Tour operators like Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings are offering packages with a ‘local flavour’ to enhance the authentic travel experience.
Going to a south Indian restaurant with a nonchalant waiter taking your order is not quite the same as being served a traditional meal on a banana leaf by a beaming Malayali host. There is no dearth of restaurants offering India’s diverse ethnic cuisine, but it hardly compares with savouring authentic ghar ka khana cooked and served in a home.
Tour operators are gearing up to provide this very experience to discerning travellers by including a meal with a local family in travel itineraries.
Last monsoon, for instance, Thomas Cook, introduced “a meal with a local family” in its Ladakh, Kashmir, Kerala and Konkan packages. A spokesperson of Thomas Cook says, “This value add-on had a very good response as people from across the country experienced unique and exquisite dishes like Konkani dishes, cuisine from Kerela and Wazwan in Kashmir. The meals are cooked by the local family.”
Thomas Cook’s monsoon packages, which include meals with local families, range from Rs 14,200 for the Konkan region to Rs 12,980 for Ladakh.
Cox & Kings also offers local fare in their packages, though not with a family. Karan Anand, head — relationships and supplier management at Cox & Kings, says, “Customers travelling with us are provided with the option of savouring the local cuisine and from our experience Indian travellers like to try out local cuisine. In destinations such as Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu we tie up with authentic local restaurants to provide such an experience.’’
Sumedh Samant, an engineering student and an avid traveller, says, “I have gone on a number of tours earlier and feel that I have lost out on the local culture often. I would certainly appreciate packages where we are allowed to try out local dishes.”
For those who want to go a step ahead and take the vacation flavour back home, there are overseas packages that even organise cooking lessons. Kuoni India offers such a package. Kashmira Commissariat, COO — Outbound Division, Kuoni India says, “We organise cooking lessons free of cost as part of our gourmet tours, in which locals or chefs in Italy, France can teach the travellers their signature delicacies. Meals being cooked are based on the experience that travellers opt for.”
Kuoni’s gourmet tour packages to Italy or France start from ¤ 200 onwards per person, on twin sharing basis.
However, most tour operators agree that the segment of tourists opting for a local experience remains niche. Most travellers are keen on exploring, which often includes seasoned overseas travellers, and couples with double income and no children opt for such specialised tours.
A Thomas Cook representative, nevertheless, insists that the response to their packages has been encouraging and adds that local families look forward to entertaining travellers with their delicious local cuisine.
Commissariat of Kuoni India agrees. “Travellers are evolving and well-travelled tourists are opting for tours that are different and offer something more,” she says.