Women and wanderlust

Anjali Jhangiani
Sunday, 14 April 2019

Rajeev Kale from Thomas Cook India talks about the Ladies First women-only tours, and the safest destinations for solo women travellers for a short getaway during the upcoming Easter weekend

Make the most of the Easter weekend with a short vacation. If your girls’ trip isn’t working out, head off on a solo trip and leave all the details to Thomas Cook India who have recently launched a number of women-only tour packages. Rajeev Kale, president and country head, holidays, MICE, visas, at Thomas Cook India, says, “Our holiday demand is up by over 35 per cent for the upcoming Easter weekend.
Indians are displaying increased appetite for extended weekends by clubbing public holidays such as Vishu on Monday, Mahavir Jayanti on Wednesday, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and taking an additional day or two off from work to get a six-seven day break to short and mid-haul destinations. Given the clash of election dates in Tamil Nadu, several of our customers have planned to take a break post voting, availing of our special Election discount offers.”

Women tour managers
A recent survey by the travel service company validated the strong potential of Indian women travellers, reporting a significant 34 per cent growth in both international and domestic trips, across business, leisure and b-leisure segments. “To address this discerning and high growth segment, Thomas Cook India conceptualised ‘Ladies First’, women-only tours, keeping security paramount via the selection of safe destinations and the inclusion of our specially trained women tour managers who are adept with the local nuances of the region, well-versed with the local language and the cultural intricacies of the destination. They also provide a sense of comfort and reassurance to first time Indian woman travellers, enabling them to enjoy a stress free experience by creating a special bond with them and providing assistance at every step of the way – if some are not familiar with check in at the airport, or need help with documentation and so on, our women tour managers step in. They also connect with the group a few days prior to their departure in the form of a WhatsApp group to share tips and address any queries,” says Kale. 

These women tour managers share guidance on optimising the trip basis one’s preferences, adds Kale. “For example, they will provide key tips on best locales to visit for shopping, which cultural experiences are a must-have, such as local cooking classes in certain destinations, also where to buy local jewellery, where to find the best spices, how much money to carry on person while visiting a particular locale, where to sample the best local cuisines as well as where to find Indian restaurants. They play an integral role in planning, organising and conducting the tour, ensuring timeliness with a mix of fun elements. They are also adept in addressing on ground challenges with a great deal of sensitivity, to make sure that the trip is safe and enjoyable for all.” 

The women tour managers undergo certification courses on Tour Management and sustained training programmes to hone their knowledge about the destination as well as soft skills. 

Safest destinations for solo women travellers
Safety is critical to women travellers. The internal data of the company highlights Kerala, Coorg, Ladakh, Goa, Rajasthan in India, and Singapore, Switzerland, France, Thailand, Bhutan, Sweden, Finland, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and USA internationally, to be amongst the preferred destinations for women. “Every destination has its fair share of pros and cons. While safety is of primary concern amongst women travellers while booking tours, they are willing to explore destinations with the right tour operator. Our Ladies First women-only tours allow them to enjoy a sense of freedom and comfort in the company of other fellow women travellers. Trends indicate that Indian women are pushing the envelope both with regards to the destinations that they choose as well as the experiences they seek to indulge in. Hence, their travel preferences have come to include truly unique and exotic destinations such as Antarctica, Iceland, the Amazon rainforests etc. Their transportation options too are seeing a range — extending to bike tours and self-drive,” says Kale.

Fun experiences that one can opt for are the Vespa tour in Singapore, a pool party in Vegas, kayaking in Qatar’s unique mangrove ecosystem to adrenalin-infused elements like an F1 drive around the Yas Marina circuit or a bungee jump off South Africa’s Bloukrans Bridge, Muay Thai/kick boxing in Thailand, Flamenco dancing in Spain, or a cooking class with local chefs in Malaysia, Tuscany or at Le Cordon Bleu in France. 

“Relaxed programmes also gaining popularity such as a temple stay amidst Korea’s serene mountains, spa-wellness in Bali, or a laid back self-drive through New Zealand’s spectacular outdoors. Classic open top car touring along Britain’s coast, private cruises in Croatia, glamping set against breath-taking views of the Swiss Alps, unparalleled wine-dine experiences in Melbourne’s Yarra Valley, or a high-end shopping excursion with a personal shopper/guide in Paris and Dubai are also being preferred amongst travellers with an appetite for luxury experiences. ‘Girl Gang’/‘Kitty Party’ groups or bachelorette getaways are showing an inclination towards Singapore’s pub crawls, a beach break at Malaysia’s Redang Island, a wild ride on Abu Dhabi’s Formula Rossa or Miami’s famed club hopping. Some of the local experiences enticing women travellers are archery sessions, Ayurveda, yoga and spa sessions among others,” he says, pointing out that these activities have been selected through customer feedback forms, internal surveys, one-on-one interactions, group discussions and research that has led to a better understanding of what women want.

Short getaway
Travel is truly a learning experience; it helps one experience a sense of freedom and also serves as a journey of self-discovery. “We also understand that some women may not be comfortable being away from their families for too long, so we have designed our Ladies First tour packages around long weekends, the longest being eight days, for women to enjoy some ‘me’ time along with fun-filled group activities. Each package also includes a special experience, for example, jet boarding in Switzerland or parasailing in Thailand,” says Kale, adding, “Through the curated list of experiences, we aim to help women break out of their comfort zones and try something new without the fear of being scrutinised. We therefore hope to create more confident Indian women travellers of the future.”

India’s young working millennial segment is showing strong interest in domestic options like North East, Puducherry, Kerala, Andamans, Goa and hill stations like Lonavala, Coorg, Kodaikanal, Uttarakhand. Exotic and newer destinations like Japan-Korea have seen an uptake of over 45 per cent, also Egypt, South Africa, Jordan and East Europe’s Czech Republic-Hungary-Croatia.

“Easy visa/visa on arrival destinations are heading the leader-board this Easter weekend, especially with last minute bookers and so a surge in bookings for Bali, Thailand, Sri Lanka, UAE, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand. In addition, considering IPL fixtures on Easter Sunday being Royal Challengers vs Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers vs Knight Riders, we are seeing growing interest for cricket crazy fans from around the country,” says Kale.

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