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On the Road to KeralaMarch 12, 2007 By: Camie Foster Travel Agent
Spice up your clients' plans with a South India sojourn
size, history and heritage can make it simultaneously compelling and daunting
to first-timers. However, you can build immersive itineraries that will appeal
to them—and to clients planning a second or third visit—by sharpening the focus
"When you talk about visiting
unique experience," says Max Ali, director of sales at SITA World Tours.
is known for its spirituality; visiting its monuments gives you insight into
the culture of the people over the millennia."
No matter where your clients go in
encounter lots of people speaking various languages and practicing different
"It's not uncommon to see a temple, a mosque and a
church on the same street," Ali notes. "Religion gives an aspect of
hospitality—visitors are welcomed and people go out of their way to be
First-timers often think of
Ali, but there are many sites of note in the southern part of
Upscale operator Artisans of Leisure has a number of
travelers who include South India on their first visit to the country, says
Sonja Stoerr, one of the company's
spend three or more weeks in
and want to see as much as possible, since they sometimes expect they'll make
only one visit to
"Some travelers go because they want to learn more
about Ayurvedic health practices; others want to experience the cuisine,"
Stoerr says. "The most popular attraction is Kerala's Backwaters, which is
a very different landscape than what is found in the North and in Rajasthan,
the most popular tourism destination in
"The majority of our clients who travel to southern
already been to Rajasthan, drawn by the Taj Mahal and many other UNESCO World
Heritage sites," says Pamela Lassers, director of media relations at
Abercrombie & Kent. "
is a completely different experience, lush and tropical, with historic cities,
traditional folkways and European influences."
Indeed, interest in and demand for Kerala has been growing
steadily among international travelers in recent years. It also draws
vacationers from other parts of
who are interested in experiencing the region's beauty and history.
The state of Kerala stretches along the southernmost part of
beaches lapped at by the
as the gorgeous Backwaters that are a popular destination. Topography is
varied, with mountains, waterfalls and a network of rivers, so there's a lot to
see and do, from motorboat rides to diving and surfing.
Your clients can visit everything from temples and festivals
to plantations where tea and spices are cultivated. Kerala also is home to
Artisans of Leisure generally builds time in
"Depending on the amount of time and the client's
interests, we may also include time in Chennai and the Periyar Tiger Reserve in
the eastern hills of Kerala," she adds. "For serious divers and water
sports enthusiasts, we're also sending some travelers to the
In addition, your clients may well find themselves rubbing
residents on holiday, says Ali, who've headed to
natural beauty of Kerala.
Consider building in time for a Backwaters cruise so your
clients can see the pace of life on the water.
More urban experiences to suggest include time in Mumbai and
a visit to Bollywood, as well as exploring
for its spice-trade history and its role as a gateway between Asia and
Your clients who are spa aficionados may actually initiate
the request to block a day or longer to experience yoga and Ayurveda during
their stay. If not, you should bring up the subject and gauge their interest in
allotting time at a spa-focused resort during their travels, perhaps toward the
end of their journey.
Find the Right Fit
If your clients are looking for a blend of sightseeing and
rejuvenation, try to front-load their itinerary with bustle. This way, they'll
be more able to fully relax and immerse themselves in the atmosphere and
quieter diversions of Kerala toward the end of their stay.
They can easily spend a week touring temples and other
sights, and wrap up their stay with several days at a spa or ashram retreat,
with the depth and focus of the sojourn focused on their specific interests and
"This sort of itinerary lends itself beautifully to a
customized program," Ali notes.