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Inspiring product development at Calcutta Walks

Based on personal experience I want to recommend ‘Calcutta Walks’ as a best practice case in successful tourism product development. The basic concept is a variety of thematic guided tours on foot through the city of Calcutta (India) where the personality, knowledge and enthusiasm of the guides is recognised as a crucial factor to make an interesting and enthralling experience to the tourists.
Every part of the official website tells the reader that Calcutta Walks is not just an ordinary tour company with an absent-minded guide rattling off once again the facts he has memorized. The quote ‘The only way to truly get to know a city is to walk it’ epitomizes what the company is all about and the reader is invited to join in exploring Calcutta not with a guide, but a fellow explorer.

Views On Tourism offer you an insight on the concept of the company from Ifte, Iftekhar Ahsan, founder of Calcutta Walks.

How did you come up with the company concept in the first place, how do you develop new products?
We were just terribly disappointed with the way Calcutta was shown and therefore embarked on this adventure…and it’s been rewarding ever since…..we did walks all over the country and south-east Asia before settling down with a particular model for Calcutta…every city and location has to have its own model…one size does not fit all…
We develop new products based on customer requests…we never say never…..give the customer appealing images on the website… extremely prompt in responding to mails….and maintain a confident, informal yet professional approach……..and idea just keep flowing…

How do you select new guides/explores? Which qualifications do you look for and is there a need of introduction training?
We’re only 3 of us so far and may need more in future…..but our explorers first need to be good human beings…in touch with themselves and their surroundings…..secondly a love for the city…even with all its ills….is a must…….third great English…pleasing demeanor….enterprising and honest….and willing to learn and share what he learns…

Who are your customers? Is ‘Calcutta Walks’ attracting particular groups of clients e.g. Indian or foreigners, backpackers or hotel guests, young or old?
Our customers are mostly people tired of regular tours….people looking for a fresh approach…..though most of our guests come from the star hotels its only because we’ve marketed ourselves to them….but otherwise we get all sorts of requests from all over…..and our pricing of RS. 1000 per person is such that most tourists can afford it….but unfortunately it’s usually foreigners…..a lot of Indians want to do the tours but they just don’t want to pay that much……and we consider it their loss not ours…

Which reaction to the company concept have you had from the tourists?
We’ve received a hundred responses in which people say its the best tour they’ve had in the whole country and that’s quite something…isn’t it? so our guests go back with a happy happy face

Is it important to know the opinion and level of satisfaction of a customer? How do you use customer input?
Our guests write to us in long mails……sharing personal information……and things they’d like to do….their inclinations and all that……and we use all that to offer to the guests what would best suit him or her…..

How do you get in contact with new customers?
Mostly through our website, hotels and word-of-mouth publicity in the city…..the media does a great job of spreading the word….and now thankfully we’ve reached a stage where we’re not even aware of people writing about us…..but every write-up means so many more links of the internet and that helps in proving us credibility….

Do you have any good business experiences you would like to share? Has the company developed as you expected?
The company has moved many more notches than we thought it would….we’re ten times the size that we were last year…and we hope to grow in the coming months….we’re meeting a lot of new agents and the people who do our walks promise to spread the word to more people….and hopefully by next year we should be a tour de force…..

Be inspired at Calcutta Walks in Calcutta, India.
This article is written by Majbritt Thomsen, administrator on ‘Views On Tourism’.

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Posted in Best practice, Customer opinions, Education and qualification, India, Performance and management.

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