Sunday, Nov 30, 2003
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By Our Staff Correspondent
The proposed introduction of Palace-on-Wheels was confirmed by the Minister of State for Railways, Basanagouda R. Patil Yatnal, in Bangalore on Friday who said that the luxury train would be a reality in three months.
Though details are yet to be worked out, it is clear from the Minister's statement that Mysore will be linked to other heritage centres of the State, including Belur, Halebeedu, Hampi, Badami, and Bijapur.
Sources in the Railways here pointed out that the west coast circuit could be added to the Palace-on-Wheels itinerary after the Mangalore-Hassan route was completed.
While the idea of Palace-on-Wheels for Karnataka has been in the air since many years, the concept received an official stamp when the Chief Minister, S.M. Krishna, expressed the Government's intent to introduce the luxury train to boost tourism while presenting the State Budget in March. But, it is now set to become a reality as Mr. Yatnal has announced its introduction within a definite time-frame.
The "Karnataka Darshan" will be the third such endeavour in the country after Rajasthan's Palace-on-Wheels, which was the first such venture, and the "Deccan Odyssey" of the Maharashtra Government.
According to senior officials in the Railways, the cost of constructing carriages and lending a touch of oriental mystique and royal decor would be enormous. But it would be a one-time investment and would be offset by the regular returns in terms of foreign exchange earnings and spin-off benefits to the local players in the tourism industry.
The recurring cost would be confined to maintenance of the royal coaches. "If the Rajasthan venture is anything to go by, there is no reason why the Karnataka Darshan cannot be successful," the officials say.
Though Karnataka Darshan is said to be a week-long sojourn, the Railways and the Tourism Department can also introduce shorter circuits that can cover Bangalore-Mysore-Belur-Halebeedu-Shravanabelagola in South Karnataka and places of tourist interest in North Karnataka. This could be Karnataka's "Golden Triangle" comparable to the Delhi-Agra-Jaipur circuit which is immensely popular among both domestic and international tourists.
The shorter circuit could also cover other places of interest that are generally given the goby due to paucity of time like Somnathpur and Bandipur. If given ample time, the tourists could be showcased the wild and the beautiful in Bandipur and Nagarahole to bring in diversity of interests. With the right blend of romance of history and architecture combined with nature and heritage, the Karnataka's golden triangle circuit connecting Bangalore-Mysore-Hassan could prove to be immensely popular among visitors.
Sources said the impact of Karnataka Darshan or the Palace-on-Wheels on Mysore could not be underplayed as it would cater mostly to niche tourists. This had tremendous possibilities for lifting the image of Mysore in the international tourism circuit and could do wonders for the local tourism industry and the economy in general.
The direct benefit arising out of the Palace-on-Wheels to Mysore cannot be quantified given the publicity and brand image it will help build for the city in the domestic and international tourism sector. If Rajasthan could popularise concepts like "Desert trekking", Karnataka could emulate the same and showcase its heritage that includes Hampi and the Mysore Dasara on similar lines.
The increase in flow of international and domestic tourists could have other positive benefits to the city. The Union Government has already announced that it would identify popular tourism circuits all over the country and make massive investments for improving the infrastructure and give a facelift to monuments and places of interest at these centres. Already, a few tourist circuits and places of interest have been identified and this includes Sanchi-Sarnath-Gaya and Himalayan circuit that covers different hill stations. The coastal circuit includes places in Kerala and Maharashtra but strangely none of the tourism centres in Karnataka have been listed. The introduction of Karnataka Darshan and Palace-on-Wheels may prove to be a decisive factor that could put Mysore on the heritage map of India and make the Government identify its tourism potential and sanction funds for infrastructure development under its tourism development plan.
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