We speak to Nigel Barton, managing director at Kerala Travel Centre about the brand.
For the benefit of readers, who do not know, when and why was Kerala Travel Centre established and which regions of India does it sell holidays to?
As an owner of an independent travel company for many years I benefited from the perks of exploring many wondrous destinations around the world. However, when I first visited Kerala back in 2005 I can only describe it as having felt like Christopher Columbus discovering the Americas but obviously on a much, much smaller scale. I felt excited of my discovery of a land and people which spiritually touched me and which left an everlasting memory of my short time I spent there. Quite simply, there really is no other place quite like Kerala.
Upon my plane journey home I knew my destiny was in telling everyone I could about this wonderful region of India and set about starting a tour operation with very little knowledge of how to go about it but with bags of passion. For me, failure was not an option! Seven years on we are now recognised in the industry as the leading Kerala specialist in the UK and are just about to launch our new 200+ page brochure dedicated to the region.
How has your product offering evolved?
Over the years, we have had to re-assess and develop ways of improving our services and re-design and re-invent exclusive tour experiences to Kerala based on the feedback from our discerning traveller customers. This natural evolvement keeps us ahead of the competition.
24/7 emergency contact numbers; English speaking drivers and guides; chauffer driven private cars; traditional meet and greeter are just some of the many value added services we provide to clients during their holiday and which we continue to improve on. We are probably one of the only companies globally offering a complimentary local mobile phone to clients during their holiday. This enables them to be in touch with our local office and guest relations managers in Kerala and receive incoming calls from back home, without having to incur roaming charges.
With a growing database of satisfied customers who want to travel with us again, we have also launched other specialist operations including the India Travel Centre, Sri Lanka Travel Centre and Namibia Travel Centre.
We have also been increasingly working with trade partners in the UK and have commercial agreements with a number of consortia including the Global Travel Group, TTA, Hays Travel and others. Besides offering trade partners a large selection of tours and hotels from our brochure and website, we also provide assistance in tailor making their client’s holidays.
What challenges has the business faced in the last year or looking to the year ahead?
With Kerala’s increasing popularity in the UK and international markets, more players have started offering the product making it a more competitive market. The upside to this is that it creates more awareness for Kerala and makes us focus our resolve in wanting to offer better and more authentic experiences. I think in going forwards with our expansion plans to new destinations, the challenge for us is to ensure that the offering we have built our success and reputation as a specialist tour operator on does not get diluted.
Have you noticed any booking trends within the business this year?
Yes, the booking trends have changed. People are not booking holidays so far in advance and they seem to take longer in making a decision. I believe this has more to do with people wanting to ensure that they are getting value for money and obviously with the uncertainty in the economy people don’t speculate that far ahead these days.
What type of holidays or products are selling well?
Our Kerala Discovery tours have always remained popular with clients. We have always gone to great lengths to personalise our tour offerings based on the client’s requirements.
We offer a large selection of tours in different categories and we find a growing number of people opting for our adventure tours which have a good mix of activities including gentle nature trails and hikes, bike rides through towns and backwater villages, boating and kayaking in rivers. Cultural tours that give an insight into Kerala’s fantastic culture and traditions and honeymoon tours are also very popular.