Intrepid Travel India GM, ET TravelWorld

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<p>Rama Mahendru- Country General Manager- India, Intrepid Travel</p>
Rama Mahendru- Country General Manager- India, Intrepid Travel

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, Intrepid India continued to show resilience, particularly in three months since September 2023. According to Rama Mahendru- Country General Manager- India, Intrepid Travel, an adventure travel company, successfully served 3000 clients, signaling a positive trajectory during this period.

“We hope to serve 6000 customers by March 2024. Additionally, November 2023 saw 136 trips on the ground, a notable increase compared to pre-pandemic levels, indicating a positive trend in trip numbers,” said Mahendru, adding that the strength of the trips is not yet optimal.

“As we planned our 2023 budget, our aim was to mirror the performance of 2019. However, in terms of customer numbers compared to 2019, we’re trailing behind by 23 per cent,” she added.

However, Mahendru anticipates reaching the aforementioned goals by 2024. “This year, we’ve managed to match our revenue figures from 2019, largely due to factors like increased prices and the introduction of our premium style guide,” she said.

The premium style guide, launched last year, elevates the accommodation to four or 4.5-star standards and includes additional perks like inclusive breakfasts and more flights between destinations. Despite the popularity of the premium guide, the original style guide remains the most favoured among customers, as per Mahendru.

When asked what age groups typically prefer different tour styles, she stated, “Our basic style guide typically attracts individuals aged 18 to 29, who seek adventurous activities. For the premium style guide, which offers a more luxurious experience, the demographic tends to be around 50 years old, often retired individuals seeking relaxation and comfort. We ensure our tour leaders match the energy and preferences of each group accordingly,” she highlighted.

Service expansion & plans to attain balanced female tour leaders ratio

In terms of service expansion, Mahenduru unveiled plans to launch new wildlife and offbeat destination offerings in Madhya Pradesh and the Northeast. “We’re continuously seeking partnerships in North India to expand our sustainable initiatives, aligning with our commitment to responsible tourism.” she said.

Enhancing gender diversity in tour leadership has been another significant focus for us for the year ahead, said Mahenduru. “While we’ve made progress, achieving a balanced ratio of female tour leaders remains an ongoing goal. Currently, we’ve reached a representation of 35 per cent female tour leaders, with 65 per cent male counterparts. This ratio is a marked improvement, but we aim to attain a 50:50 split by 2025,” she said.

Achieving this balance has been met with challenges, particularly regarding safety concerns, which have historically deterred female candidates and their families from pursuing tour leadership roles, as per Mahendru. “To address this, we’ve implemented rigorous safety protocols and emphasised our commitment to ensuring a secure environment for all team members. Additionally, we’ve actively promoted tour leadership as a viable career option for women through outreach programs and partnerships with educational institutions,” she added.

Turkey sets sight on welcoming 3.5 lakh Indian tourists in 2024

In 2022, despite the challenges posed by Covid-19, Turkey welcomed 2.3 lakh Indian tourists. Last year, this figure rose to 2.7 lakh. Going forward, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkiye aims to increase the number of flights with plans for further expansion to other Indian cities.

Highlighting Intrepid‘s commitment to sustainability, Mahenduru discussed the company’s partnership with the ‘Positive Change for Marine Life’ project and its venture, Intrepid Foundation. “Through initiatives like the Intrepid Foundation, travellers can contribute to various projects during their trips, fostering awareness, supporting local communities and supporting sustainable practices. Technology also plays a crucial role in spreading awareness and facilitating donations to these projects, enhancing our impact on sustainability,” she said.

India’s burgeoning tourism potential; partnerships with govt & trade associations crucial

Despite recent shifts favouring other regions post-Covid, India is regaining popularity, partly due to geopolitical factors like the Ukraine conflict, said Mahendru emphasising India’s burgeoning tourism potential. She highlights India’s diverse attractions beyond iconic landmarks like the Taj Mahal, coupled with growing interest in sustainable and immersive travel experiences, positioning it favourably for inbound tourism growth.

“Learning from countries like Bali, which have implemented community-driven projects to promote tourism while preserving local culture and environment, can provide valuable insights for India’s development efforts. Strengthening partnerships between travel companies and government bodies, with input from trade associations, can facilitate this process effectively,” she said.

While India boasts a rich tapestry of cultural heritage and natural wonders, infrastructural limitations pose significant challenges for travel operators like Intrepid. Rama candidly addresses the infrastructure deficit, citing examples of logistical hurdles encountered during product development and execution.

Lauding the interim budget announcements in this regard, Mahendru said the introduction of a novel system for classifying tourist locations according to amenities and infrastructure charts a revolutionary new direction and gives India a competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

“The country’s major train infrastructure projects are expanding due to the boost in economic strength, which also drives conference and business travel. The exponential increase in airports over the last ten years is evidence of India’s dedication to accessibility and connectivity. It is heartening that this budget essentially lays out a revolutionary route that combines robust infrastructure development, sustainable tourism, and economic dynamism and will also boost adventure tourism in India,” she stated.

Giving glimpse into trends, Mahenduru stated that Festival departures have witnessed a surge in interest from travellers seeking cultural celebrations and immersive travel experiences in India. “In 2024, we’re anticipating around 9 or 10 festival departures, particularly for Holi and Diwali, with Durga Puja also gaining prominence,” she remarked. “Previously overlooked, Durga Puja is now attracting more attention, indicative of a growing curiosity about Indian festivals and the associated fairs,” she explained. Intrepid Travel is responding to this trend by offering specialised trips tailored to specific fairs and festivals, catering to travelers seeking authentic cultural experiences, she added.

  • Published On Feb 2, 2024 at 10:00 AM IST

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