After a jam-packed night of Indian food, drinks and an in-depth look at the Eternal India tour in the Contiki Basement in London, it’s fair to say that I was left with goose bumps.
The 12-day trip, taking in Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Udaipur, Mumbai and Goa, looks nothing short of spectacular.
Donna Jeavons, sales and marketing director for Contiki, explains why India is back on the radar for the 18-35 group tour specialists.
“It’s all about demand – we get a lot of good feedback from agents and when we go back to our customer database, India was a destination that ranked highly.”
With experiences ranging from a tiger safari to spending a night at the Ranthambore national park, it seems that Contiki is going all out to impress. Also included in the tour are two internal flights; from Udaipur to Mumbai and from Mumbai to Goa, shaving off two lengthy train journeys.
“There is now less time spent travelling and more time for exploring,” Jeavons says.
Experiences are certainly in abundance. From £1,339pp, clients have the chance to explore the Unesco-protected Red Fort and the Jama Masjid Mosque in Old Delhi; visit the Taj Mahal in Agra; shop in the bazaars of Jaipur; see the Dhobi Ghat open-air human-powered
laundromat in Mumbai; and sign off with relaxation on the beach in Goa.
The trip also offers optional extras such as a sunrise tiger safari, an Indian cooking lesson with a local family and yoga in Goa.
Along with selling the exciting activities on offer, Jeavons suggests agents promote the benefits of escorted touring in its self.
“Group travel is a lot safer especially since we get a lot of female and solo travellers and in terms of your workload, selling a tour is a lot easier than separating everything out and pricing each holiday activity individually.”
When it comes to accommodation comfort is at the top of the agenda with the Eternal India tour. Clients will not have to worry about roughing it camping out or squeezing into busy hostels. Accommodation is minimum three stars with English speaking staff and security on site.
“After a long day out in an India- city it’s always nice to get back to your own space or spend time by the pool,” Jeavons explains.
Each hotel includes breakfast and Wi-Fi too, however Wi-Fi will not be accessible during coach trip segments. Clients need not fear coming down with the dreaded Delhi belly either. The trip manager and local guides will be on hand to educate travellers on what to eat and what to avoid.
“The hotels all certainly have great food but we still want to encourage clients to get out and sample the local cuisine – we can point them in the right direction,” says Jeavons.
Comfort doesn’t come at the cost of ethical tourism practices and Jeavons is proud to point this out.
“On day four of the itinerary our travellers arrive at Ranthambore national park where they visit Dhonk craft centre, a cooperative that was set up to serve a dual purpose – to employ those in the Ranthambore area who might otherwise find income from tiger poaching.
“Contiki travellers have the opportunity to purchase beautiful handicrafts from the talented locals, and spend guilt-free knowing their money is going towards sustaining the local communities living around the tiger reserve.”
Jeavons also makes the agents aware of the itinerary departure dates, with November to March being billed as the ideal time to go.
“During the summer it is far too hot to be out exploring; this means we avoid the monsoon season.”
Ben Hall, managing director for Contiki, is also in attendance at the party. He tells me that he has high hopes for the new product.
“It’s great. We’ve already had bookings come through the door. We are offering clients something unique here but with the reassurance that they will be getting comfort too."