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Luxury on EMIs

Renting a private island or taking a Ferrari trip may be dream holidays for the uber-rich. But with a travel loan and smart planning, you too could break into the luxury travel club.

Sushmita Choudhury        Print Edition: August 7, 2008

Hot deals

Interesting packages to look out for

Park Plaza
Jodhpur
Cost: Rs 5,999 per room
Contact: 1800-111-222
Rajasthan in summer may not sound too appealing, but relaxing in a redhot hotel can.The three-day package currently on offer includes accommodation in a “superior” room, daily breakfast and all taxes. An extra adult in the room will cost Rs 1,300 more, including breakfast. Offer valid till end-September.

Dolphin Bay Resort
Goa
Cost:
Rs 9,999 per room
Contact: 09810320064
The resort, located on Calangute beach, is offering a two-day package for a couple till end-October.The offer includes airport/Thivim railway station transfers, all meals, a half-day sightseeing tour, followed by a boat cruise, a 20% discount on drinks and all applicable taxes.

Manil Tambani owns a BMW, his house is filled with priceless art and his wife does not talk less than Cartier and Chanel. The only trouble is that his neighbour boasts the same and some of his colleagues have it far bigger and better. His quest for bragging rights finally ended when he discovered “experiential” travel. After an impromptu trip to Italy to race a Ferrari, and renting the Rs 21.6 lakh per ride Krug Balloon for an intimate luncheon with his family, Tambani now has the priceless rights to say “been there, done that”.

Who is Tambani? He is the face of the mushrooming millionaire club in India. Research shows that India currently has over one million consumers for luxury goods and services. More significantly, this number is expected to treble in the next two years. And travel is rated second on the list of priorities for the affluent class, coming right after housing. A combination of rising income and increasing options to fund luxury travel is fuelling the experiential travel trend.

Little wonder then that stalwarts like Cox & Kings and SOTC have a specialised division looking at luxury travel, while the Sahara Parivar has launched Paradiso, a new outfit dedicated to the same. What all these players promise is “subtle overindulgence”. Not many can think up unique travel ideas, so the tour operators do the thinking on your behalf and facilitate the travel. All you need to do is pay up and pack up. And you can do that without wiping out your savings.

Says Karan Anand, head, business development, Cox & Kings (India): “The high net-worth traveller is looking for a comprehensive and out-of-the-ordinary itinerary, with remote, exotic sights, luxury or character hotels and rooms with views. They want the Pyramid View Rooms in Cairo, specials like Petra, Jordan, by candlelight or a view of Peru’s Nazca Lines by helicopter. They also like to hire their own helicopters to see the game reserves in Namibia and Tanzania.” Rent a private castle? Check. A round-theworld journey in a private jet? Check. A luxury yacht cruise? Check. These are just some options that these tour operators offer.

Besides, it’s cheaper and more convenient to go via a travel operator. For example, consider a week at Necker Island, Richard Branson’s private hideaway in the Caribbean. The official Website is offering the entire island for $47,000 (Rs 20.3 lakh) a night, while Paradiso is quoting $25,250 (Rs 10.9 lakh) per couple for six nights, including all meals, return launch transfer from the airport and a host of water sports. The package, however, is only valid from 27 September to 4 October this year. Plus, the site insists on a 100% non-refundable deposit if a reservation is made less than three months prior to the proposed date of arrival on open-for-all weeks (when you can book just a cottage instead of the island). Paradiso, on the other hand, is more accommodating.

A snapshot of travel loans on offer

Bank
Product
Maximum loanInterest rateProcessing feeTenure
Bank of BarodaDesh Videsh
Rs 10 lakh
13.25%
2%
3 years
Oriental Bank of CommerceBon VoyageRs 5 lakh14.25%0.5%4 years
State Bank of IndiaEasy TravelRs 10 lakh 16%1%4 years
Indian Overseas BankShubh YatraRs 10 lakh12.5%Rs 1683 years
IDBI BankHoliday TravelRs 5 lakh13.25%2.25%3 years
Canara BankCanTravelRs 1 lakh14%0.5%3 years
An alternate route to such experiential travel is to sign up for a premium credit card. The concierge services of the platinum and black credit cards offer a few unique travel options, from flying a fighter jet off a top-secret air base with a Visa Signature card to the exclusive use of a Ferretti luxury yacht for a day with Citibank Ultima. However, the menu is limited compared with what the luxury travel specialists can arrange.

It’s not just outbound travel that comes with the luxe tag. In fact, there is a greater demand for domestic luxury travel, with 20-25% of Indian travellers opting for it compared with 15% for foreign holidays. Which explains the growing demand for top-end resorts like Orange County. The latter’s property in Kabini, Karnataka, boasts pool villas costing Rs 20,000 a night but that does not seem to deter the yuppies. Says Jose T. Ramapuram, director, marketing, Orange County Resorts: “Between 65-80% of our guests are Indians.”

If you are thinking all this is just good to fantasise about, leaving the actual experiencing to the rich, think again. Even the middle class can accommodate at least one such luxury holiday with some smart planning. The rule of thumb is to think off-season. For instance, a week-long Nile cruise aboard the Oberoi Zahra in July-August costs about Rs 1.28 lakh compared with Rs 4.76 lakh from January to April—a saving of 73%. Another alternative is to supplement your savings with a travel loan (see table), which is cheaper than a personal loan. Do remember that you have to furnish proof of travel so hang on to your bills and tickets.

With the market for luxury travel projected to grow by 20-25% in the next five years, many more players are likely to enter this sphere. Which only means more competitive pricing and even more novel ideas for you. Bon voyage!

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