The spending power of Calcuttans is rising, and they are spending it on the move, from Scandinavia and South America, to Fiji and Jamaica. Footloose and fancy-free is the name of the adventure game, and taking the road less travelled, anytime, at any cost, is the way to go.
This Puja, Budget Tours, a conglomerate of five city-based travel companies, took a group tour from Calcutta to the royal kingdom of Brunei, “the first group of Indian tourists” to that country. “Indians go there on work regularly, but not as tourists. Even the ground-handlers, a Brunei-based travel agency, said we were the first bunch,” says Satish Ramnani of Budget Tours, who took the 20-odd group for the two-night stay.
“People are really venturing out,” says Prashant Binnany, of Discovery Travels and Tours. “For the first time, I’ve had queries about Jamaica, and from about eight different groups. I even have a booking for November, which is very encouraging.”
Another upcoming destination, adds Binnany, is South America. While Brazil is perennially popular, and the numbers are rising, Peru is becoming the offbeat hotspot. And Alaskan cruises are rapidly capturing the Calcuttan’s imagination. “Four years ago, there were 10 people a year. Currently, we are sending about 25 people annually. This Puja, we sent a group on a two-week trip to the Rockies, in North America, which was unique.”
At Vensimal Travels, among the usual sprinkling of foreign holidays during the festive season, a group’s three-week trip to Scandinavia and a family holiday to the Pacific island of Fiji stood out. “You might get only a handful of people a year going to Fiji from Calcutta, because they don’t come cheap (read: around $4,000 per person for a few nights, minus airfare). But, there are definitely those who can afford these exotic, expensive holiday destinations,” feels Ramnani.
Hawaiian cruises, Kenyan safaris and Mediterranean tours, with a trip to Egypt thrown in for good measure, are what caught the attention at Gainwell Travels and Tours. “These are free individual travel packages, which large groups don’t normally take. There were several who took the tours this Puja, which was significant,” says Manoj Saraf of Gainwell.
The general verdict is that while exotic locations have always existed, exploring new shores is a relatively recent trend. And as it picks up pace, tourists and tour operators alike, reap the rewards.