Saturday,  February 23, 2019  10:38 am

India: Incredible all year round

India: Incredible all year round
Garima Shamsukha, manager, business development, Services International Toronto, and Roman Pereira, information officer, Tourism India, Toronto.
Christine Hogg

Christine Hogg is the Associate Digital Editor at PAX Global Media. Prior to joining PAX, she obtained her Honours BA in Journalism from the University of Toronto. Upon graduating, she went on to write for several travel publications while travelling the world. Her longest trip was a three-week stint in Europe, and the shortest was a 16-hour adventure in Iceland. Get in touch:

Tourism to India is at an all-time high.

With an easy online e-visa application that sends confirmation of processing between 24 and 48 hours, as well as no vaccine requirements, many Canadians are eager to explore the cultural traditions of India, especially with a series of direct flight offerings from Toronto to Delhi through carriers like Air Canada.

Last night, Services International met with travel agents and trade media at The Host restaurant in Toronto to demonstrate the various tourism products that will help agents sell packages to India.

Services International has been leading tours through India since 1977. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and composed of a team of more than 70 professionals around the world, Services International prides itself on its friendly and efficient service, which in turn, leads to repeat bookings. Though Services International bears the Lufthansa City Center name, it is not directly connected to the airline. “The owners of Lufthansa Airlines and Lufthansa City Center have chosen a few agencies worldwide to provide the ground operations, and for India, they’ve chosen Services International,” explained Garima Shamsukha, manager, business development, Services International. “This shows you the kind of quality service you can expect from us, and that you’re in the right hands.”


“Services International is a wholesaler directly from India, and we do everything directly related to travel through India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, and Sri Lanka,” Shamsukha said. “The best part is that because we’re wholesalers, we are able to offer competitive rates compared to other wholesalers based here, and we reply to all inquiries on our site within 24 hours. If you don’t hear from us, it means we didn’t get your inquiry; that’s the kind of guarantee [to customer service] we’re giving you.”

Custom-fit Tours to India

One aspect that sets Services International apart from other wholesale tour operators in India is that the agency has its own fleet of approximately 20 vehicles, in different makes and models for the number of travellers in a given group. All of the drivers hired by Services International have been employed by the company for at least 10 years, making them suitable to answer the questions of tourists, and giving them a good sense of the popular tourist spots to appease guests coming to India for the first time.

Services International specializes in group and FIT travel, but they are also able to create custom itineraries for travellers wishing to see bits and pieces of India through smaller cities. The agency’s website promotes an easy-to-use booking platform that lets travel agents quickly enter crucial information, like number of guests, type of hotel accommodations, length of stay, and more. The platform automatically calculates pricing in four different currencies, and if a last-minute change to the itinerary is necessary, the booking engine re-calculates the total cost with a simple click. “We are working with all four-star and five-star hotels [in India], and we’ll customize whatever your clients need,” Shamsukha said.

The best time to come to India is October through March, which is India’s winter, as well as Canada’s winter. However, winters in India are very mild: today’s temperature in Mumbai, for example, is a staggering 31 degrees Celsius! And, no matter what day of the year it is, there’s always something going on in India. “Just coming to India once in a lifetime isn’t enough, said Roman Pereira, information officer, Tourism India, Toronto. “As we say in India, ‘Athithi devo bhava—‘guest is god’. Here, we welcome a stranger and send him back as a friend. Once a foreigner visits this country, they come back, again and again.”


Hassle-free Visa Application

All Canadian travellers to India require a visa. The confirmation email will come between 24 and 48 hours, making travel plans hassle-free and convenient. And, unlike some destinations world-wide that charge a steep reciprocity fee, the fee for an Indian visa is $50 USD, equivalent to about $64 CAD.

More than 150 countries can obtain an Indian visa on arrival, and the process can be completed online, from start to finish. Once a Canadian traveller has obtained their Indian visa, it is valid for 60 days double entry.

India: Culture, Colour, and Contemporary

No matter what region of India travellers explore, there’s an abundance of history in each city and community. India is home to 32 recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are a mix of ancient and contemporary culture, such as the Khajuraho Group of Monuments in Madhya Pradesh, India, and the Sundarbans National Park, where India’s Bengal tigers still roam. And of course, other world-famous tourism sites like the Taj Mahal in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India still beckon visitors.

Temples aside, India has so much to offer in terms of promoting its natural landscapes. “India is not just a destination to be visited for two or three seasons,” Pereira said. “In India, we’ve been recognized all over the world; we’re open for business 365 days a year, and we have one festival for every day! Even in the heat, or in the monsoon season, guests love it; they have fun out on the streets riding their bikes in the rain.”

13210640254_cc0aa8ed1d_k.jpgHoli, the 'festival of colours', is one of India's biggest festivals, taking place this year on Mar. 1, 2018. Photo: supratik chakraborty, Flickr

When travellers think of visiting India, they might be surprised to find out that the country is full of beaches so beautiful they give the Caribbean a run for their money. In the southern and western coastal regions in particular, the waters are warm and turquoise — but not just in Goa, as Pereira points out, although the region is especially beautiful.

“There’s a beach called Calangute Beach [in Goa] and it’s got silver sand,” Pereira said. “All of the other beaches in the region have black sand, but this one has silver sand.” The beaches in Chennai and Tamil Nadu are also exceptionally striking, and popular with tourists.

Manageable Medical Emergencies

Perhaps one of the most popular reasons for travel to India in recent years is medical tourism; often offered at a fraction of the cost compared to North American treatment, more and more Canadians are travelling to India for complicated procedures like fertility treatment.

“We have state-of-the-art facilities and our doctors have studied and trained around the world,” Pereira said. For many North American travellers who require costly healthcare services, Services International therefore has the ability to plan and coordinate a trip to India with medical tourism in mind.

India for Everyone

Services International works closely with one, two, three, four, and five-star hotels in India to provide every kind of accommodations available to solo, group, FIT, and family travellers. There are also thousands of bed and breakfast, or AirBnB accommodations and homestays throughout the country to ensure guests to India get what they want out of their travel experience.

As far as transportation through the country goes, luxury or mountain train services are also a very popular choice amongst tourists, because as a sizeable country with a diverse geographical landscape, seeing India by train is one of the best ways to truly get a feel for the destination. Palace on Wheels, or the Deccan Odyssey, for example, are two luxury trains that allow guests explore the country by rail, with luxury sleeping and dining accommodations right on the train.

the-train.jpgThe Deccan Odyssey, a luxury train service in India.

As far as the future goes, Services International is confident that 2018 will be a strong year for Canadian travel to India. “In 2017, we had a very good year, and we did about 25 groups, as well as a lot of FIT travel” Shamsukha said. “We work from March to March, so although it’s very early to say, I feel it will be a very wonderful year.”

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