Bangalore : Hit by the economic downturn, the Karnataka Tourism Corporation that runs the luxury Golden Chariot train is now eyeing domestic travellers for the royal odyssey at a hefty tariff of Rs 1,25,000.
The passenger train, under an ambitious project of Karnataka Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC), had chugged off amidst much fanfare last year, reporting 37 per cent passenger occupancy.
"We are going on an aggressive market strategy to capitalise on the domestic market, given the downturn", said, Project Director Golden Chariot,Anand Menon.
"While we have already tied-up with HDFC bank to offer loans spread over six to eight EMIs at zero per cent interest to those who wish to travel by this luxury train, we are also in talks with Jet Airways for a complete package for Karnataka tourists", he said.
HDFC bank has also started an e-mail campaign on the Golden Chariot for its corporates, Menon added.
"We are interested in tapping the domestic traveller not only because he understands the subtle nuances of tourism but also has the financial capacity to undertake a Royal Odyssey", he said.
Golden Chariot, which has a tariff of Rs 1,25,000 per person for 7 nights/8 days, is now targeting "close to 50 per cent occupancy this year", Menon said.
The train with a multi-cuisine restaurant, plush gym, a spa and well-stocked bar fit for kings, commences the sojourn from Bangalore on every Monday and traverses through destinations including Kabini, Mysore and the world heritage site of Hampi.
Since its launch on March 10, 2008, the train had 37 commercial runs, incurring an "initial loss of Rs 2 crore", Menon said attributing it mainly to the haulage cost (operational cost) of Rs 20 lakh per run paid to the Indian Railways.
However, compared to trains like Deccan Odyssey in India and Euro Rail and Orient Express which have had nearly 25 years of run, the Golden Chariot "is still in its infancy", he said.
"In about two to three years time, we definitely are looking at substantial contribution to Karnataka tourism", Menon said.
As part of the marketing blitkrieg for the foreign traveller, "Santhes" (village markets) are being planned at historic stops of Belur, Halebid and Mysore to bring the local talent in terms rural art and crafts on one platform.
However, for just over an year-old luxury train, to be adjudged as one of the top six trains of the world by a leading global travel magazine Condenast Traveller.
"We are also looking at capturing the foreign and NRI segments by doing road shows in Australia, Paris and Russia. While the Russian road show has been finalised for September, modalities for road shows in Australia and Paris are still being worked out", Menon said.
The prestigious project, which has been showcased at renowned travel fairs in London, Berlin and Dubai, has generated "very encouraging enquiries by tour operators", he said.
The project involving a joint investment of close to Rs 50 crore both by the state and Central governments, has gone through "some teething problems initially", Menon admitted.
However, through regular monitoring of the feedback forms given to passengers, all out efforts are being made to sort out the problems", he said.
Denying speculation that the train will be suspended for sometime, he said, "Though it is difficult to run the train during monsoon because of the high level of maintenance involved, extra care is being taken and we will run the train on an average two weeks every month, provided we get the
On the passenger inflow, Menon said "from March till July 2008, it was more of domestic customers". A peak was witnessed from September 2008 to April 2009
"when we have run back to back", he said.