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Just ahead of tourist season one of India's top tourist attractions in one of the top tourist destination Rajasthan, the royal trains are facing a major slump.
The two luxury heritage trains, Palace on Wheels and Heritage on Wheels, are failing to attract passengers and the volume in both the royal trains continues to shrink, leading to losses for the Rajasthan Tourist Development Corporation (RTDC) which operates them.
RTDC runs Palace on Wheels on a revenue basis with Indian Railways and thought the number of tourists in the state has gone up but those numbers haven't translated into passengers for the trains.
Palace on wheels is starting its journey for this tourist season on September 5th but the train with 85 people occupancy is booked for only 30 till now.
The administration is expecting 60 percent occupancy in the coming season but the average occupancy for the last 3 years has stayed much below that.
According to the data available, the revenue of the palace on wheels has dropped drastically in the last four years and twice the trips have been cancelled due to non availability of passengers.
In last tourist season 2017-18, it has carried 1498 passengers and earned Rs. 27.59 crores which is almost 8 crore down from Rs.35.71 crores earned in 2014-15 when 2098 passengers had traveled.
The train took 35 trips in 2014-15 is now taking 33 trips. The Heritage Palace on Wheels started last year had had a poor response from the tourists. The train ran only twice with an average occupancy of 21.15 percent. Over 44 passengers traveled in the two trips generating revenue of just Rs. 21 Lakhs.
However, RTDC officials believe that once the season will kick off the scenario will gradually improve .-" We expect that occupency should shoot up to 60 percent in this season and we are working on it -" said Pradeep Bohra , consultant General Manager for Palace on Wheels.
Palace on Wheels was once considered a great charm for foreign tourists. Being increasingly expensive its being marketed for mainly for International tourists.
Today tariff per passenger is 575 US dollars per day which comes to over Rs 40,000/- in Indian rupees.
The travel industry experts believe that there is a need to focus on domestic tourists rather than just the foreign ones for these high end luxurious trains who come in much larger number.
"Tourism dept. is spending so much on TV commercials on all major channels but there is no mention or a single shot of Palace on Wheels why , the govt is underestimating the potential of Indian tourists. Focus should be given to the domestic travelers also as they travel for 9-10 months rather the foreign tourist who come for only a 5 months. Today, the domestic tourist has the financial capacity to spend a considerable amount on luxury travel but they need to be made aware of the product as well", said Sanjay Kaushik leading tour operator and travel writer.
The issue also made its way into Loksabha as the Modi government put forth the statistics of people traveling by these trains. The number was found significantly decreasing and the government put the onus on RTDC to come up with a better strategy to put the wheels back on track.
Number of steps like giving discounts, incentives and increased advertisement were also suggested.
This article first appeared on www.newindianexpress.com
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