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Monday, 05 August, 2013, 12 : 45 PM [IST]

Women Traveller: The new Globetrotter

Women-specific packages are gaining popularity in India, with females increasingly opting for customised group tours to domestic locales and international destinations. Realising the importance of this segment, MoT recently launched ‘I Respect Women’ campaign, to ensure safety and security of female travellers. Leanne Zara Rodrigues speaks to various tour operators on the latest trends in the women traveller segment and gets insights into organising such customised trips
Providing an oasis of options for weary travellers, overworked women, housewives and females who need to be pampered, be it in the lap of snow-capped mountains or trekking on rugged peaks, many travel agents are nowadays offering various national and international itineraries, specially designed for women. These women-oriented packages allow females who love to explore exotic destinations, but lack company or are just yearning for a care-free holiday, where they can indulge in some pampering, and travel to carefree lands with similar interest groups.

The segment is growing substantially as travelling gives a sense of fulfillment to women and offers a means to escape the monotonous routine. Sangita Patil, Director, Kesari Tours Pvt Ltd, said, “We are in a world where women are starting to move out and have fun on their own. This drives home the fact that there is a sense of both economic as well as social independence among women today, and they are just as much avid travellers. Being a pioneer of this concept, Kesari Tours has brought into the market an opportunity for women to enjoy life. This very concept was triggered by our observation that women caught up in daily chores hardly have any spare time for themselves, and family trips instead of acting as a break, leave women tending to all the family members except themselves. Hence, Kesari introduced an opportunity for women to enjoy life in unique ways. Our women-exclusive tailored tours give them a chance to travel without any burden, and have fun without any strings attached.”

Thomas Cook (India) Ltd.’s internal research and analysis has revealed a powerful segment of the Indian woman traveller, which is rapidly moving from the “mother figure” in family vacations to an “influencer” and now clearly a “decision-maker”.

nicholas_lim.jpgSpeaking on the growing potential of the women segment, Nicholas Lim, Regional Director, Asia, Trafalgar, said, “Every year the number of women travellers are increasing. In India, women have started travelling for countless reasons, namely exploring new frontiers, engaging in business opportunities or simply relaxing on a vacation. Women travellers have started to make a presence in the market today and it is observed that this segment is hugely dominated by friends, peers and colleagues.” Patil added that nowadays, women thinking about themselves makes this segment profitable, and the market has seen improvement and growth in terms of all-exclusive women tourist groups.

 This trend of women travel groups is gaining impetus in both inbound as well as outbound travel markets. “Last year we had 800 women travellers going on international holidays and around 400 women indulging in domestic holidays. We had 20 international women travel group departures and 11 domestic departures last year, and the group strength is around 40 people,” stated Patil.

 In order to encourage the inflow of foreign women travellers and to boost Domestic Tourism, safety of female travellers in the country is a paramount concern amongst tour operators. Safety norms and standards have to be observed to ensure that women travellers are safe in the country. Given the recent incidents in India, the Ministry of Tourism (MoT), Govt. of India launched the 'I Respect Women' campaign at the recent National Tourism Ministers’ Conference in New Delhi by issuing badges in Hindi and ten international languages to declare India as a safe destination for women travellers.

madhavan_menon.jpgSpeaking on the prominent rise in inbound women travel groups, Madhavan Menon, Managing Director, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd., said, “The women segment is a powerful opportunity that our inbound team has been leveraging on with specially-designed, women-centric experiences—culture-heritage-shopping holidays in Rajasthan, and the Golden Triangle; history-culture in Varanasi and Khajuraho; and wellness and spa therapy in Kerala. We have witnessed a 10-15 per cent increase in number of women travellers in 2012 as compared with 2011. On-ground engagements have included fun elements like bangle fairs and mehendi application to deeper social engagements with villagers and local artisans. Social responsibility and education-themed programmes have been carefully crafted together with handpicked NGOs, and this is finding increasing uptake by our inbound women travellers. We have also seen a lot of inbound women travel groups from established source markets like the UK and the USA coming to India to engage in Volunteer and Religious Tourism. Our women travel groups usually comprise five to six women from the 25-45 year age group ”

women_traveller_1.jpgThomas Cook is delighted by the interest shown by female travellers. Besides adventure, the Indian woman traveller is increasingly looking at domestic holidays with diverse interests from retail therapy, culinary tours, Ayurveda in Kerala, to beach holidays and spa getaways. Global exposure is also influencing women travellers to be bolder and explore offbeat destinations. While the earlier trend with women travellers was to stick with popular shopping destinations in Western Europe such as London, Paris and Milan, now Indian women have become increasingly technology-savvy and are opting for itineraries to Eastern Europe, Spain, Portugal, Morocco and also to destinations like Russia, Scandinavia, countryside tours of Britain, Scotland, Ireland and wine regions of France. The short-haul destinations of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Bali are year-round top spots for 'girls-only' trips with weekend getaways, and now, cruise vacations are gaining popularity with this segment. Australia, famous for Adventure Tourism, attracts women seeking to experience mountaineering, rock climbing, trekking, skiing, mount biking and safaris. In India, some amongst many of the popular destinations include Kerala for its spa and wellness retreats, Goa for its spa and beaches, Rishikesh for white water river rafting and Andaman for adventure sports. While Trafalgar ensures comfort for single women travellers by providing them the options of finding same-sex roommates, whereby they save on single room supplements and also make global friends, Thomas Cook organises women group tours to exotic new emerging destinations such as Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Morocco, Reunion Islands, Portugal, Israel, Fiji, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and the Mediterranean region, and cruise trips to Argentina and Antarctica.

Specially crafted itineraries are another essential offering that tour operators lay focus on to ensure that their women travel groups gain a wholesome experience. These travel groups prefer a busy itinerary and like to squeeze in maximum activities during the trip like wine tasting, spas, museum tours, and adventure sports. To cater to this growing segment, tour operators are designing special packages for independent females keeping in mind safety and comfort.

Commenting on the unique, customised itineraries Thomas Cook (India) creates for women travel groups, Menon said, “Our 'girls-only' groups, BFF mini vacations and mother-daughter bonding trips are witnessing strong demand. The key elements of such itineraries include spa and wellness programmes, makeover sessions, dining, shopping and partying. We have delightful 'kitty party' group tours, specially crafted by our Personalised Holidays team with an array of activities like shopping, relaxation and sightseeing. Our wine-cheese-chocolatier itineraries in Europe; the Piedmont Truffle festival in Italy; and champagne and wine tours in France are a major hit with our women travel groups, who are fond of gourmet experiences. For the discerning lady traveller, our luxury brand, 'Indulgence', has created exclusive engagements based on their unique interests—culinary classes with a master chef, dining at a Michelin star restaurant, retail therapy at top end Couture Houses, and decadent spa-wellness programmes at uber chic resorts.”

sunil_hasija.jpgvishal_suri_new.jpgThrowing light on the special preferences of this segment, Sunil Hasija, Executive Director, TUI India, Le Passage to India Tours and Travels Pvt. Ltd., said, “Women travellers usually prefer exotic destinations with offerings including a cultural insight, gastronomic experience and good shopping experiences as well as self-pampering spa options. Women travellers need reassurances on safety and cleanliness while travelling. Other than that they primarily look for luxury holidays that are tailored to their preferences, such as the best shopping sights, great accommodations, quality sightseeing, and excellent gastronomic experiences.”

Vishal Suri, Deputy COO, Tour Operating, Kuoni India, has noticed that women travellers prefer good food, luxurious accommodations, a reliable tour manager and guided sightseeing options to make their holiday comfortable, rejuvenating and relaxing. He specified that women travellers prefer value added services like spa treatments, stylish rooms and furnishings and goodies to make the trip memorable, and like to witness a sense of independence and empowerment by indulging in unique offbeat experiences like adventure sports, to name a few.

women_traveller_2.jpgEnsuring the safety of women travellers is the major concern faced by tour operators, and the travel industry supports the initiatives for safety of women travellers, dedicating it as a national priority. “Women travellers tend to be a bit hesitant when travelling alone or in small groups. However, we provide services for women right from start to the end of a trip, i.e. from safe and high-quality transportation to the best possible accommodation. We strive to provide the client the best possible services on the trip, keeping in mind the luxury and safety aspect. Additionally, our travel directors are trained to assist travellers, women included, with whatever assistance they require. During the entire length of a Trafalgar trip, the travel director is the first person to go to, so women travellers can be assured of not only safety, but also enjoyment of a great holiday,” added Lim.

Menon said, “Safety and security is a key element and we take special care while planning our women-specific tours. Lack of security and cleanliness can pose a grave threat to women travellers, which in turn can be affected by the religious and cultural beliefs of foreign countries they visit. This poses a huge challenge for a tour operator. The destination, hotels and tour inclusions are carefully chosen by our product teams with adequate guidance and travel tips like (dress code for specific countries; secure transportation within the destination; and places to avoid). We carefully screen hotels and book the ones that offer women-only floors or room allocation close to the elevators. An important factor has been our Thomas Cook India tour woman manager accompanying groups, whose experience and expertise has played a key role in bringing in that much-needed reassurance.”
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