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Jet setting, high-end way

Imagine getting off at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and coughing up ? 375 (almost Rs 20,000) for a city hotel transfer ? albeit in a limousine.

india Updated: May 07, 2006 02:40 IST

Imagine getting off at the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and coughing up € 375 (almost Rs 20,000) for a city hotel transfer – albeit in a limousine. And then paying $ 1,500 (more than Rs 67,000) per night – for 5-star deluxe hospitality. Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie would do this, you think – with Jolie’s adopted children in tow.

But no, more and more Indians are doing exactly this, cocking a snook at traditional value-for-money (VFM) travel. According to Urshila A Kerkar, CEO, Cox & Kings (C&K), the high-end outbound travel market in India is worth $ 100 million – and it’s growing at a frantic 25 per cent year on year.

"There's a definite increase in the number of Indians looking for high-end travel," agrees Ramesh Barath of Thomas Cook that offers 18-day packages like 'American Splendours' for a whopping Rs 2.5 lakh per person.

The hotels availed of this category, says Kerkar, are usually Leading Hotels of the World, and, India’s new set of high-end travellers passengers, obviously, fly only First or Business Class and don’t travel in groups.

On offer are packages ranging from Alaskan hideouts, Mediterranean cruises and Kenyan safaris, says Sachin Bhatia, chief marketing officer, (MMT). He adds that, starting this year, MMT is going to reach out to high-net-worth individuals (HNIs) and offer customised packages.

Like everything else, travel too is now being hawked an “experience”. Indians now want to go to New Zealand for a “wine experience” explains Bhatia. And ‘exotic’ no longer means Bali or Phuket: Indians are reaching out for Lizard Island and Green Island, where there are helicopter pick-ups thrown in.

The trend caught on two years ago, and C&K claims that they were the “pioneers in the segment”. “That’s when we started Luxury Escapes for which we only use five star and five star deluxe properties,” says Kerkar.

Significantly, many of these outbound travellers are converts – who now want to upgrade from VFM to high-end. They have been to the Far East earlier “which is a much more economical and viable sector and now want to enjoy the finer options abroad, and even in India”, says Bhatia. This kind of travel is never advertised. Travel companies have their own database of HNIs, and they meet them personally or engage in below-the-line advertising such as mailers.

On the domestic front too, travel is getting a facelift. Joy Mazumdar of Prudent Networks, an agency that specialises in high-end, customised travel packages, says that the basic going rate per room, per night is around

Rs 17,000-18,000 (this includes transfers and breakfast), and any value-add is charged extra. "A lot of Indians want to do high-end travelling even within the country — but, at times, they prefer to do their own bookings and avail of deals that the luxury hotels offer," he says.