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Luxury Travel: Tour De Adventure

The average age group of most luxury travellers in India is 35-44 years. For the young and the young-at-heart, luxury is no longer only about comforts

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Imagine driving through the majestic and beautiful Italian countryside in a gleaming red Ferrari, staying like a king in a late Renaissance country home in Tuscany, sipping wines, savouring Italian delicacies and pampering yourself at a spa. Sounds like the perfect holiday? Well, that’s just what a Delhi-based entrepreneur Nitin Bhatia (name changed) did for his 40th birthday last summer. Bhatia had been to Italy previously and was looking for a new experience. Over the course of the one week holiday, Bhatia drove the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti across the Tuscan countryside, while staying at some of the most luxurious properties in Italy. The cost: $25,000 for a couple.

Tired of regular run-of-the-mill holidays and wanting to do something different, found an Almora-based entrepreneur Mukti Datta on a flight to Uganda, a couple of years ago where she went in search of gorillas in their natural habitat. Tracking gorillas in the wild is often touted as one of ‘50 things to do before you die’. Not surprising, considering there are just over 800 mountain gorillas in the wild making them a rare species. Of these nearly 350 are found in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest — a World Heritage Site. “Seeing these primates in their natural habitat is spellbinding,” says Datta.

Welcome to the world of luxury travel where no two experiences are the same. While for one traveller, it could be a private multimillion-dollar cruise around the Arctic on a famous yacht. For another, it could be having their favourite Michelin-starred chef flown in to prepare a meal in a Bedouin tent in the middle of the Sahara. “Today’s luxury traveller seeks more depth of understanding and immersion into local culture than ever before. People don’t just want to see — they want to participate,” says Taruna Seth, founder and vice-president of Pearl Luxe Travels — a boutique travel company specialising in luxury travel experiences. And those in search of such experiences are willing to pay top dollar for them.

Little wonder then that India’s luxury travel market is growing at a CAGR of 12.8 per cent, which is higher than that of any BRIC nation, and the highest of the 25 countries explored in a recently published report by Amadeus titled ‘Shaping the Future of Luxury Travel’. While there are no recent reports on the size of the Indian luxury travel market, industry insiders peg it around $1.7 billion.

What’s more, with the rise in the number of multi-millionaires in the country, this is only likely to increase further. According to the Kotak Mahindra Top of The Pyramid report 2015, the number of ultra high networth households — those with a networth of over Rs 25 crore — in India has increased by 17 per cent to 137,100 from 117,000 in 2014 and their combined wealth has increased by 23 per cent to Rs 128 trillion. The number of such super rich households may increase to 348,000 by 2020 with a combined networth of Rs 415 trillion. And while the super rich love spending on jewellery and apparel, travel comes a close third accounting for 14 per cent of their spend. The super rich are passionate about travelling and nearly 50 per cent make at least three luxury trips annually. They are also willing to spend large sums of money with nearly 31 per cent spending above Rs 25 lakh for a holiday.

Luxury travel is not restricted to metros, even non-metros have been bitten by the travel bug. According to the Kotak report, small towns are contributing as much as 25-30 per cent of a renowned travel company’s luxury customer base. Says Vikram Ahuja of Bangalore-based Byond Travel: “There is a huge demand from small towns like Amritsar and Ludhiana. We had maximum queries from Ranchi and Surat for Tomorrowland — Belgium’s largest music festival.” On a recent road trip from India to Bangkok organised by Ahuja, a family of four travelled from Coimbatore at a cost of Rs 3.5 lakh per person.

According to the Amadeus report, there are different profiles of luxury travellers. While for the ‘Always Luxury’, luxury is a way of life, — a minimum requirement rather than a perk — for the ‘Strictly Opulent’, it’s all about show. Sharing their luxury holiday on social media is an important part of this experience — they want to be seen as ‘living life to the fullest’ and being able to indulge. While the traditional rich want to stay in functional, luxurious accommodation, which is more intimate and private, the new rich want to be seen at the ‘it’ hotels across the globe. “It’s like having a Louis Vuitton bag with the LV logo all over it as compared to a Louis Vuitton, where the branding is more subtle. While both are extreme luxury, their owners want different things,” says Ankur Bhatia, director of Amadeus India.

Other profiles include ‘Special Occasion’, who are seeking the ‘wow’ factor such as sacrificing luxurious facilities to go on a tour of the Arctic and ‘Cash-Rich, Time-Poor’, who are keen to holiday, but obligations prevent them from taking long-haul holidays.

The average age group of most luxury travellers in India is 35-44 years. For the young and the young-at-heart, luxury is no longer only about comforts. In fact, the big spenders are willing to compromise on comforts for adventure. “It’s all about that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. For the luxury set, adventure holidays give them the adrenalin rush and they don’t mind roughing it up,” says Karan Anand, head, relationships, Cox & Kings. Cox & Kings has tied up with G-Adventures to provide a 11-day tour of Antarctica, priced at Rs 6 lakh per person.

Have money will travel to the ends of the earth seems to be the motto of the super rich.