By Sohini Das
The trips to mountains get a little more thrilling this winter, as the Indian traveller dons ski-gear to glide down the Indian Himalayas or the Swiss Alps.
As the Indian traveller evolves, he is looking at unique travelling experiences and ski-holidays are fast emerging as a popular sport amongst the young traveller, say tour operators. Madhav Pai, chief operating officer, leisure travel outbound, Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, says, "The Indian traveller is increasingly demanding new and unique experiences. Ski itineraries find strong resonance with our strongly growing youth market, always on the look out for outdoor activity and adventure."
Apart from the popular European ski destinations, Thomas Cook has come up with tour packages for places like Whistler-Canada, Aspen-USA, Australia-New Zealand, Auli-India and South Africa’s Tiffindell in the Eastern Cape.
"No doubts Switzerland is the first name that comes to mind when it comes to ski diving, but nevertheless other names like Austria, France and Italy are catching up. But, the dark horse has been our own Kashmir - Gulmarg", said Ankita D Brahmbhatt, chief operating officer at an Ahmedabad based travel firm Aryan Dream Holidays
"While ski travellers currently form a rather niche audience, our luxury brand 'Indulgence' has seem encouraging growth from an audience comprising the high-networth-individuals, for whom ski vacations becoming a once-a-year must do holiday", Pai adds.
As the interest in adventure holidays grow, most tour operators see a growth in demand for ski holidays this winter, compared to last year. "Going by the number of enquiries, we are expecting 10-15 per cent higher demand this season compared to last year", said Prateek Majumder, head, marketing and strategic alliances, Yatra.com. He added that though these are early days, demand for such holidays, both domestic and international destinations, is on the rise.
Domestic bookings constitute around 70 per cent of Yatra.com's total bookings and international accounts for the rest. Popular domestic destinations include Gulmarg in Kashmir valley and Auli in Uttarakhand, while international destinations include Swiss Alps and Australia.
Brahmbhatt said that roughly around 8 - 10 per cent of Aryan's winter packages sold this year are of Ski packages- which is almost double from last year, when ski holidays made up around 3-4 per cent of the winter holiday packages.
Operators like SOTC India are coming up with customised tour packages according to specific customer demands. As the company recently launched its tour packages to Austria and Switzerland, Daniel D’Souza, head sales tour operating, Kuoni India, that owns the SOTC brand, says "We do offer customised ski holidays based on the specific requirements of the travelers. Ski holidays are the latest trend in luxury holidays, a very natural progression in the growth of the Indian holiday market."