Hospitality Business Magazine

Queenstown’s Queen of Hospitality kicks off new boutique tours

rsz_shammi_sandhu_with_one_of_her_tour_fans_ex-all_black_ian_hurst_at_the_arrowtown_long_lunch_recentlyShe’s renowned as Queenstown’s Queen of Hospitality and known nationally for her upmarket boutique tours of India. Now colourful restaurateur Shammi Sandhu is launching specialist golf tours taking in India’s most sought-after championship golf courses.

Mrs Sandhu is also putting together an exciting new Russian St Petersburg and Trans-Siberian Tour through Mongolia from Moscow, bespoke tours of Sri Lanka, and Kerala in southern India, and Ayurveda and yoga wellness retreats.

“Today there is such a market for people wanting to take a holistic approach to life,” Mrs Sandhu says. “Ayurveda medicine is one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems.”

However, it’s also time to branch out beyond her beloved homeland. “I’ve discovered and unearthed so many truly amazing people and places in my years of travel,” she says. “These new tours encompass the most unique highlights and experiences. They’re just too incredible not to share.”

Raised and educated in India, Mrs Sandhu, a long-time Kiwi restaurateur, has been designing and personally guiding fully escorted, small group tours to India since 1997.

“With the kind of research I do, searching out those hidden treasures off the beaten tourist trail, I see a huge opportunity for these new tours,” she says.

The 12 to 24-person, 18-day golf tours will take in Delhi’s most picturesque signature championship golf courses, including those designed by American golfing legend Jack Nicklaus and Aussie golfing great Greg Norman.

“I’m not a golfer, but I’ve been very involved with the NZ Open here at The Hills and so many golfers come to Mantra, my Arrowtown restaurant,” says Mrs Sandhu. “I just feel there’s an opportunity not only to show off India’s spectacular golf courses, but its rich heritage, culture and cuisine.”

She’s even ensuring that non-golfing partners will be blown away by their own line-up of unique experiences, including a guided walk through Old Delhi and cooking demonstrations and classes in Delhi and Goa.

Her guests can expect lavish treatment, elephant and camel excursions, and wild safaris into the heart of remote villages where they’ll experience traditional Indian rituals. There will be opportunities to dine with and be entertained by real Indian families. “I feel it’s important to fully immerse my groups in the true Indian culture,” says Mrs Sandhu.

Regional Indian cuisine is always a huge focus and her homeland connections open incredible doors of opportunity to not only dine in the homes of princely families, but feast on menus specially hand-crafted by executive chefs from first-class restaurants.

“You just can’t play golf and not experience the real Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Mumbai, Goa and Calcutta,” she enthuses.

Owners of The Hills golf course, near Arrowtown, Sir Michael Hill and his wife, Lady Christine, are big fans of ‘Shammi’s Tours’ and her Arrowtown restaurant.  “We’ve long held a fascination with all things Indian – sumptuous palaces, temples and hotels,” says Sir Michael. “Shammi’s the perfect person and knows India backwards – the right people and the right foods. You’d be silly to do a trip without her.”

Mrs Sandhu says she’s very humbled by the many testimonials sent to her from her boutique tour guests around the world. “I’m utterly passionate about whatever I take on and I thrive on making each tour very personalised, immersing each group that I guide fully into each culture,” she says.

“With me, guests see an aspect of these countries that they won’t experience with anyone else.” In true Sandhu style, there’s a touch of class added to every intricate detail, from welcome cards to beautifully-presented, glossy coffee table tour album keepsakes.

“I’m just so excited about sharing the treasures of these lands that I love, says Mrs Sandhu. “I’ll be introducing my guests to the grandeur of St Petersburg and the Trans-Siberian Railway, the beauty and intrigue of Sri Lanka, and the splendour of Kerala.”