Global travel major to run Deccan Odyssey

Deccan Odyssey, Maharashtra’s five-star luxury tourist train, will be managed by a global tour operator soon. According to sources, Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), the state’s nodal tourism agency that runs the train, is all set to appoint Cox & Kings as Deccan Odyssey’s new operator that will not only manage the train’s operations but also promote it.

MTDC had invited global tenders to outsource Deccan Odyssey’s operations in May this year. Seven tourist companies from across the globe had bid, of which some are known star hotel chains from India as well as leading hospitality names from Europe.

The term of the private operator, expected to start in August 2013, will continue till the end of the financial year 2023. The revenue it would earn for the ten-year period is pegged at Rs 413 crore, as per the documents that MTDC shared with the bidders. In return, MTDC would take a minimum fixed amount, a fixed component and revenue share from the tour operator.

Kishori Gadre, general manager of MTDC said, “We will be taking final call (on operator) in a week. We have given a second thought on each bidder. Running a luxury train is a much tougher task than running a hotel. It will take a couple of years for the operator to make the train profitable. International tourist conditions are also not good. Considering all the facts, we are holding discussions with operators.”

Sources said what worked in the favour of global travel major Cox & Kings was its understanding of foreign tourist expectations and international travel, expertise they hope the player would bring in Deccan Odyssey’s operations. “There were a couple of European operators along with major Indian hospitality brands in the race. However, with a longterm perspective and to lift the luxury train business MTDC is narrowing down for Cox & Kings,” said a source in MTDC.

Gadre said that this was the first time that MTDC had opted for global bidders and the response was good. Currently, the Deccan Odyssey runs on two circuits. In Maharashtra, the train runs as Deccan Odyssey, with a part of the journey in Goa. It also takes a pan-India tour, as Indian Maharaja-Deccan Odyssey, a jointly-run operation of the MTDC and private tour operators.

WHAT AILED THE LUXURY TRAIN?
l When launched, the train was a joint venture between MTDC, Indian Railways and Union ministry of tourism run on an equal profit-loss sharing basis. In 2008, Indian Railways announced haulage charges up to Rs 50 lakh per week for the 21-coach train, impacting the business model.The train’s high ticket rate of more than Rs 1.40 lakh per week made it difficult for local tourists to opt for it.

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