After a gap of around one year, the luxury train Golden Chariot, introduced by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC), is all set to make its comeback on the tracks in a new avatar. But taking a ride on South India’s only luxury train is going to be a costly affair.
Since its inception, a journey on the train was an expensive prospect, mostly attracting foreign tourists. Now, the ticket prices have gone further up — by almost $250. A passenger has to shell out $1,000 per night.
Officials of Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRTC), to whom now the train has been leased to, attribute the hiked ticket prices to increased haulage charges. This refers to the charges a private entity has to pay to use the infrastructure provided by Indian Railways.
“This year, the haulage charges have increased one and a half times compared to the previous year. Dollar rates have also gone up. Overall, it has resulted in a price rise from $750 to $1,000,” said Mohammad Mohsin, Deputy General Manager, IRCTC, rolling stock.
While there are different tour packages which span over two nights and three days and six nights and seven days, customers can also make bookings to get down at other destinations in between.
In such cases, they can pay by the day instead of booking the whole package. Between the tourist season of October and April, the IRCTC has planned five Jewels of India tours, four Pride of Karnataka tours, four Majestic Karnataka tours, and four Sojourn of India tours.
The first tour of the refurbished train will be flagged off on November 20 at 8.30 a.m.
“We have gotten around 20 to 30 booking for the inaugural train so far. Most bookings have come from the United Kingdom, Russia and other foreign countries, while a few are from domestic customers. The total number of seats available is 80 and we usually accept up to 60 bookings. We need at least 50% occupancy to operate on a no loss no gain basis”, Mr Mohsin said.
How to bring in more bookings?
When the KSTDC was previously running the Golden Chariot, marketing had not proven to be effective as occupancy remained low. Now, IRCTC has taken up a list of measures to improve marketing and attract more domestic as well as international clientele.
“We had sent our team to market the product at the recent World Tourism Meet (WTM) in Europe. We have also taken up more of social media marketing and introduced some new tours to cater to the needs of customers,” Mr. Mohsin said.
One such new initiative includes the two nights and three days Goa tour package. The Sojourn of India tour will start from Bengaluru and proceed to Mysuru, go to Chikkamagaluru, and after covering Hampi, will reach Goa.
“During December, tourists find it difficult to find hotels in Goa. At these times, booking this tour with us will help them out,” pointed out Mr. Mohsin. However, attracting domestic clientele still remains a challenge, officials agree.
Although it was previously said that the train will depart from the Baiyyapanahalli station, the IRCTC officials are now reconsidering Yeshwantpur as an option due to its proximity to luxury accommodation options.