It is not even days since the Palace on Wheels resumed services and the RTDC has already started receiving a great response in terms of bookings.
“After making such an expensive agreement which involves paying INR 28 crore annually to Railways, a good response in bookings after the resumption is an indication that the train would make good profits,” said Dharmendra Rathore, Chairman of RTDC.
Speaking to ETTravelworld in an exclusive interaction during the special journey, Rathore shared that a new agreement has been put in place on the lines of public-private partnership as per the new policy. The duration of this new agreement is for five years and comes under the government’s new ‘Bharat Gaurav Train’ (BGT) policy.
According to Rathore, he had originally pushed for the previous model that was based on revenue-sharing. But as per the new policy, that invites private partnerships, all luxury train tourism is to be run under the BGT scheme. This time, the charges will be per haulage.
Under its recently signed agreement with the Indian Railways, Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) operationalised the luxury train Palace on Wheels, putting it back on track after a gap of over two years.
The luxury train, that was introduced in 1982, stopped its operations during the pandemic period. It restarted the operations with a two-day familiarisation trip on Saturday. After leaving Jaipur on October 8, Palace on Wheels covered destinations like Ajmer, Udaipur, Bundi and Ranthambore.
Under the agreement, RTDC will run the train only for three months and later an operation and management (O&M) company will operate it, shared Rathore.
According to Rathore, the cabinet has cleared the proposal of corporation to appoint an O&M company to market, run and provide maintenance services and the process will be completed in three months till the time tender gets fully processed.
“Bharat Gaurav train policy is both expensive and risky for RTDC but we can’t let a product like Palace on Wheels go waste as it is a true cultural emblem of Rajasthan,” he asserted.
Sharing details on the pricing, Rathore said that charged for deluxe seat have been pegged at INR 3.5 lakh and for super deluxe choice, the prices would be INR 5.35 lakh. These prices are excluding GST.
Focus India market:
Since its inception, Americans and Europeans made for 80 percent of train occupancy. The number of Indian tourists has been meager. But now, RTDC is thinking of leveraging the changing travelling interests of Indian travellers.
“For various reasons, India tourism has not picked up as expected among foreign travellers. Meanwhile, the Indiansare showing great enthusiasm for traveling. In view of the changed dynamics, we are now working on strategies to lure the Indian tourists more aggressively,” shared Rathore.
This may include reducing the fares, cutting the itinerary short from 7 to 3 or 4 days, or making some changes in the routes that might interest today’s experiential India traveller, Rathore said.
New tourism initiatives:
The chairman also shared information on the new initiatives being introduced by the Rajasthan government to facilitate tourism in the state. According to the RTDC Chairman, a ‘Rural Tourism Policy’ is on the verge of completion and is expected to be rolled out ahead of the upcoming budget session.
He also highlighted the positive response received by the state during the recently held ‘Invest Rajasthan’ programme that saw presence of top stakeholders. Various MoUs were signed during the event, directing INR 5,000 crores just for the tourism sector, he shared.
Rathore noted that tourism being a topmost sector for the state, plays an integral role in attracting investments and the state government is committed to making encouraging policies that promote tourism in Rajasthan.
What’s new about Palace on Wheels?
The 14 coaches, each named after the former Rajput states matching the interiors of the royal past, are made up of 82 passenger berths in Twin bedded cabins.
The train has two restaurants ‘Maharaja’ and ‘Maharani’ serving food with a Rajasthani ambiance with cuisines including continental, Chinese, Indian and Rajasthani cuisines. There are also facilities like suites, spa and a gym for the passengers traveling on the train. Each salon in the train has a mini pantry and a lounge serving hot and cold beverages, refreshments and a common place for lounging.