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Indian shores for Swagman Tours

"You can't put India in one trip for the whole continent - it's too vast" says Wayne Hamilton, Swagman Tours MD.

More than two years in the making and after a quiet launch earlier this year, Swagman Tours is now turning up the volume on India – the independent tour operator’s new destination.swagman

Established as one of Africa’s prominent independent tour operators in this market, Swagman’s expansion into India debuted last month with its maiden brochure – a userfriendly, 20-page guide featuring 12 flexible itineraries and extension in India, Nepal and Bhutan. While not appearing in the brochure, Sri Lanka can also be handled by Swagman if demand dictates.

Singapore Airlines has come on board as Swagman’sairline partner for the new destinations, rolling out a suite of encouraging fares, while Air India is also on the team for those in Sydney and Melbourne preferring a direct service to New Delhi.

Unveiled exclusively to travelBulletin, Swagman Tours managing director Wayne Hamilton said India had been designed to appeal to the same type of traveller who would visit Africa. “Two years ago we decided on another destination but it has taken us two years to develop the right type of product, the right partners in India and also the staff education. We couldn’t just wake up one day and say ‘Bang, here’s a new product’. So it’s been two years in the making.”

The new India range, Hamilton added, has been built around the four key pillars of history, culture, scenery and wildlife. He stressed that while India does have its own ‘Big 5’ for wildlife spotters, its native fauna is starkly different to Africa and doesn’t even include one of the country’s biggest and most iconic natural drawcards – the wild tiger.

“It’s a fascinating destination that marries with Africa,” Hamilton said.

Each of the 12 brochured itineraries offer travellers the choice of staying in three, four or five-star accommodation. The trips have been designed by Swagman Tours in collaboration with a carefully selected ground operator, and where required, include the cost of Economy class domestic airfares in India to reach the next stop, sleeper compartments on local trains or even an overnight houseboat journey in Kerala. Breakfast is included each morning, with some lunches and dinners also included depending on the city or town visited and the variety of dining options available outside the hotel, which in some cases are minimal.

Tours require a minimum of just two people to guarantee a departure, with local guides and representatives in each destination escorting and guiding passengers throughout.

“You can’t put India in one trip for the whole continent – it’s too vast. All of ours are pieces of states in India. We’ve covered all the core attractions and must-sees in our itineraries,” Hamilton said.
He told travelBulletin he was very happy with the positive reaction among the trade to the soft launch of the new India program so far, which saw a smattering of product available from the website and promotion by word-of-mouth. This period yielded “about three dozen bookings,” he said. “Over the scheme of things it doesn’t sound like a lot but considering you don’t have a full product to show people, no marketing or advertising at all, I’m happy with that.”

The Swagman boss described the addition of India to the company’s range as “without a doubt” a major professional achievement. From here, plans are for the company’s sales representatives to “wear out their boot leather” and train the industry on the offering. Plans are under way for agent educationals in the near future. Hamilton said he was very happy with the latest product addition.

“India is an electrifying destination. It took me a long time to explain to people what I found was exciting about it. It’s an attack on the senses. It makes you feel alive.”

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