Last month, Renee Stanton-Defaria, hosted a luxury FAM to India in conjunction with Oberoi Hotels. We sat down with Renee to ask her some questions about the FAM and to get some tips on selling India to your high-end clients.
What cities/places did you visit in India?
We did the classic Golden Triangle starting in New Delhi, then onto Agra, followed by Jaipur, and then Mumbai.
What was your favourite property and why?
Oberoi in Agra was incredibly special. Since I was a young child, I’ve been mesmerized by the Taj Mahal and have long dreamed of the day when I could visit this incredible mausoleum. My first glance of the Taj was when I walked into my room at the Oberoi. From my balcony I had a picture-perfect view; what an incredible way to take in its beauty. In addition to the view, the grounds of the property were stunning, reminiscent of an old fort. The pool was superb and the service was something that I have never experienced before. The Oberoi’s hospitality is second-to-none. I would highly encourage clients to upgrade their stay to the Oberoi as it is a destination in itself. If your budget doesn’t permit to stay for the entire journey, then I would treat yourself to the Oberoi in Agra.
What are some interesting excursions or itineraries that you would recommend?
When I travel, I always like to live like a local and immerse myself in the destination. So during our stay in India, we were fortunate enough to go to someone’s home, where they did a cooking demonstration and also showed us how to wraps saris and turbans. We also got to interact with the family and see what a day in the life of a typical Indian family would be like. This was definitely a highlight of the trip. For any itinerary, no matter where you are in the world, I would also recommend incorporating a “wow factor”—something that is less mainstream and allows you to see what a day in a life of a local is like.
The Golden Triangle is a classic itinerary that’s perfect for first-time travellers. The diversity of India makes every destination so unique. However, one thing I would add to this itinerary would be an extension into Ranthambore National Park. Unfortunately, due to the time of year, the park was closed, so please check with your destination specialist before you go.
As well, I would be remiss to not mention the Taj Mahal, one of the wonders of the world. No vacation to India is complete unless you visit the Taj Mahal. We were fortunate to have no queues or waits when we visited. We also went at sunset, so to see the unset behind this incredible structure simply takes your breath away. I hear sunrise is just as spectacular.
What is your top tip for agents selling India?
Consider the time of year to travel: we went in September and the weather was incredibly hot (40°C/104°F). It was the end of their summer, so I can only imagine how hot it gets in June, July, and August. As the cities are not beach destinations, I would recommend the winter months or October through March.
The quality and standard of the Oberoi properties are something in themselves. If your client can’t afford to stay at the Oberoi properties for the full duration of their stay, I would recommend doing at least once in order to enjoy the wow fact.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about India?
Everyone told me I would get sick and to be very careful, but not one person on the FAM experience the “Delhi Belly.” We ate in the hotels and recommended restaurants, all of which were delicious. I also found India to be more technologically-advanced than I expected. They have upgraded a lot of their major highways, making the drive from Agra to Jaipur very smooth.
What area would you recommend if clients want to extend their stay into another country?
After the hustle and bustle of cities, I would add an extension into Sri Lanka, Goa, or even the Maldives. I personally went to the Maldives after the trip for some R&R—it was a direct flight from Mumbai and only took 2.5 hours!