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Hop in for a joy ride

A.SHRIKUMAR
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tourism Guided tours launched to make sightseeing in the city hassle-free, writes A.SHRIKUMAR

NOVEL VENTUREThe sightseeing tourist busPhoto: G. Moorthy
NOVEL VENTUREThe sightseeing tourist busPhoto: G. Moorthy

Next time you want to go around the city, simply dial for a guided tour. In order to make sightseeing more convenient, personalised and hassle-free for tourists and locals, The Madurai Sightseeing Company along with Travel Club, has launched two new buses exclusively designed keeping in mind the comfort level of travellers. “Often, people end up in trouble with autowallahs and rickshaw-wallahs. We thought of making the sightseeing experience more memorable and pleasurable for every visitor to the city,” says Sundar, the organizer. He says that the inspiration came from London city buses. “The bright red colour of the London buses attracted us. Almost every heritage city in our country has a guided tour. We have branded our buses with typical cultural images of the city.”

Painted with the images of the Meenakshi temple gopuram, Kallazhagar’s horse mount and the famous arches of the Thirumalai Naick Palace, the bright red buses look every bit quirky and funky. “With comfortable interiors and ample seating capacity, it’s sure to provide a joyride to customers. They will be given a welcome-kit that includes a brochure about the places to visit, a water bottle and some snacks. There will be a tour guide in each bus. We will also be selling merchandise like t-shirts branded with our logo,” informs Sundar. “Apart from foreign tourists, even family guests and corporate tourists can also hire the buses. Each tour will include one hour of shopping at select outlets.” The company has also created a website www.maduraisightseeing.com that gives information on all the famous and lesser-known places in and around Madurai.

Says Mustafa, President of Travel Club, “Previously, tourists used to spend two nights in the temple town but that has come down these days. People are cutting short their stay in the city. Most of them spend just a night while some stay here for half a day.”

Dr. G. Vasudevan, Director, Hotel Fortune Pandiyan, explains, “The reason for this is most tourists just visit the temple and the palace. Nothing else of Madurai is known or is shown to them. We should exhibit more of our city to outsiders like the way Kerala showcases its products and promotes itself.” He adds that many of the other historical places around Madurai like the Jain monuments are hardly known and seen by tourists. “Only if we promote these places, we can prolong the tourists’ stay in Madurai.”

Hoteliers, travel agents, tour operators and tour guides congregated at the launch of the bus service and vouched their support to the project. “This is a thoughtful initiative and a package popularly designed for tourists. In guided tours, tourists don’t get cheated by local vendors and hawkers. They get to shop the authentic items from accredited handicrafts showrooms,” says a tour guide. “Moreover, it’s easier to monitor for the guides. Also, organized tours make job easy for the police to later investigate in cases of crimes. After all, no outsider should feel bad about our city while leaving.”

The members of Travel Club urged that the shops at Pudumandapam should be shifted to the chatram, and the mandapam be made a museum and that cultural programmes can be staged to attract tourists. It was also pointed out that ample parking space for the vehicles should be provided in congested areas near the temple and the palace. There was discussion on developing entertainment cities on the outskirts and making Madurai a much sought-after destination among both domestic and foreign tourists.

Hop into the bus for a half day tour at Rs. 400 and a whole day trip comes for Rs.800. So, if you are up for a ritualistic ride in the tour buses, just dial 89390 39000

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