More Indians than ever before are travelling abroad frequently during the summer. And we’re doing it in ever larger groups of people. What does it say about our appetite for the new and strange?
Travelling independently or in Groups
Veena and Ash are doctors. They’re married and fond of Travelling. They make it a point to visit a different country every year and insist on making their own arrangements rather than the easy option of the package tour. These type of travellers say that Travelling in a group is “like moving in a herd”. They are critical of the way that Indian groups must “hop from one spot to another, without time to imbibe the culture and ethos of a place”. When we Traveling in tour groups, we visit many places but it will be hectic and have little time to relay and enjoy the travel.
They say that “when we travelling, we try to experience as much of the local flavours as possible. Who wants to have the same aloo- parantha and poori-bhaji that many of the conducted group packages offer, when one is in a different country that has its own unique offerings?” says Asha.
She finishes by dismissing the packaged group paratha-breakfast travelfest as “not really Travelling”. Do the others have a point? More Indians are Travelling abroad than ever before. They make the physical journey, but do they really experience the countries they visit?
Venkat from of Rose Dream Vacations, has different answers for these questions.”Many people who travel in large groups rarely get to embrace the country and imbibe its culture,” he says.
Swathi whose company specializes in customized holidays, says this lack of engagement and most of the time “not surprising if somebody holds your finger throughout the Travel and tells you what to do and what not to. You’ll see the country through their eyes and not yours”.
But many more Indians than before seem willing to settle for that view. The increase of disposable incomes for leasiure has meant many new travellers. These travelers in india are especially from Tier-II, and Tier III cities across India. The unfamiliar experience of going abroad means many insist on an escorted travelling.
Kashmira commissari, at of travel group Kuoni India, explains that “many first –time travellers tour prefer to be guided during the tour for sightseeing, travel etc”. And then there’s the issue of what to eat. Dietary preferences, it seems, also dictate the way Indians travel.
Travelling in Group – Liking For Indian Food
A large segment of those who take a group package travel are those who want and insist on, Indian food. ”What’s the fun of a holiday if one doesn’t get to eat what one likes?” asks marketing professional Vinod. He prefers booking group packages that offer Indian food options. “Imbibing culture of a place can be done by sampling a few specialities occasionally. But after a while, every Indian going abroad craves for dal, roti and chawal”. Sangeet Sheth, owner of Pune -based Rajaji Travels, caters to travellers almost exactly like Vinod.
His company introduced the concept of vegetarian Indian meals for Gujarati and Jain groups Travelling abroad. He says that “food our company’s innovations have ensured that there has been a 198% growth in our specialized group tours.” Sheth belives most of the Indian travelers in a group like and prefer Indian food. He also feels “these travellers experience much more”.
Using complex but compelling logic Sheth reasons that group travellers have the edge because “if you’re planning your travel individually, you may have done all the research but you can’t possibly know everything that a professional would. There are so many little things –like the best time to visit a museum when it is less crowded, where the best shopping deals in a city are and a lot more- that only professional tour managers are aware of.”
Cost of Travelling
Finally, of course, there’s the cost of going abroad. Sheth says group packages are good value-for-money and offer unexpected benefits such as “the most attractive hotel rates for groups”. Add to that the chance of “meeting new (Indian) people and making friends (with fellow Indian travellers)” and the group tour is unbeatable, says Sheth. He finishes,’’I know of a few people who have even met their prospective life partners on our tours!”
Travelling in Group
But some say that never mind the food, hotel rates and value-for-money, Indians simply feel secure in numbers. Vinod of Rose Dream Vacations says that even though “it’s summer vacation time, I hardly have any single or double bookings. Most bookings are for a minimum of six to eight people. Indians prefer travelling with their friends or family members as they find it more fun. ”Can that take away from focussing on a foreign destination? ”I don’t think it destroys enjoyment or reduces adventure,” says sociologist Shiv nathan. “I have watched the behaviour of many groups. They strut around with confidence, crack jokes in dialect, drop rubbish with deep familiarity in distant spots. A single Indian, on the other hand, behaves like a silent specimen moving furtively around.”
He adds that those in a group might relish their travel experience more because a group curbs the alienation that one feel when alone in a foreign land. “The ability to talk in your own language about an experience in an alien country is wonderful. When I stand alone before a statue in Brazil, there is a double alienation effect. When the entire village from Gujarat visits the same statue it domesticates the experience. If you can carry your neighbourhood to a distant place that is the ultimate in tourism. You can travel distance in familiarity.”
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