About a month and a half back I woke up to the news of Lalit Sheth, MD of Raj Travels committing suicide by jumping off Bandra-Worli sea link . And So? It was a suicide in a country where by the time he hit sea level couple others popped up.
Except, this was the man responsible for half of Gujarat summiting the Jungfrau, the father of the international thepla tourism.
Raj travels were the first to curate All Veg Group Tours around the world. They opened doors for reticent Indian traveler to find comfort in travelling withÂ a homogenous crowd and be assured that Indian food would be made available even under the shadow of Eiffel. Unfortunately, still the template, for every tour operator around the country.
Thomas Cook, SOTC and new online majors like MakeMyTripÂ and yatra.com are still selling the same dhokla dream Mr Sheth dreamt two decades ago.
The banal packages available across the board cover certain broad consumer types:
- The lady boy hunter: The ones guzzling free beers on an international flight with a hard on that reaches Bangkok before they land.Â The family men who embark on dealer meets to the far eastÂ only to return with hickies and sometimes a slightly altered walk, they callÂ tropical mosquito bites in short the beer guzzling, foul mouthed obese Indian men who have single handedly destroyed Indian touristâ€™s image in ThailandÂ while contributing enormously to their GDP.
- The Honeymooners : The ones Delhi based comic Sanjay Rajoura identifies as the â€œchuddaÂ adorning bikini womanâ€with a potbellied man in Bermudas and an om/scorpion tattooed to the chub.
- The Bongs, Gujju and Arora families: They really did buy into the â€œfamily holidayâ€ caption. So much so that you canâ€™t escape the bombastic, even grotesque lot anywhere, except maybe on a diving breakinto the Icelandic sea. Actually, donâ€™t count on it, just wait for your first billion and spaceÂ tourism.
Take My Trip:Â Around the world in 18 days !
Price driven , touch point tourism packageÂ meant for the arthritic tourists to boast about the places they visited to their geriatric friends in the park , that isÂ if they do not pop it by fatigue induced stroke of having to travel every night of their 18 days in Europe for photo ops.
Two words: “Google”,”Photoshop”.
Now the size this industry is huge and with the growth being clocked, one may well snigger at this criticism.
But really, at this point, Iâ€™d like to ask the leadership of each of the Thomas Cooks:
- Are all outbound travellers families, vegetarian group or honeymooners?
- Are they effectively targeting other traveler classes effectively? Simply put:
“Will Cook Jr. ever go for a package tour they offer?”
Iâ€™m yet to come across any who have taken a package tour of the above mentioned variety. At best theyâ€™ve gotten pulled into these because they canâ€™t pay for their own yatra. This consumer is no sucker for industry standard promo prices and has a keen eye for the fine print. They wonâ€™t be sweet-talked into shelling money for tours thatâ€™ll merely have an Indian restaurant under a tall or leaning tower.
TheÂ industry isÂ missingÂ out on the young, aware, adventurous, single, buddy groupÂ urban traveller, who by the way forms a sizable chunk that self plans the trip andÂ populatesÂ global phenomena such as couchsurfing, airbnb, etc.
This consumer class although divergent in nature and looking for different things when they travel have one thing in common; their all seekingÂ an experience, and that does not translate to better butter chicken.
Rise of the Travelling Gen XYZ
Again, even this consumer isnâ€™t homogenous.
- The Backpacker: A couple who loved to travel and back packed their way through the globe found a company along the idea of backpacking http://thebackpackerco.com, perhaps to recover all the money they spent fighting at exotic locales. Either way, rocket science for Thomas Cook? Hold it. Why couldnâ€™t this be one of their verticals? With their deep pockets they could even deliver an Igloo Vacation. Tie up with Lonely Planet if you please.
- The Thrill Seeker: You know what the problem with the big guys and social media is? They just want to be there. Just like Rajouri Garden, sparepart selling, Honey Singh jizzing Sardaar at a jazz night. Mis-fucking-placed. Coming back to the thrill seeker though, all of us have atleast one friend, I beg your pardon, Facebook friend, whoâ€™s profile pic has him sky diving while he gets dry humped. The world is full of such adventures and people seeking them, yet travel companies want you to â€œsight seeâ€. Bungee jumping, scuba diving and various other camping, biking riding holidays that are the ones that appeal to the youth.Â Bigger players who already have tours to destinations which have such facilities have to just market it on their media.
- The young volunteer: So how does one address the youngster who finds her way to Anna Hazare rallies? There are enough save the orangutan missions that kids around the developed world get pushed into. Why shouldnâ€™t there be institutional selling around snatching the play station remotes/KFC bucket. I mean why canâ€™t this kid be chucked into African refugee camps to serve happy meals and discover that saving the world doesnâ€™t merely equate to saving a Persian princess illustrated in Manga.Â It could also be tied in as a solidÂ CSR package for say Kellogs, Britania, McVitties… or KFC, no?
There could be so much more, holidays focusing on what the different kind of youth seeks:
- Â Â Â A Party or a rock concert trail across Europe
- Â Â Â A soccer package around EPL
- Â Â Â A Che Guevara trail
- Â Â Â Bachelor(ette) party destinations
- Â Â Â A Gambling holiday
- Â Â Â A World War retrospective
I could go on basis merely all the stuff I wanna do.
Itâ€™s a question of paying attention to socio-economic realities of the market, sadly industry chooses attend only to the latter half of the hyphen.
When a Zoya Akhtar (ZNMD) could single handedly devise a drive thru Spain package for a horde of Indian tourists who have over the last 1 years almost successfully managed toÂ save Spain from going the Greece way. Whatâ€™s the industry doing? Youâ€™re telling me you cant convince Zoya to put Oktoberfest in her next movie or Karan Johar to paint Manilla red.
How long do they plan to flog the same ideas? How long can they hide behind â€œa middle class with expendable incomeâ€?Â The answer lies somewhere in Mr Shethâ€™s tragic jump sans the bungee.
It is for the travel majors toÂ understand that every idea has an expiry date. Or one could look at this as aÂ ready business model for an alternate travel company targeting the Indian youth. While youâ€™re at it, tell Salman Khan that nobody gives a shit about his commitment on travel?