of comfortable settings, and customised activities along with an opportunity to get a feel of the city.
"The demand to try out something different is huge. Also, most people want to visit the real Mumbai," says Sandeep Jain, director, Special Holidays. For others like Jayesh, founder, Odati Adventures, which conducts cycle tours in Mumbai, it's about learning the city's history, trade, culture and architecture.
Post 26/11, tourism in India took a hit as the terrorist attacks were followed by swine flu, recession and irregular rains. Now that the tourists are back, Deepa Krishnan, proprietor of Mumbai Magic, says that she can get cracking on her new idea, Bandra from Village to
Metro. She says, "It's the story of the Queen of the Suburbs. Bandra has come a long way from being just a place with small fishing hamlets. This tour tells that story."
Mode of transport: Car In the last few years, customised tours have gained favour among Mumbai's visitors. Naini Mehta and Kunal Vahlia of Namaste City Tour say, "Most of our clients want to create packages that suit their unique tastes. So, apart from the usual halfday and full-day city tours, we now offer our clientele a few unique personalised packages as well." Deepa Krishnan of Mumbai Magic, feels that through these tours, visitors can experience
"Mumbai in a more authentic way." Some of the tours available include:
Temple tour: Includes a visit to the Afghan Church, Babulnath Temple and ISKON Temple. It offers customers a traditional and spiritual journey through the city. The objective is to give visitors a feel of the city's cosmopolitan culture. Cost: RS 4,300 Per head (Single), RS
1,800 Per head (Group)
Mumbai Special Tour: Includes a visit to a local slum. The original plan was to call it the Slumdog Tour after the Oscar-winning movie, that made slums a mustvisit.The tour gives visitors a glimpse of the life of a slumdweller. Most come away humbled by the
experience. Cost: RS 4,750 (SINGLE), RS 1,900 (GROUP)
Jewish heritage tour: Includes a visit to Sassoon Docks, which has been built by an influential family of Baghdadi Jews. Next is the Kenneseth Eliyahoo Synagogue, and the David Sassoon Library.
The group, then, visits the oldest synagogue in Mumbai, the Shaar Harahamim or Gate of Mercy Synagogue, built in 1796, by Samaji Hasaji Divekar (Samuel Ezekiel Divekar). From here, the visitors drive to the Magen David Synagogue and the Sassoon Children's school.
Dance and music traditions of India: Visitors can watch young learners acquire discipline and grace through traditional Indian dances. They can indulge in a lecture demonstration, as the guru explains some of the principles behind the art. For the musically inclined, there are special lectures and demonstrations on Carnatic and Hindustani music. Cost: Varies