I see my customers as my guests that I have invited along on a personal tour. Every trip I observe and try to make it a little bit more special as an experience.
I belong to a generation that still remembers going to see a movie in a cinema hall with cousins, neighbors and aunts all squabbling for the front row balcony seats where we could put our legs up on the railing ledge. Baskets of sandwiches, home made fried chips, sera- badam (puffed rice dry fried with peanuts) and lemonade in glass bottles with a marble stopper or flasks filled with hot chai were planned and packed to be eaten at the movie hall. I hear similar stories from friends who grew up in Bangalore and the drive in theater was a part of their childhood.
When friends visited us on our farm in upper Assam, outings used to be planned. Below is a quote from my blog post – http://curtaincalladventures.com/a-picnic-by-the-river-bhramaputra/
“Another time, we had gone on a picnic to a spot in Arunachal Pradesh with family friends, very beautiful but quite a trek to get to. All the camping and cooking equipment had to be hauled by the helpers, a small group consisting of our driver, cook and their assistants. Once base was set, my father ordered tea for everyone. Our friends were very impressed when the cook served it in my mother’s fine porcelain tea set placed on her silver tray, with a delicate tray cloth covering it. Apparently the cook was told to pack stuff for tea and since he usually served tea in this manner, it was all in the day’s work for him.”
Sadly,the cook Nitai has retired and the silver now rests on my mom’s living room mantel but I still maintain that sense of hospitality with my guests. From choice of vehicles and experienced drivers to making sure there are always clean extra towels for guests. Freshly prepared breakfast baskets for guests who arrive via a long flight or a very early one and need to drive for two hours or more to their destination. No matter how remote we travel, a cup of freshly brewed coffee or choice of tea is always available to go with your breakfast or evening snack. Hot water bags, umbrellas and travel pillows are there for guests to use during the duration of their travel with us.
For the experience, I personally scout the villages to find the best local guides, artisans, both for the handmade and performances. I go over the route with guides and discuss with locals the best sites, events etc. We have food partners, naturalists, local experts who help make the trip a little more than a regular packaged holiday. I am always conscious that our guests are my contemporaries with similar travel and cultural expectations and hence have a heightened sensitivity to ensuring we get the small details right.
In our little root travel section, I specially create itineraries that will be fun for the little ones and the adults accompanying them.
To make it memorable I discuss with my guests their interests, North East wish list and then include activities which align with what our guests want to do. In the past we have arranged cooking classes, tea tasting sessions and market visits for our guests, home cooked meals in people’s homes for an authentic culinary experience and to interact with the local populace to understand the region. We have arranged special performances in Meghalaya, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Manipur which have delighted our guests. Yes, we do direct our guests to the best bargains and shops.
For bird watcher special guides to take them through the jungle. For the outdoor enthusiast we arrange treks, tea garden visits, picnics, barbecues and bonfires and for the romantics’ sunset boat rides.
Below is a link to an article I wrote on what lead to my starting the curated tour venture.