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South India 411

March 12, 2007 By: Camie Foster Travel Agent

A number of wholesalers and tour operators stand ready to help with your clients' India travel. Among them are Abercrombie & Kent (800-554-7016), Artisans of Leisure (800-214-8144) and SITA World Tours (800-421-5643). Kapaleeswara Temple, Chennai

SITA is among the providers with a breadth of scheduled and
custom-designed India
product. Its scheduled departures range from luxury to value, as well as
independent and train journeys. The company's FIT department can tailor travel
to meet clients' time, budget and specific interests. Agents may contact Pete
Sohi, manager, India
and Orient division, at 800-421-5643. Commission starts at 12 percent.

Retailers can tap into the agent-only section of Abercrombie
& Kent's web site to send customized itineraries and electronic post cards
to their clients. In addition, destination specialists are available for
three-way calls with retailers and clients to talk about upgrades and
additional services. Agents developing custom or VIP India itineraries also can
contact Vinni Bernal, supervisor, at 800-323-7308, 630-954-2944 or [email protected].
Commission starts at 10 percent.

A Backwaters cruise, Kerala's most popular attraction

This fall, the company is debuting a trip by private jet
that includes time in Kerala. Also new is a two-week itinerary that educates
clients about the area's history and traditions.

For its part, Artisans of Leisure designs its tours with an
eye to inclusions, and in most cases will incorporate special activities based
on client interests at no additional charge. Agents may contact Sonja Stoerr,
one of the company's India
specialists, at 800-214-8144 or [email protected]. Commission starts at 10 percent.

When it comes to lodging, Lassers advises that travel agents
clearly explain the differences in accommodations in the northern and southern
parts of India.
"Northern India offers the opulent Oberoi villa properties and the Taj Palace
hotels," she notes. "Southern India
offers village-style resorts, more casual than those in the north, with a
distinctive local heritage and personality."

The Taj Garden
Retreat Kumarakom
, on the banks of scenic Lake Vembanad,
blends history with beauty. The property, acquired by a missionary family more
than a century ago, adjoins a bird sanctuary, which means guests can spot a
variety of birds, as well as their nests.

Insider tip: Suggest that your clients book one of the
resort's four luxury villas; each provides a private plunge pool. Agents may
contact Saibal Sen, general manager, at [email protected] or
91-481-252-5711 or -16.

Meridien Cochin Resort & Convention Centre
provides a five-star home
base in Cochin.
Families can spread out in duplex-style two-level family suites. The travel
agent contact is Asahaniwini Nayyar, director of sales and marketing. Contact
him at 91-484-270-5777.

Meanwhile, the Malabar
in Fort Cochin is the first hotel in South
to be designated a Heritage Classic Hotel by the government.
The boutique hotel is in the city's heritage zone. It faces St. Francis Church,
the oldest European church in India,
and is a brief walk from the sea. Its Malabar Junction restaurant serves
seafood and Mediterranean cuisine. The hotel has 17 rooms and suites; each of
the five roof garden suites provides guests with a private roof garden terrace.
Contact for VIP arrangements is Mervin Isac, general manager, at [email protected].

Cuisine is one of the pleasures of time in Kerala.
Vegetarians will be greeted by a range of choices. There are many hotel
restaurants for your clients to choose from. Several noted for their charm are
the History Restaurant located at Brunton
Boatyard in Cochin
and the restaurant at Windermere Guest House in Munnar.


In addition to a current passport with at least six months'
validity remaining, U.S.
citizens heading to India
on vacation will need a tourist visa. Visas for U.S. citizens can be issued for
a variety of time spans—up to and including 10 years—and can be transferred to
the passport-holder's new passport for a nominal fee. Application details,
instructions and forms are available online at

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