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More and more Aussies soaking up 'Incredible India' experience PDF Print E-mail

© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

Sydney, Sep 23 (IANS) While Australia is becoming a favoured destination for Indians asking "Where the bloody hell are you?", Aussies are going in steadily large numbers for the "Incredible India" experience. With only 50,000 Aussies travelling to India in 2003, the number shot up to 106,000 in 2006 and this year has seen an increase of about 18 percent.

 

"We are hoping to see 130,000 Aussies visiting India by the end of this year," says the regional director of the Indian Tourism Office in Sydney, Shanker Dhar.

For first-time travellers, the Golden Triangle comprising Delhi, Agra and Rajasthan is a must. But it is the repeat travellers who are venturing to explore other destinations in the north, south and east of the country - Kerala, Bangalore, Kolkata, Darjeeling, Shimla, Dehradun and Amritsar.

While some Australians prefer conducted tours, others are researching and drafting their own itineraries on the internet and choosing various modes of travel from chauffer-driven private cars to taking the train and cashing in on affordable domestic flights.

"Australians do their research well and study about India extensively before travelling. They are well informed and go with an open mind to enjoy the myriad experiences of what they see as an exotic culture," says Dhar.

"Travellers appreciate the value for money they get in India, which far exceeds competing destinations. Unfortunately, India is no longer an inexpensive destination like Thailand or Vietnam," Dhar told IANS.

From traditionally being an adventure tourist destination, India has come of age as a family and leisure travel holiday spot. There are Aussies looking for the ultimate "Monsoon Wedding" style nuptial to business travellers blending pleasure with work.

One of the factors spearheading this growth is the high profile Indian hotel chains and their unique heritage properties. Travel Indochina's senior product manager, Eric Finley, says: "A significant proportion of my clients are going for the high-end rooms costing over A$500 a night in season. However, some opt for the more reasonably priced modest heritage hotels, but shortage of rooms in the mid-range leisure area is hurting us."

Travel Indochina excels in tailor-made itineraries for small group journeys as an introduction to what many first time visitors consider a challenging destination.

Finley says: "We are also seeing many Australian travellers using India as a stopover, either on leisure or business trips, and many of them express their strong desire to return and see more".

Specialising in seniors' travel, Asia Quest Tours takes approximately 500 tourists to India each year on fully escorted 21- to 28-day tours between September and March. A 21-day tour to India costs about A$5480 all paid for, including air travel and stay in a 3- to 4-star accommodation.

The company's manager Ashwani Bali says: "I cater to a market where people have time and some money. My clientele is in the age-group of 50 to 80, who are interested in the sights and not shopping."

Tour operators say India has always been an attractive destination, but travellers have been apprehensive about the reliability and quality of the infrastructure.

San Michelle Travel's Philip Boniface says: "Now the awareness of India as a rising economic power has made people more comfortable in visiting the country."

The company's motto, Interesting Travel for Interesting People, makes it strive to offer out of the ordinary ideas. Boniface says, "We offer unique products such as the first permanent deluxe sand dune resort in the middle of the desert with all the frills and fancies of a high quality stay - a comfortable cabin in the midst of rice fields with local villagers, deluxe houseboats on the backwaters of Kerala and next year we will be promoting cruising on the Brahmaputra."

Travel agents are hoping that India's flagship carrier, Air India, will resume direct flights from Australia by next year.

Adventure World's marketing manager Emi Weir says: "We are seeing a trend of more exotic destinations becoming more popular in general. This trend is due to the wealth in the 50-plus sector and this demographic with the wealth is well travelled. So they are going to more difficult destinations but are also looking for luxury."

Exposure to India in the Australian media, growing number of Bollywood films being screened in mainstream cinemas, books by Indian authors gaining popularity, from clothes to cuisine and just about everything Indian is catching the Australians' fancy and they want to see the country for themselves.

For now, the Incredible India brand is catching the attention of Aussie tourists soaking in the sights, sounds, colours and culture and above all the indulgence and pampering offered nowhere else in the world but India.



 
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