The rupee’s freefall might have brought the economy to a grinding halt but India’s luxury trains are speeding along thanks to a sudden windfall of dollars from foreign tourists happy to splurge on board.
There is a spurt in bookings by foreigners.
The three big names in luxury on wheels – Palace on Wheels, Royal Rajasthan on Wheels and Maharaja Express – are getting more bookings and requests than usual, claim those in the trade.
And that means business for Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) and some money-saving deals for foreigners on board these trains.
Royalty on wheels
“Foreigners, especially from the US and Europe, have suddenly started sending requests and there is a jump of at least 30 per cent in the usual booking trend up to last year. We’re totally booked on Palace on Wheels in December last week and even in the slow season of January and February we’re 60-65 per cent sold out. The occupancy will only increase as these are advance bookings,” claimed an RTDC official, adding, “We’re getting a lot of last-minute requests, which is unusual, perhaps due to the fluctuating Indian currency in the global market.”
The Palace on Wheels, which usually starts in September in a low-key manner, has also got 42 bookings, almost 40 per cent occupancy assured.
“In October we’re 60-65 per cent sold out and for November it has increased to almost 80-90 per cent on different dates.
The year-end is completely booked. Had the adverse publicity generated by rape and security in India not been factors, we would have been getting more business,” the official said.
The falling rupee seems to have stirred greater interest in our luxury trains, claim RTDC senior officials. “It’s not that they have got any change in their tariff, but the falling rupee is giving travellers more leverage in spending on board in restaurants, bars, spas, and then in shopping in Indian markets while they are travelling on the road during the week-long journey,” said a manager-rank official of the Palace on Wheels.
He added: “There is a difference of almost Rs 16-18 per dollar, which they are saving in a way”. For RTDC, too, this brings in extra bucks as they are paying Indian Railways the old rate on overhauling charges.