As the President of Sodha Travel and India travel expert, Allison is passionate about offering travel tips and destination inspiration. She has curated content for several publications, including Little India, and facilitated panels on sustainable travel in South Asia. Allison is currently the Delhi Destination Expert for AFAR and India Specialist for the Women’s Tour Collective.
MS. Please describe your professional journey with us and tell us how you thought up the idea to start Sodha Travel? Over time, tell us about a major milestone you have achieved in the Travel industry.
Allison Sodha. I always had an affinity for India and nurtured this curiosity by studying Indian history and religiosity in college. My favorite courses were History of Modern India, Hinduism, and Foundations of Buddhism. My research continued post-grad as I traveled across the country and contributed my work to several publications. This passion to create experiences fueled by a deeper understanding of the destinations planted the seeds for Sodha Travel. In the past 15+ years I have interviewed diplomats and dignitaries, facilitated panels on sustainable initiatives in South Asia, and held the title of Delhi Local Expert with AFAR Media. However, my biggest milestone was becoming an author! Go! Girl Guides India released on March 8th of this year. The 450-page guidebook weaves a tapestry of cultural curiosities, destination inspiration, health and safety, and travel tales in 20 destinations and five national parks across north and west India.
MS. Who are your key clients and what makes you apart from other Travel agencies?
Allison Sodha. Our key clients are savvy, educated travelers who look beyond the typical mass-produced itinerary; they seek experiential and regenerative offerings that provide a deeper connection to the destination. Sodha Travel’s expertise is not just from living in the region or being well-traveled. It’s a culmination of almost two decades of research, interviews, and insider access to local communities. Our clients recognize and value our passion and expertise.
MS. What about India as a tourism destination, in your opinion, is greatly misunderstood? Do American tourists get to see the “genuine” India?
Allison Sodha. India is far more complex than arranged marriage, poverty, the caste system, and polytheism. I also believe there are many misconceptions about women traveling to India. There is a fundamental difference between statistics and sensationalism. Of course I cannot speak for every woman, nor do I intend to minimize the experience of another, but I truly believe in being informed and not influenced. Even on a mass-produced group tour to the Golden Triangle, travelers – American or otherwise – will still have authentic connections and conversations. It is equally the responsibility of the tour operator to create and execute a less manufactured and more genuine experience.
MS. What communication and learning possibilities do you think there are between US travel agents and their Indian counterparts?
Allison Sodha. Tremendous possibilities! The key is creating strategic partnerships that cater to both markets and identifying the unique operational challenges.
MS. Which aspects of your business concept do you regard to be critical success factors?
Allison Sodha. Personalization and connection. It’s important to really listen to your clients and understand the WHY behind selecting a destination. At Sodha Travel, we customize each and every itinerary. The planning process is a time to create, converse, and collaborate. We take a genuine interest in learning what fuels our client’s wanderlust.
I also believe it is crucial to know your market; get comfortable turning down business that does not align with your practices and philosophies.
MS. How are you predicting the major trends in the travel industry for the coming year?
Allison Sodha. In my experience, travelers in a post-pandemic landscape are ready to say YES. They are willing to spend more for a unique adventure or splash of luxury. I also predict a spike in the FIT market as more travelers seek out private, individualized tours.
MS. Do you think travel businesses should rely on third-party tech companies or keep development control in-house because of the level of complexity required in creating numerous platforms?
Allison Sodha. It really depends on the business model and projected growth. If a company can execute efficiencies by outsourcing, it can often be more cost effective.
MS. Which are some of the challenges that travel agents face today? What are some remedies you suggest to overcome these challenges?
Allison Sodha. I believe travel agents and advisors need to become more specialized in a region or style of travel. Choose a niche and thoughtfully grow your market. Go beyond simply visiting a destination or working with a DMC; learn about the country’s cultural complexities, download a language app, or enroll in a course or certification that explores the history, religiosity, and/or societal construct. Understand the destination beyond the role of a traveler.
MS. The simple ageing out of the workforce is one of the most serious issues facing travel agents. What are organizations doing to attract young people to the field?
Allison Sodha. Not enough! There needs to be an initiative to showcase the different ways to engage in the travel industry. It has been refreshing to observe the next generation leverage social media platforms to grow a new audience, but most influencers are not destination specialists. The role of a typical “travel agent” will become obsolete in the coming years and the industry should nurture more diversified roles and opportunities.
MS. Last but not least, how do you see the industry in which you work evolving? Have you set any specific goals for yourself?
Allison Sodha. I anticipate a stronger push toward not just sustainable travel but regenerative experiences. As for my goals, I am working toward hosting a travel series that showcases India’s dynamic (and lesser known) destinations. After almost a decade of intermittent language lessons, I also want to (finally) be fluent in Hindi!