Monuments and buildings are an integral part of a city’s landscape as well as history. Buildings are relics carrying the stamps from the past; as perpetual chronicles of the bygone days. These cities therefore transform into living museums as their history unravels before the very eyes of the spectator. They are capable of retelling stories from the time of their institution and the eras that they have outlived. Though historical monuments and buildings are often treasured for their architectural brilliance and sheer grandeur, very often the contemporary architectural works or elusive landmark buildings remain largely unappreciated well camouflaged amongst other buildings. At the very same time there remain many lesser known historically significant architectural gems amidst the urban, concrete jungle.
Architectural tours aspire to bridge the gap between modernity and antiquity, carefully guiding enthusiasts as they passionately rediscover the cryptic messages or the design and style of both historic and contemporary buildings. Visiting the architectural marvels, have always been part and parcel of visiting a destination. But now we have identified it as a different travel niche with an expert host taking you to the unexplored corners of the city. Commenting about the surge of interest in architectural tours as a distinct travel segment over the last few years, Brijesh Saijal, Founder and Managing Director of World Architectural Travel, says, “Generally, for any tours across the world, it’s always the archaeological sites and heritage buildings that form part of the usual itinerary. Modern and contemporary buildings are usually ignored, in spite of the fact that, there is a wealth of exceptional work that exists today which is of huge interest especially to the modern traveller, in general and the creative community, in particular. Therefore, there is a definite space for architectural tours addressing the vacuum in the field of Modern Architectural interests. We have been conducting such Architectural tours across the world for various organizations for about seven years now. This has kindled a lot of interest in India and abroad.”
Architectural Tour organizers are looking out for novel ways to weave history into the narrative to keep their audience engaged. They resort to the art of storytelling to bring more soul to the curves and lines. Prateek Chatterjee, AVP Host Alliances, Xoxoday, says, “Visiting monuments, temples or any other important architectural site is an important part of experiencing the culture and history of the place. Because people are increasingly frequenting these places nowadays, the “story telling” concept is garnering immense popularity and has already created a niche segment for itself. This way, you not only marvel at what you see but have relevant background information and little-known insights about the place.”
Digital media has been anything but transformational in every aspect travel, as in other spheres of life. Probed by the thought that perhaps, the increased use of digital media has contributed to the heightened interest towards architectural tours, we probed the interviewees about the same. Prateek explains that, “Digital media acts as an important “connector” and helps the travellers to be more aware of the architectural sites in a city. Take Xoxoday for example, you have this digital platform which provides you wholesome architectural, cultural and historical experiences. From transportation to accommodation to guided tours, every aspect of the tour is taken care of.” On the contrary, Brijesh opines, “The Digital media is not a game-changing factor but has certainly helped in connecting and communicating with people of similar interests.”
Talking about the response from the Indian market, Brijesh says, “As we are one the pioneers in this niche of Architectural Tours and having initiated it in India, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. We have succeeded in creating a lot of interest towards travel combining academic interests and leisure.” Prateek, also agrees that architectural tours are gaining popularity by the day. He explains, “Domestically, about 7% of the travellers are interested in these tours and this figure is on a steady rise. The main demographics in this segment are the solo travellers and families.” Overall, it would be safe to assume that the segment is growing at a slow yet steady rate of 7 to 10% within the Indian scenario, given that India has no dearth of monuments or iconic buildings. The Indian cities of Agra, Hyderabad, Kolkata etc. are idyllic sites for architectural tours.
When quizzed about how one can create a unique identity in this burgeoning segment and about the USP of their brand, Brijesh says, “Having been in this field for more some time now, we have specialized in designer Architectural Tours wherein the emphasis is on modern art, architecture and design. We believe in Designing Tours according to special interests and therefore every destination is a best seller!”
But the true charm of these architectural tours lie in the hands or rather the eloquence which in turn stems from the knowledge of the guide or the “host” about the place and about the architectural elements of the place. Nevertheless most tour organizers vouch that they only partner with the most experienced hosts. Prateek elaborates excitedly, “At Xoxoday, we are vigorously promoting Architectural tours with experienced Hosts giving the travellers knowledgable and authentic insights. Xoxoday partners with some of the most trusted and experienced Hosts in the market. If you are on one of our tours, you will have a knowledgeable host who will paint the story of the place for you with all the relevant historical and cultural facts and trivia. Domestically, the top selling Experiences are Cultural Walks & Tours of Kolkata, Religious Tours of Omkareshwara, City Walks Of Bangalore, Heritage Walks of Mysore Palace, Taj Mahal tour in Agra and Hyderabad Kid Friendly Tours. Internationally, Europe, Egypt and Dubai have the major architectural attractions. The variety of experiences all over the country and abroad at Xoxoday makes sure that all segments are catered.”
Commenting about the potential to scale in this segment, the competition and marketing strategies, Prateek maintains that, “There is a huge potential for growth in this market with digital and travel companies focusing on expanding the reach with aggressive marketing strategies. The competition is pretty much limited since most of the monuments and architectural sites are essentially operated by the State or Central Government but various travel companies and experiential companies (like Xoxoday) are trying to penetrate the market.”
The next step in the evolution of architectural tours according to Brijesh is personalized architectural tours. He explains, “At present, there are very few companies in the market specializing in Designer Tours in this sector. There has been a gradual increase in awareness about such tours and we believe Personalized Tours are going to be the future of Travel and Tourism. Moreover, with our expertise and experience in this field, we perceive a comfortable growth in this niche segment, over the years.”