NEW DELHI: Tourists to India are being given the chance to elect for a package holiday with a difference when the country goes to the polls next month.
Travel operators are offering all-in breaks which include taking part in election rallies, attending polls and joining key political figures on campaign trails.
More than 1,600 holidaymakers from around the world have already booked six-day and two-week package deals costing between $600 and $2,000.
Minal Jain, from Indian agency Akshar Travels, said: “We want to showcase Indian democracy to the world. But not just in one state. We want to take people to different parts of India and expose them to different cultures and show how this diverse country comes together to operate democracy.”
General elections in India take on something of a festival feel, and more than 900 million people are expected to head to the polls when voting gets underway on April 11. The result of what is expected to be a tightly fought contest will be announced on May 23.
And more than 35 tour companies in India are hoping to cash in on the election tourism trade.
Akshar Travels, based in the Gujarat state capital of Ahmedabad, has several packages available on its website www.electiontourismindia.com.
Jain said that most of their customers were students, researchers and elderly people interested in Indian culture, history and politics.
As well as hundreds of confirmed bookings, agents had received more than 3,500 other enquiries from around the world about election breaks, Jain added.
The concept of election tourism began in Mexico in 2005 and gained traction a year later at a major international tourism conference in London attended by more than 100 travel operators.
It was first trialed in India during the 2012 Gujarat elections, and gained momentum in the general elections of 2014 when more than 5,200 tourists from countries including China, Nepal, the US, the UAE, Australia, Ukraine, Japan, Germany and France signed up for package deals.
Nimisha Limbachia, a non-resident Indian (NRI) based in Britain, took an Indian election holiday in 2014. “I was really curious to witness the elections after the anti-corruption movement in 2014 that galvanized the whole nation,” she said.
“It was a wonderful experience to see the huge rallies and electrifying crowds that gathered to hear Narendra Modi (current Indian Prime Minister),” the marketing professional told Arab News.
Limbachia intends to return this year too, along with hundreds of other trippers from Britain and throughout Europe.
“People in Britain and Europe are not exposed to big open rallies,” she added. “Thousands of people jostling with each other in the harsh sun to listen to speeches is something unheard of in Britain but there are many who want to experience that.”