‘Indians are taking up to holidays that offer once in a lifetime experience’
An early mover in the technology space, Meha Vashi, Director, Nivalink Holidays Pvt. Ltd., talks to Disha Shah Ghosh about the changing preference of the Indian traveller, growing demand for experiential holidays and the concerns of the market.
Q. What made you select travel as an area of your business interest?
My husband, Niraj started Nivalink in year 2000, and therefore it was in the family and only after my maternity break that I started off in 2006/2007 with a view to develop the international travel vertical.
Q. India has been a potential market for many overseas destinations and products. How has the Indian traveller evolved over the years?
Indians in 2000-2010 period preferred a group tour, were Indian meal focussed and travelled with tourist mind set. That has now changed with a clear FIT segment emerging that wants to do it their unique way. Shorter travel, Luxury travel, Wildlife and a lot of other different niches emerged thereafter as travellers evolved, and their income levels and sophistication rose in tandem.
Q. You forayed into the travel industry when the world was going through a dot com boom, and two decades later technology has emerged as an enabler. How have you evolved your business offerings in the course of time?
While the entire industry used web as a transaction platform, we used web to showcase our knowhow. Our focus has always been to keep travelling, use that knowhow to drive good content and offer a consultative approach towards acquiring and keeping good quality travellers.
Our tech journey can be summarised into phases:
1. Initially we were first ones online to showcase many hotels and destinations, so we got early mover advantage.
2. Thereafter we added travel planning services for India and International Destinations, offering customers acquired online a total solution
3. We added specialised verticals of Wellness, Wildlife and Pilgrimages in addition to India, Inbound and Outbound travel.
4. Having acquired a large number of customers across India and all over the world, we are now totally focussed around growing with this customer base.
Q. What kind of scope do you see for experiential holidays from Indian travellers?
Indians are taking up to holidays that offer once in a lifetime experience. So it could be an opera, a bungee jump, Northern lights experience, a festival, Grand Slam tennis final and list is endless. As more Indians get more discerning and sophisticated, many more experiences will be sought.
Q. What are some of the changes observed in the experiential holidays space, especially post pandemic?
Need to create lifetime memories while on travel on has become more pronounced post-Covid. Social media especially Instagram is driving customers away from typical touristy itinerary towards experiences that create life time memories especially ones that can be shared over Instagram.
Q.According to you, which are the two important challenges in the travel industry now that need to be addressed on priority basis?
Complexity of choice for travellers is increasing by the day for connectivity, accommodation and experiences available at destinations etc. Need a tech solution that wades through that to give unique solution for every traveller. Right now a lot of time is spent in getting information and preparing quotes, and solution offered is still sub-optimal.
Currently a lot of experiential travel is sold by passionate entrepreneurs who travel and experience first before recommending to their customers. To mainstream experiential travel, a lot of training and visual content is needed to be imparted across industry.
Q. Which are some of the niche products and experiences gaining momentum among the affluent Indian travellers?
Northern Lights, Wildlife Travel, Exotic Islands (e.g. Maldives Water Villa, Floating Breakfast), Adventure (Bungee Jumping, Paragliding, Shark Cage Diving, ATV Rides), Self drive on a holiday (in visually attractive cars like a Mini Cooper), Exotic Dining (e.g. Undersea restaurant, Ice Cafes, Sky dining).