Enjoying the sunset on a private yacht or hopping on a heli-taxi service to some of the lesser-known pockets of the country, Indian travellers are seeking to explore the most exquisite travel ideas.

While luxury tourism caters to a niche market in India, tour operators expect this segment to grow by 25 per cent annually, heightened by the depreciating rupee making outbound travel costlier and an array of offers dished out by tour operators for domestic travellers.

Travel spends

“We expect the luxury domestic travel sector to grow by 20-25 per cent. In next 5-10 years, India will see a greater amount of travel spends,” said Sunil Hasija, Executive Director, TUI India. A Barclays report highlighted that lifestyle experiences such as travel have become the most popular use of wealth. About 43 per cent of high net worth individuals (HNIS) in India cited travel as their first option, the report added. The trend is bringing cheer among the travel and tourism players who are betting big on the domestic travel space.

According to industry body Assocham, the tourism industry saw a growth of 35 per cent in domestic tourists in the first six months of 2013 compared with a drop of 20 per cent during the same period last year.

Tour operators say that there is an increasing demand seen for newer destinations in the domestic circuit. Luxury villas and spas have come up to cater to this demand.

“We have seen bookings go up for regions such as Rajasthan, Andaman, Kerala, North-east and Kashmir for luxury holidays,” said Rajeev Kale, Chief Operating Officer – Domestic, Sports and Cruises, Thomas Cook (India).

Thomas Cook (India)’s domestic luxury brand ‘Indian Indulgence’ includes activities such as wildlife safaris with trained naturalists, decadent spa and wellness programmes, luxury train experiences and unique accommodation.

Travel metasearch site Wego.com has also seen a surge in domestic travel searches. “The search volumes for domestic getaways to places such as Srinagar, Mahabaleshwar, Ooty, Kumarakom, Kovalam and Darjeeling have shown an increase,” said Ashwin Jayasankar, Head – Product and Marketing, Wego India.

A luxury domestic tour package costs on an average Rs 2 lakh per couple for a five to seven-day trip, which includes hotel stay, food, other activities.

With the emphasis shifting more on unexplored and offbeat destinations and unique experience-based itineraries, hospitality players such as the Taj Group are also capitalising on this growing segment. ‘Powerfly Vacations’ of the Taj Air and Deccan Charters enables travellers to hire an aircraft for a vacation and fly straight to some of the luxury properties of Taj hotels, resorts and palaces. The services costs anything between Rs 80,000 to Rs 3 lakh per flying hour.

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