Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Indians are splurging on luxury holidays that give them more than just views and spa treatments

Beauty-cation in South Korea, a chance to hit balls with Pete Sampras at Wimbledon, or a three-city trip following Taylor Swift's Eras Tour—India's luxe travel has a new definition

Pankti Mehta Kadakia
Published: Jun 11, 2024 11:06:17 AM IST
Updated: Jun 11, 2024 11:18:28 AM IST

 Indians are splurging on luxury holidays that give them more than just views and spa treatments(Clockwise From left) Peruvian chef Virgilio Martinez’s restaurant Central has been voted the world’s best; Monish Shah, founder and CEO of DreamSetGo, organises exclusive yacht experiences; A view of the courts at Grand Hyatt; Watsu aquatic therapy at the Six Senses Vana; Clinic Les Alpes in Switzerland is another popular destination for therapies; Mahendra Patel has driven in 45 countries, including Uganda and Jordan in trusty luxury SUVs; TV host and actor Mini Mathur and filmmaker Kabir Khan with daughter Sairah at the paddock at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Image: Virgilio Martinez: Culinary Culture

It may feel like a (dystopian) lifetime ago, but since the Covid-19 lockdown took away travel for the sake of travel, the world hasn’t been the same. Studies show more people are planning leisure holidays now than pre-pandemic, and at the top end of the wealth spectrum, seeking out purposeful experiences with futuristic-sounding themes such as ‘biohacking’ holidays or astrotourism.

Through the pages of this issue, you’ll learn, like us, that no two travellers are the same. While one set is luxuriating in both ancient and modern forms of wellness through Bhutan, Morocco and India, going well beyond the traditional spa-cation, others are using up their loyalty points for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet with their popstar idols.

A big theme for Indian travellers that’s emerged this year, fitting in with the Paris Olympics just coming up, is sports tourism, but with a luxury element.

“The Indian sports fan is dedicated and obsessive. I know that the few tickets allotted to India for quadrennial events like the Olympics are snapped up in no time. In fact, there are now companies dedicated to curating sports experiences for Indians and are bringing on board former players to give fans a unique perspective. Some of our former tennis greats were approached,” coach Aditya Sachdeva, technical director at the RoundGlass Tennis Academy in Mohali, tells Forbes India contributor Anoothi Vishal.

Vishal’s story details how the Indian sports fan isn’t stopping at VIP or all-access tickets for glitzy events such as Wimbledon, the T20 World Cup and, of course, the Olympics this year. Indian travel operators and concierge services are spinning up new verticals just to cater to this category of travellers, offering them the chance to hit balls with Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi before the Wimbledon matches begin (because Novak Djokovic, of course, would cost the Earth!), or watch the T20 World Cup in the US, served with a fireside chat with Sourav Ganguly.

Also read: Living that luxe life: Around the world in a private jet

In fact, sports travel isn’t limited to spectators either. In another story, read about seven-star resorts across the world that offer the chance to have a kitted out vacation, but one focussed on sports training with top football clubs and tennis academies, for instance.

The Indian traveller is getting more adventurous as it is becoming more upwardly mobile, and internet-savvy. In fact, emerging destinations across the Asia-Pacific and Middle East are becoming hotspots, with easier visa regulations and truly luxurious retreat options.

Istanbul pipped London and Paris in the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index for 2023, ranked by Euromonitor and Mastercard, in terms of the number of international visitors who visited for at least 24 hours. Others in the top 10 include Turkey’s Antalya, Dubai, Hong Kong and Bangkok, in addition to London, Paris and New York City.

At number 10 is Mecca in Saudi Arabia, a place of pilgrimage. According to the United Nations, the Middle East is the sole region to not only rebound, but to outpace pre-pandemic tourism levels, with a 122 percent recovery over 2019. Saudi Arabia is at the forefront of this growth, with a staggering 156 percent recovery in international tourism over 2019. The kingdom has set itself an ambitious goal of hosting 150 million tourists by 2030—and did, in fact, welcome 100 million tourists in 2023, both domestic and international. Its government will reportedly spend some $800 billion to develop its hospitality sector, with ultra-luxury options, and hopes to attract about $80 billion in private investment for the cause.

Whether your summer calling is to chase Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, get a one-week anti-ageing package or watch the F1 races from atop a yacht, we’ve got you covered. What’s your travel goal this year? We’d love to hear from you.

(This story appears in the 14 June, 2024 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)