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Travel Indochina takes on India river cruise challenge

Travel Indochina is confident its new Ganges voyage will tap into growing demand for Asian river cruising, building on its recent success on the Mekong.

The itinerary aboard Haimark’s new Ganges Voyager I will launch in January, sailing from Kolkata to the former French colony of Chandenagor – areas largely overlooked by tourists to date.

However, managing director Paul Hole is confident the offer of a new luxury vessel on the river will entice travellers to give it a try.

“There have been several other attempts by other companies to get river cruise options up and running in India over the last five to 10 years but they were very unreliable in terms of departure date and the itineraries changed constantly,” he told Travel Today.

“The quality of vessels was also at a much lower three star standard.

“Once they get past the why, people find it quite fascinating how this part of the Ganges plays into India’s history and that it is that little bit more unique and untouched than classic tourism sites like the Golden Triangle.”

In addition, although the cruise itself doesn’t feature any of the standard “big tick” items, the itinerary does incorporate a land component enabling first time visitors to see some of the icons. Once the cruise is complete, the operator flies passengers from Kolkata to Varanasi and then Delhi before driving them up to Agra and then Jaipur.

“The time is right coming off the back of the Mekong,” Hole said. “A lot of travellers that decided to river cruise in South East Asia for the first time have gained a new level off confidence about river cruising outside Europe and are looking further afield than they were five years ago.”

Meanwhile, India product manager Eric Finley was hopeful the new product would benefit from a trend for travellers to venture beyond the traditional tourist sights.

“Rajasthan is the strongest performer out of the Australian market but in the last three years there’s been a lot of interest in the south and there’s also been quite a bit of specialised tailormade itineraries thrown into the mix as well,” he said.

“So I think Aussies are getting more adventurous and heading away from the Golden Triangle, but we’d still love to see an even more adventurous approach.”

So far the product has received a strong reception from the travel trade, according to general manager commercial Australia Steve Brady.

He confirmed that the operator will be undertaking a lot of travel agent education on the new product.

“What we’re finding is that river cruise is heavily driven by the travel agent market so we’re working with all key trade partners,” he said. “We’ll also certainly do a range of consumer marketing, key launches and more in the months ahead.”

“We're making quite a bit of investment in helping travel agents get clients across the line,” Hole added.

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