Poor response, harsh winter cited as reasons

Poor response to the Silver Chariot, a luxury travel package announced by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) earlier this year, has put the Corporation in a re-think mode for this is the second time that the inaugural run of the ‘budget' version of the Golden Chariot has been put off.

The Silver Chariot's maiden journey was scheduled for December 11. It's earlier inaugural run was scheduled for April but had to be put off due to poor bookings and the examination season.

The Silver Chariot planned to offer luxury travel by road across the State's best tourist spots. The destinations were almost the same as covered by the Golden Chariot, barring a few.

However, despite its promotion through trade shows and road shows in all important State capitals since the beginning of the year, the package did not attract tourists as expected.

“We had only seven bookings for the initial run on December 11. The package cannot run with such few bookings as it will not cover operating costs. Hence, the commercial launch has been put off. The bookings have been advanced for the next journey, which will be announced soon,” a KSTDC official told The Hindu.

Surprisingly, the package evoked enquiries from within and outside the State after details were uploaded on the Corporation's website.

“Strangely, the enquiries did not convert into bookings. Some cited extreme winter this year as the reason. Nonetheless, we are hopeful that the package will run soon,” the official said.

The six-night, seven-day package will cover Srirangapatna, Mysore, Brindavan Gardens, Bylakuppe (Tibetan settlement), Madikeri, Belur, Halebid, Bhadra wildlife sanctuary, Badami, Aihole, Pattadakal, Kudalasangama, Hampi and Chitradurga. The journey will begin and end at Bangalore.

The full package costs Rs.21,000 (all inclusive) and the three-night, four-day package Rs.11,000 (all inclusive). The tariff included transport in a Volvo (Airavat) bus, accommodation on twin-sharing basis in a luxury hotel, food and guide service.

Is the tariff responsible for the lack of response? “No,” said sources in the KSTDC.

“In spite of being a ‘budget' version of the Golden Chariot, it is still a premium package catering to tourists who want luxury travel and accommodation. The reason for poor bookings will be examined. Officials at the helm will take steps, including making the tariffs more attractive to bring the Silver Chariot on the road,” the sources said.