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Europe tour for 4 @ Rs 3186 a month
Surajeet Das Gupta in New Delhi | January 31, 2006
Europe is getting ever closer. Surprised? A visit to the Alps, a Lucerne cruise and a view from atop the Eiffel Tower are all suddenly available to Indian holidayers at never-before prices. Perhaps even as low as a holiday to Goa.
Last week, Cox & Kings kicked off a price war in the Indian market for holiday packages when it offered a seven-day Europe tour for a family of four (including two kids) under its 'Ek ka Char offer' at a neat Rs 89,999. And you can pay in instalments too, at a monthly outgo of only Rs 3,186 (over 36 months).
"Our package is cheaper by 15 to 20 per cent compared to the competition," claims Arup Sen, director, Cox & Kings, "and we hope this will help us double the number of tourists we took last year to Europe. It is already shaking up the market."
Sen can say that again. When kids start pestering parents for a visit to Europe, you know it's the schoolyard buzz.
But a "price war" implies aggressive responses from rivals, and the main rival here is SOTC, which joined the price war a few days later by extending its three-for-one family offer to four.
And that too, without any change in price (Rs 85,900 ex-Mumbai and Rs 95,400 ex-Delhi). For the instalment option, you fork out Rs 2,982-3,310 a month, depending on whether you fly from Mumbai or Delhi.
Says Sripriya Mozumdar, general manager, marketing services, "SOTC was the first tour operator to launch a three-country seven-day product for Rs 85,950."
What's more, SOTC claims that its offer trumps its rival's because it packs in much more (an extra country, more sightseeing and so on). Cox & King's, of course, pooh-poohs SOTC's claim, reeling off its own set of extras that SOTC lacks.
Excellent. Relish the joy of competition at work, vying for your holiday plans. But before you yank those suitcases off the loft, watch out for hidden costs: visas, airport taxes, and maybe even a "high season" surcharge.
Also, once you get to Europe, you may discover that some of the most tempting excursions call for extra cash: a trip to Mont Blanc, for instance. If you opt for everything that's dangled before your family, you could end up with a four-person bill of almost -- don't choke --- Rs 2.4 lakh (Rs 240,000). More than twice the advertised price.
That's why Thomas Cook, which has stayed aloof from all this price-slanging in the media, is taking the "transparency" tack, citing prices that include all wallet-openers.
Says Ashwini Kakkar, senior advisor of Thomas Cook, "There are no free lunches. After all, air fares constitute 50 per cent of the cost. Visas and taxes are common -- so it makes more sense to amortise that cost over a longer stay."
Not that Thomas Cook does not have a bargain offer. It does, and it helps inseminate the idea of an affordable Europe. It's just that its package is a 13-day one, covering eight countries, for Rs 1.25 lakh (Rs 125,000).
Europe is getting closer. But if it's a special-interest trip you dream of (say, round the Mediterranean), you have to look beyond the packages.