Vasim Shaikh, 39, founder and CEO, The Q Travel Experiences Pvt Ltd
Image: The Q Experiences
For many years, the idea of launching an around-the-world private jet tour that would take off from India was a persistent vision for Vasim Shaikh, 39, founder and CEO of The Q Travel Experiences Pvt Ltd, which curates unique adventures in the realm of luxury travel in India.
Were Indian travellers ready to accept and embrace such an expedition? That was the question that had yet to be answered to bring the concept to fruition. However, as the world of luxury travel evolves, so have the tastes of the discerning Indian traveller.
Shaikh observed a shift in preferences and surging demand for exclusive sojourns to remote corners of the world. “Travellers of today seek exclusivity, comfort and a personalised experience that caters to their every whim,” says Shaikh.
A 2023 survey by TravClan, a global B2B travel tech platform, as reported by Hindu Businessline, revealed that Indian tourists are shifting their travel preferences towards luxury experiences, with over 50 percent of bookings made for branded hotel chains like Ramada, Taj, Novotel and Marriott, reflecting an increasing appetite for upscale hospitality. Additionally, a significant trend emerging is more than 50 percent of Indian travellers prioritise offbeat, lesser-known destinations over traditional tourist spots, emphasising their growing desire for authentic cultural experiences and local immersion.
Enter The Q Odyssey
Taking luxury travel to new heights to align with these discerning preferences resulted in the company’s latest offering—The Q Odyssey. A 27-day global private jet tour with a capacity for just 48 travellers aboard, curated with cultural and immersive elements that resonate with Indian travellers.
The Q Travel Experiences Pvt Ltd is the first-ever Indian travel company to craft such a tour that is set to take flight on November 17, 2024, from Mumbai. “It bestows upon our clients a world of unprecedented possibilities, enabling them to embark on unique odysseys from the comfort of their home country,” says Shaikh. “It is a transformative moment in the landscape of luxury travel, providing an exclusive gateway to the world’s most remarkable destinations, where every desire of the traveller is meticulously catered to.”
The tour, priced at $135,000 per person, will traverse six continents, visiting nine unique destinations, each chosen with a unique experience in mind and world-class accommodation. It begins with a luxurious train ride on The Rovos Rail, exploring the breathtaking African landscapes from Victoria Falls to Pretoria, including a game drive in Hwange National Park. From there, the odyssey takes a dramatic turn to the captivating canyons and desert scenery of Al Ula in Saudi Arabia. The journey continues to Lofoten Island where guests can witness the mesmerising Northern Lights. They will also have the opportunity to take a hot air balloon ride over the Teotihuacan Pyramids in Mexico. Finally, the itinerary wraps up with an immersive experience in traditional Japanese culture in Kyoto.
Pawan Jain, 69, founder & chairman of Safexpress Pvt Ltd New Delhi, who loves exploring new places, is among the guests who will embark on this exclusive tour and eagerly awaits the thrill that lies ahead.
“This is my first time on such a long journey, yet the prospect of exploring places that would otherwise be challenging to visit on our own is incredibly enticing,” says Jain. Also read: Can India become the next China for the luxury market?
Despite the hefty price tag, the tour has gained interest from the company’s existing clientele based across India and abroad. Of the 22 guests that have already reserved, 16 guests are previous clients of The Q Travel Experiences. The age range of the guests is between 48 and 85. The type of clients, Shaikh says, that are drawn to such an experience share a common aspiration for exclusive and luxurious travel experiences, and expectations are high.
Mumbai-based Bhaskar Iyer, 67, operating partner with two global private equity firms, will be on this tour with wife Aruna, 64. “We would want it to be comfortable, with a luxurious ambience and an efficient service with attention to individual needs,” says Iyer.
Even though embarking on a tour of this duration is a new experience for Gopal Krishnan V, founder-chairman, Ninestars, Bengaluru, it is the type of itinerary that is ideal for someone like him. He describes himself as a true traveller at heart, who enjoys exploring new destinations, new cultures and savouring new cuisine.
“My expectations for this tour are centred around premium comfort and the assurance of impeccable service, creating a one-of-a-kind and unforgettable journey,” says Krishnan V.
While Girish Maheshwari, 64, founder of Finar Limited, Ahmedabad, is looking forward to immersing himself in the wonders of nature throughout this tour. “I’m genuinely eager to explore nearly all the destinations because each of them holds a unique charm and promise of captivating experiences,” says Maheshwari. “It’s a journey of diverse and intriguing places that I can’t wait to discover, and the prospect of a luxury train experience adds an extra layer of excitement to the adventure.”
Service onboard, and off
Ensuring a seamless, high-quality experience involves meticulous planning, from maintaining the high standards to meeting guest expectations to accommodating diverse meal preferences, particularly for Indian guests.
“Originally, we had planned to start this once-in-a-lifetime journey from the iconic Taj Mahal, but due to the limited resources that the airport in Agra has, we had to change it, and now our journey starts from Mumbai,” says Shaikh. India currently has only two dedicated private jet terminals, in Mumbai and Delhi. Also read: Inside the world of bespoke private jet tours that could rewrite how the rich travel and holiday
Shaikh also underscores the level of service and attention to detail that will be made along the way. “VIP meet and greet with smooth customs and immigration awaits as we land on the private jet terminal at each destination,” he says. “From handling dietary requests to facilitating visas, every aspect of this experience is seamlessly catered to.”
Onboard, with a capacity for just 48 travellers aboard a chartered Boeing 757, first-class seats recline into fully lie-flat beds, ensuring comfort while jet-setting from one location to another. The jet also features an open bar with a wine selection and includes in-flight entertainment options along with complimentary internet access so guests can stay connected while globetrotting.
Maheshwari places significant importance on the aircraft’s design and amenities in between exclusive cultural activities. “As a seasoned million-mile traveller, the ease of travel is of utmost importance. I envision my ideal in-flight experience as a time for relaxation, allowing me to recharge for the ground exploration,” he says.
Apart from expecting a smooth and hassle-free journey, Jain is looking forward to having vegetarian food choices available. Two international chefs will be part of the crew to deliver gourmet food that caters to the requirements of all the guests. “We have a renowned Indian chef, Vicky Ratnani, especially for our vegetarian guests to craft sublime culinary delights, making each meal an unforgettable experience,” says Shaikh. The Boeing 757 has first-class seats that recline into fully lie-flat beds
Image: The Q Experiences
New trends, new tours
“The evolving travel trends in the industry are increasingly focussed on experiential travel,” says Shaikh. “We may see more customised and remote destination-focussed journeys, with a stronger emphasis on cultural and experiential elements.”
After the debut tour next year, Q Travel Experiences has lined up two private jet tours for 2025. “Our plan includes an enticing around-the-world tour and an enthralling 12-day African adventure,” says Shaikh. “We remain laser-focussed on pushing the boundaries of opulent travel and offering experiences that encapsulate the grandeur and wonder that our travellers seek.”
He adds that the demand for unique holiday experiences, including private jet tours, that offer guests new ways to meet people from diverse cultures, discover unique destinations and relish exciting cuisines, will reshape luxury travel in India.
Iyer, whose passion for travel and visiting exotic places drew him to this around-the-world trip, concurs. He believes thoughtfully curated trips like a private jet tour could see a rise in the number of Indians undertaking such trips. “The convenience of a private jet departing from India to explore diverse destinations is a compelling proposition that aligns with the evolving preferences of Indian travellers,” he says.
(This story appears in the 17 November, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)