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Luxury Tea Estate Escapes: Darjeeling’s New Tourism Trend Combines Relaxation and Cultural Immersion

Steeped in the charm of a bygone era, Darjeeling is a tapestry of lush, misty green hills fragrant with the scent of tea leaves. Reminiscent of colonial times, its grand estate houses are drawing in tourists who wish to savor the luxe life of a Darjeeling tea estate owner. Tea vacations, or “tea-cations”, are the latest trend sweeping the city and beyond.

Tea estate tourism could potentially spur growth in India’s outdoor hospitality industry, diversifying accommodation options, such as RV sites, cabins, and glamping experiences. This could appeal to a broader tourist demographic interested in outdoor recreation.

Namit Kapoor, who sought refuge from Gurugram’s heat in Darjeeling with his family, is one such example. Their chosen abode, the Taj Chia Kutir Spa & Resorts, is nestled in Kurseong’s historic Makai Bari tea estate, the home of the world’s first tea factory and founded in 1859.

The Makai Bari tea estate became a global hotspot when it hosted a G20 tourism track meeting in April 2023. Delegates had the rare opportunity to handpick tea leaves and relish Silver Tips Imperial, one of the world’s most extravagant teas, as reported by The Print India.

These initiatives fall in line with the West Bengal government’s endeavors to boost tea tourism through its Tea Tourism and Allied Business Policy 2019. The policy encourages owners to convert parts of their estates into homestays or build hotels, aiming to lure more tourists, stimulate job growth, and provide tea garden owners with additional revenue streams.

Adopting sustainable and eco-friendly practices in tea estate tourism is paramount to preserving the natural beauty of Darjeeling and other tea-growing regions, thereby promoting responsible tourism. These practices encompass responsible waste management, renewable energy use, and minimal environmental impact.

A 2022 notification reiterated that tea estate managers could redevelop up to 15% of the total grant area (up to 150 acres) without disrupting the plantation. It also forbade reduction in plantation areas or workforce to accommodate hotels or homestays. The government mandated that 80% of the new project workforce within the tea gardens should comprise locals.

A well-trained and retained workforce is vital for maintaining high-quality service for guests. It is essential to provide ongoing training in customer service, hospitality operations, and cultural sensitivity.

Tea tourism, attracting a niche clientele, is expanding in West Bengal, says Manav Soni of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI). The immersive and experiential travel opportunities, like tea leaf picking, personalized tastings, and spa sessions, offer luxury amenities in line with the price.

Although Darjeeling has always been a popular hill station, tea tourism is primarily targeted at premium customers. Packages start from Rs 10,000 per person for two nights and three days and can go up to a lakh if an entire villa accommodating ten people is booked, according to Soni.

Successful marketing strategies, such as social media, engaging content, and collaborations with travel influencers, could be key in attracting the target audience for tea estate tourism businesses.

In sync with the government’s drive, the hospitality sector, including giants like the Tata Group’s Indian Hotels Company Ltd and ITC, is optimistic about tea tourism in Darjeeling. The Taj Chia Kutir, located within Makai Bari, boasts 72 rooms with captivating views of the tea plantation and is typically booked out.

The West Bengal government has already received 16 proposals for developing tourism-related businesses in tea gardens in Darjeeling, Terai, and Dooars. Collectively, these could result in an investment of Rs 1,400 crore and potentially create over 4,500 jobs, as reported by The Telegraph.

Other states, like Assam, are also exploring tea tourism opportunities. The Assam government has earmarked Rs 50 crore in its 2022-23 budget to construct guest houses and facilities in some tea gardens.

As travel bans are lifted, tea tourism is predicted to gain traction, especially among foreign tourists. Social media will play a crucial role in advertising these properties domestically and overseas, notes Soni.

While many of the resorts in Darjeeling are new, some are repurposed from the grand bungalows where tea garden managers lived during the British era. These buildings serve as an architectural testament to the area’s rich history and tradition.


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Hi, you might find this article from Modern Campground interesting: Luxury Tea Estate Escapes: Darjeeling's New Tourism Trend Combines Relaxation and Cultural Immersion! This is the link: https://moderncampground.com/asia/india/luxury-tea-estate-escapes-darjeelings-new-tourism-trend-combines-relaxation-and-cultural-immersion/