PUNE: Most tourists to India are fascinated by the local culture, especially some of the rituals and ceremonies they get a glimpse of.
These are typically restricted to what they see in temples, with the big, fat Indian wedding remaining out of bounds, and a constant source of fascination.
Attending an Indian wedding while travelling through the country made two entrepreneurs from Budapest realize the potential something like this presented, leading to the launch of joinmywedding.com last year.
JoinMyWedding (JMW) allows tourists to do just that – attend an Indian wedding as a guest. In return, couples can offset some of their wedding expenses, with ticket prices ranging from $50-$100 per person. Orsi Parkanyi, co-founder, joinmywedding.comsaid that money spent on the ticket price would otherwise have gone towards buying the couple a gift.
“Since launch we’ve had about 50 people attend weddings from countries ranging from North America to Australia and Mexico. Last month at the Skift Forum in London, the largest event for the travel industry, we discussed how travellers are moving towards authentic experiences,” she said.
It is this shift globally, and in India, that has led to a number of new travel companies that are geared towards providing experiences that go beyond the ordinary. A number of startups tend to focus on one specific aspect, be it holidays centered around art, music or adventure. Others are more broad-based within their chosen area of specialization.
Black Swan Journeys (BSJ) started off in 2010, with a deep focus on unique, customized experiences. “Depending on whether you are interested in music or cuisine, a trip to Kochi would include a homestay at the house of a band member from alternative rock band Avial, or at the home of someone who has authored a few books on Syrian Christian cuisine,” said Shishir Nikam, MD, Black Swan Journeys.
The emphasis is also on exploring a place with a subject matter expert, so a trip to Rani ki Vav in Ahmedabad would be arranged with one of the members of the excavation team as a guide. BSJ is now working at promoting India’s lesser known arts and crafts in collaboration with an NGO, Heart for Art, through craft focused trips to places like Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry.
Another company that’s been offering unique travel experiences is No Thepla Holidays (NTH). “We are targeting music festivals, quirky events, flashpacking and scuba diving trips,” said Arjun Malhotra, co-founder, No Thepla Holidays.
While the trips are fixed departures, the itinerary is left fairly open with only one or two activities scheduled, leaving travelers free to plan the rest of their days in the city depending on their interests. “We normally have one person from the company who goes on the trip and does the usual items on the tourist trail where other travelers are free to join in. Otherwise the travelers meet up at the end of the day for a drink,” said Malhotra. The idea is to get like-minded travelers together in smaller groups of not more than ten and share experiences like camping overnight on a remote island in Palawan in the Philippines.
These trips are popular largely with people in their 30s, with the companies too actively targeting this segment. Nikam said, “Someone in their 20s is not likely to be keen on a single malt safari in Scotland. Besides, these aren’t exactly budget trips. Rather than carpet bomb social media, we prefer doing events related different destinations to market ourselves,” he said.
For a recent culinary trip to Vietnam, BSJ did a Vietnamese food pop-up with a local chef, while other events include documentary screenings, talks and craft workshops. NTH too believes in the event’s philosophy, along with marketing itself on social media. The conversion rates are low, admits Nikam, but it allows them to reach out to people who would be interested in what they do. Recently, the company planned a holiday to Scotland for someone who had attended an event three years ago.
For JoinmyWedding, the interest so far has been largely through word of mouth among flashpackers in their 20s, but the company has a number of tie-
ups planned, with airlines, wedding portals and matrimonial sites, to promote their weddings. “For now our focus is firmly on India, though when we get enquiries we do assess those. We’ll soon be doing a Jewish-Christian gay wedding in Israel,” said Parkanyi.
The immediate aim is to have about a 1000 weddings on the site, ideally a couple every week, so that most travelers can find something that suits their schedule. As Indians become more discerning and start looking for options beyond the typical tourist trail holidays, expect more companies to pop up to cater to the increasing demand.
Read More: economictimes.indiatimes.com