Personal Finance

A holiday tailor-made for you

Elizabeth Mathew | Updated on October 19, 2014

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Whether it’s for adventure or romance, opt for a personalised holiday that is curated to your taste

How can you make a travel experience better? By customising it to meet your needs, of course. In their quest for a holiday that’s tailored specifically to their needs, high net worth travellers who can afford it are not afraid of hiring specialists — travel firms who can create a bespoke holiday experience.

For those looking for an experience-based holiday, but without the trouble of having to plan every detail, there are a number of travel companies that are willing to do it. From discussions to figuring out personal preferences to arranging trustworthy travel guides and concierge services to ensure a smooth trip, there is nothing you can’t customise to suit your tastes — for a price, of course.

Tailor-made travel

Micato, a South Africa-based firm founded and run by the Pinto family, is famous for its customised African safaris organised according to each traveller’s demands. “Keeping in mind practical considerations such as time of year, length of trip and budget parameters, we get to work, matching your interests with your travel needs. We’ll put together a detailed daily itinerary and safari description, fully documenting what we feel would be the ideal safari for you and your travelling party,” says Alan Lobo, COO, Micato.

On the other hand, Diva Odysseys, started by travel enthusiast Neena Jhanjee, is a travel company that tailors travel experiences for women. “We curate our trips to get together like-minded women and don’t do the usual run-of-the-mill outbound or inbound trips,” says Neena.

The firm usually organises theme-based trips for groups of eight to 15 women, focusing on areas that they are specifically interested in.

The London-based travel specialist Ampersand offers exclusive customised holidays after personally traversing the same route in detail. “We only sell destinations we know and love — our specialist destinations currently include the Indian sub-continent, South-East Asia, Japan, China, the UK and Paris. We handcraft each holiday for individuals and small groups, and regularly test everything we offer first-hand,” says James Jayasundera, Managing Director of Ampersand Travels.

The India-based boutique firm Bespoke Tours creates ‘unique’ or ‘bespoke’ experiences for the luxury traveller. Based on what each traveller wants, it offers private transport in swanky jets, exhilarating adventure trips, grand destination weddings, and idyllic romantic getaways or just pampering at exclusive global resorts, hotels and spas, says Nikhil Kumar, CEO, Bespoke Tours.

How it works

Bespoke holidays may sound great, but planning these may take up a good deal of your time. Expect to start with a detailed questionnaire. “We’ll set up a call to learn about your interests, favourite past trips, energy levels, expectations of a vacation in general and a safari in particular,” says Alan Lobo of Micato, who even enquires about what a client has been reading to get some insight into their ‘ travel psyche’.

Apart from practical considerations such as time of year, length of trip and budget parameters, getting to know the mindset of the customer and figuring out his definition of luxury is the most important factor. “We try to discover their travel DNA by discussing what they loved or loathed about past trips,” says James.

Another aspect that travel companies keep in mind is the careful balance between a luxurious trip and providing an enriching local experience. James refers to this high-end experiential travel as “luxploring” where clients actively seek to mix luxury and culture.

“We love travelling in style but we’re not afraid to step off the usual circuit in order to experience something more rewarding,” he says.

“We feel that the perfect holiday is a combination of cultural exploration and exceptional hotels and guides. Real luxury is being able to do what you want, when you want to.”

Diva Odyssey’s Neena too is of the same opinion, adding that it makes a difference to offer activities involving engagement rather than presentation. For example, learning to belly dance in Egypt could be better than watching a belly dancing performance.

Catering to taste

When it comes to personalising a holiday, unusual requests are par for the course. One specific and detailed request came to James of Ampersand from a couple who wanted to bathe their child in Evian water every night.

“We supplied enough bottles for them to do so in every hotel during their tour,” says James. His firm also catered to a 70th birthday celebration tour of India where they arranged 10 parties over 10 nights in locations such as Rambagh Palace, Jaipur City Palace, Amber Fort, Mehrangarh Fort, Umaid Bhawan Palace, Devi Garh, Lake Palace and the Taj Mahal Mumbai.

There’s no limit to what could inspire a traveller — like the lady who wanted to celebrate her 40th birthday specifically in Cuba after watching a Bollywood movie set in that country, says Neena Jhanjee of Diva Odysseys.

Nikhil believes that the luxury Indian traveller today has more evolved tastes. So, Bespoke Tours offers some out-of-the-box options like culinary holidays with French nobility or whale watching vacations in South Africa or chopper-drops from the airport to a luxury villa perched on a cliff by the beach, or even getting transferred in a Lamborghini Gallardo, where a personal butler waits in welcome. Clearly, the imagination has no limits when it comes to customising a holiday.

Travel trends

The trend of opting for bespoke holidays is still a growing one but an increasing number of HNIs are choosing to spend more on the experience. People are opting for longer trips, agrees Nikhil Kumar, adding that HNI Indians value leisure time than the “point-covering” mindset of the other segments.

While Micato says that globally about 40 per cent of travellers opt for bespoke holidays, Neena from Diva Odysses says that in India, just 0.04 per cent of the population has discovered personalised travel. Nikhil Kumar from Bespoke has an extremely optimistic outlook on the travel segment.

“High networth individuals are expected to grow six-fold by 2030,” he says. High-end travellers, he adds, have travelled very extensively and their focus is moving towards experience-based holidays. A common characteristic that most travel companies seem to agree upon is Indian luxury travellers are still conscious about getting value for their money.

“Indian luxury travellers may spend lavishly, but they also like to know they're spending wisely and securing top quality that justifies the price,” says Nikhil.

While the HNI Indians’ tastes are increasingly aligning with those of westerners within the 5-star holiday world, as clients, they tend to be very demanding, says James. He adds that they always want incredible value for money even when dealing with the best of the best. Like most Indians, the HNI segment too likes to travel in large groups; it isn’t uncommon to find large families and multi-generational groups travelling together.

“The ability to design the itinerary to take maximum advantage of the time available is a priority for many groups,” says Alan Lobo of Micato.

Published on October 19, 2014

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