Shanti Travel is a local travel expert in Asia that provides customized holidays in India and Asia. With offices in New Delhi, Pondicherry, Colombo, Kathmandu, Yangon, Singapore and Bali, the company offers tailor made trips to India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia, Burma, Tibet, Mongolia and the Maldives. We interviewed Alex Le Beuan and Jeremy Grasset, the Directors of the company, to find out about the types of adventures you can experience in Asia, weird requests of their clients, travel trends, why it’s better to explore Asian regions with a travel agency vs on your own and many other things. Check out their interesting answers and get to know this cool travel agency.
1Hello, Alex and Jeremy. Could you please tell us what range of services Shanti Travel can offer to those who want to visit India or Asia and how do you help them create a perfect holiday?
In the photo below: Jeremy Grasset (left) and Alex Le Beuan (right)
Shanti Travel offers a broad range of customizable individual and group holidays to its customers across the globe. A traveler can choose a readymade program from our website, or get in touch with a travel designer to create a customized itinerary. Customers can choose from many themes including discovery, adventure, trekking, diving, family travel, honeymoon, horse riding, wellness, festivals and wildlife. Depending on their budget, duration of stay, number of travelers, passions and interests, a dedicated travel designer presents several ideas to create the perfect itinerary. For instance, a horse riding enthusiast can choose our ‘Sri Lanka on Horse Back’ program or a family with kids can choose a kid friendly holiday like ‘Tigers, Dunes & Palaces’, which is a concoction of wildlife, culture and heritage.
2Who is the person who founded Shanti Travel? How the idea of creating this agency was born? And how did you guys manage to grow into a successful company with offices in several Asian countries?
The seed of Shanti Travel was sowed the day Frenchman Alex Le Beuan fell in love with India. Shanti Travel was birthed in January 2005 with a fervent vision to offer travelers the freedom to design their own travel experience focusing on quality and off the beaten tracks journeys. Alex believed that taking travelers to the local population and exposing them to authentic cultures would make a holiday eternal and magic. He was joined in this mission by fellow Frenchman Jeremy Grasset. Shanti Travel’s first office opened its doors in the capital city of New Delhi. Soon after, SHANTI sprung a satellite office to build its South India expertise and accessibility. What better place than the erstwhile French colony of Puducherry? But these incorrigible French were not satiated. The tear-drop shaped Emerald Isle of Sri Lanka beckoned them. SHANTI opened its first overseas office in 2010 in the capital of the island, Colombo, thus fortifying its foothold in the South Asian travel market. The company grew, wanderlusts who wanted to make travel their life joined the company as travel designers, and things flourished. And then SHANTI decided it’s time to step out of its cocoon. The pull of South East Asia was too potent to let go off. In 2013, SHANTI added another jewel to its repertoire – Bali. Yangon in Myanmar was added in 2014. Today, Shanti Travel has a deep presence in South Asia and we plan to keep on growing!
3What activities can you organize and what locations do you cover?
Depending upon the destination, we can organize activities such as wildlife safaris, cultural sightseeing tours, luxury train rides, river & backwater cruises, diving expeditions, horseback riding, trekking tours (ranging from easy to challenging), white water rafting, Ayurveda & yoga classes, massages, participation in festivals, and much more. Our locations include North India (Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, North East India), South India (Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Andaman, Pondicherry, etc.), the Indian Himalayas with a special focus on Ladakh, Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives & Mongolia.
4Can you name some good reasons why people should choose to explore Asia with a travel agency like yourself instead of planning a trip on their own?
Sure! In a region like Asia, where cultures & languages are so different diverse, infrastructure is still developing and landscapes are sometimes daunting, it becomes important to know someone locally.
1. Local Travel Expert: Shanti Travel has been a local expert in Asia for almost 10 years. We possess deep knowledge and passion for Asia, which makes us your best friend for travel planning! There is so much to see & do in Asia, that it can be mind boggling if you depend on your own online research. Having a trusted expert in your destination of choice is an invaluable resource.
2. Personalized advice & assistance: Shanti Travel employs more than 80 travel experts across its offices in Asia. These international experts from Europe, North America & Asia are available to assist you 24/7 before, during and after your tailor made holiday to Asia. You will never be alone during your trip and will always have access to experts located close to you.
3. Safety: Our travel experts in Asia are expats who have travelled the countries extensively and live here themselves! So they possess the kind of knowledge and intelligence that enables them to ensure safe & secure holidays for you and your loved ones.
4. Cost effective: We do not use any intermediaries in our trips, thus we pass on the reduced cost to our clients. Our bargaining power with hotels, car drivers and other vendors will translate to lower costs for you!
5. Customer satisfaction: Over 25,000 people have travelled with us across our destinations in Asia. Of these, 96% have reported satisfaction with our personalized services and destination expertise!
6. People are disappointed by choices provided by mass online booking websites like booking.com. A local travel agent will have much more to offer.
7. Group travel: If 2-3 families or group of friends are traveling together from different country, it can get really hard to organize the trip. A travel agent can do that easily!
5Comparing Shanti Travel with other big Asian travel agencies –do you have any perks to offer to travellers that other agencies can’t provide?
There are no local tailor made-travel agencies offering so many countries in Asia with the level of quality that we provide. We propose local expertise and crazy experiences at lower costs, with 24/7h assistance, concierge services, etc.
6Can you list some really cool things that most of people din’t know they could do in India/Asia (and which you can obviously organize)?
You can have dinner with a Maharaja in his palace. You can be chauffeured around in a vintage car in Rajasthan. You can horseback ride across the beaches of Sri Lanka and the desert of Rajasthan. You can trek to an active volcano in Indonesia or across a frozen river in Ladakh. You can witness fishermen on stilts and floating markets in Myanmar. You can go on a spice plantation tour in Kerala.
7What travel trends are you noticing?
Travelers are moving away from commercial & common destinations to more off-the-beaten-track locations. They want more control over their itineraries. Client knowledge is rising thanks to the Internet, however the accuracy of their information may be low, as destination knowledge should be based more on day-to-day traveling experiences rather than guidebook style content. This is where forums like TripAdvisor help.
8What are the most weird or funny requests you have received from your clients with regards to their trips so far?
– A guest visiting Sri Lanka wanted to visit the Tamil Tigers (LTTE, one of the most brutal terrorist groups in the world)!!
– A ‘naturist’ couple wanted to stay as naked as possible… in INDIA!
– In Indonesia, a client wanted to visit an erupting volcano!
– In India, a group wanted to visit a ‘clean’ Kumbh Mela (the largest religious gathering in the world…can never be clean!)
– We also had a booking from a mistress who tried very hard to hide the name of the partner joining her!
9Which are your top activities/programs that travellers enjoy the most?
Our English speaking clients love holidays infused with culture, sightseeing, wildlife and heritage. They love to visit historical places (Forts & Palaces, British Buildings & Hunting Lodges), especially travellers from the UK who can see the imprint of the erstwhile British rule. Cultural events, dance and music festivals catch their fancy. A balanced mix of adventure and relaxation is ideal. Train Journeys, plantations & Gardens (Coffee, Tea, Rubber, Spices), National Parks and Hill Stations are popular. In Burma, people love to visit Bagan.
10Regarding the costs, how much should one expect to spend for a whole trip? Could you give us a few examples of budget ranges depending on number of days and type of activities? Do you have any special offers?
With Shanti Travel, the cost per person can start from less than $1,000 to more than $5,000 for multi-day trips. For instance, a 9 day holiday in Sri Lanka including a combination of culture & nature across at least 10 locations in comfortable accommodation can start from $600 per person. We continually run special offers for certain destinations, especially for our repeat clients.
11What are your plans for the future? Are you planning to introduce new programs or expand into more destinations?
Shanti Travel is expanding at breakneck speed. We are already a force to reckon with in South Asia, and we are inching our way across South East Asia now. Yes, we have recently launched holidays for Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. We will be offering Philippines next year and may be one or two more surprises!