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.

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.

Hop on to Deccan Odyssey, it’s 25% cheaper

The next journey of the Deccan Odyssey, a luxurious and expensive five-star train, will offer commuters a 25% discount. Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) has offered the sop to attract rich Indian travellers.

The train will leave Mumbai on January 30 and return on February 6. It will take passengers to the pristine beaches of Sindhudurg and Goa, apart from historical marvels in Aurangabad (Ellora), Jalgaon ( Ajanta) and forests in Kolhapur and Nashik as well.
The train is popular among foreigners, especially Germans and the French.

According to an estimate by tourism corporation officials, Indian travellers contribute hardly 5% of the total passengers. The MTDC officials believe the primary reason for the poor number of Indian travellers is the steeply priced tickets, which comes down to around Rs4 lakh (including taxes) for a seven-day trip.

Deccan Odyssey, run jointly by Indian Railways and the Maharashtra government, is the second such train to be introduced in the country in 2005, after Palace on Wheels run by Rajasthan tourism department.

The 10 fully air-conditioned deluxe cabins train has all the five-star hotel facilities such as four twin-bedded chambers and two presidential suites. It has a bar, business centre and other amenities apart from entertainment, sauna and laundry services round the clock.

According to the statistics available with Ministry of Tourism for 2011, the number of Indians visiting other countries stood at 14.21 million. Further, the domestic travelling within the country by the Indian traveller has been recorded at 851 million.

“Indian travellers now spend a lot of money on luxury and enjoying the good things life offers. They go out for planned trips and cruises. However, there is a strange magical appeal about long rail journeys,” marketing manager of MTDC Sanjay Dhekane said, adding that a sense of adventure stirs the soul once you step onto the train, sit comfortably in your cabin and gaze outside as people and places whiz past.

“Such huge discounts will surely attract a section of Indian travellers towards a luxurious train journey,” he added.

Luxury Train
Deccan Odyssey, run jointly by Indian Railways and the Maharashtra government, is the second such train to be introduced in the country in 2005, after Palace on Wheels run by Rajasthan tourism department.

Published in: on January 25, 2013 at 12:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

All Aboard Deccan Odyssey for Christmas Special Departure

Deccan Odyssey has announced its two confirmed departures for the 2012 festive season of Christmas. This announcement made by the train authorities brought a radiant smile on the faces of the travelers all around the world. This luxury train tour will depart on 19th and 26th of December 2012 from Mumbai and cover prominent destinations such as Ajanta & Ellora Caves, Sindhudurg, Tarkali and Goa. The all inclusive tour tariff starts from US $450 per person per night. These 2 exclusive journeys will span over 7 nights and 8 days.

Deccan Odyssey was the second luxury train to be launched in India after the huge success of Palace on Wheels in Rajasthan. This train was an initiative to offer similar luxury experiences to the guests across Maharashtra and Goa. Initially the train had only a few takers but persistent efforts by the state tourism department and international marketing initiatives seem to be paying up now.

This year will be the first time that the train will actually make profit. According to the sources this is due to the international exposure and revamping of the train as well as itinerary it offered. The Deccan Odyssey rail tour covers Ajanta & Ellora Caves, Daulatabad, Tarkali, SIndhudurg, Nashik, Kolhapur and Goa during the course of 168 hours journey across mesmerizing Deccan Plateau and Konkan Coast.

This year, Deccan Odyssey will embark on two specially tailored journeys on the festive season of Christmas. These two Christmas special departures will be studded with more new surprises so that the journey can be best enjoyed by the global travelers. With the announcement of these two special departures, the global travel enthusiasts have started making their reservations. “The huge response from the side of the travelers has influenced us to tailor this special journey”, said one of the representatives from the management team of Deccan Odyssey.

Along with Christmas special departure, the train has also announced a wildlife tour to be departing on April 13, 2013. Though detailed itinerary is yet to announce, but this wildlife luxury train tour will encompass some of the best and most exciting wild destinations of western India. More information on the train facilities, destinations and tariff plan are available at Deccan Odyssey page.

Published in: on June 10, 2012 at 3:37 am  Leave a Comment  
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Deccan Odyssey will now take you deep into forests

In a bid to woo more tourists, Maharashtra tourism department is planning to add the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur to the luxury train tour’s itinerary Plush interiors on wheels, fine dining, and magnificent sites along the way — attractive as it may sound, these promises have by and large failed to lure tourists into the lavishly draped bogies of the luxury train Deccan Odyssey (DO). To revitalise the project, the Maharashtra Tourism Department Corporation (MTDC) is now mulling plans to add more venues to its itinerary, including a visit to dense forests teeming with wildlife.

Not only that, plans are also being drawn up to incorporate a trip to the borders of the neighbouring state of Karnataka. MTDC General Manager Kishori Gadre said, “When first commissioned, the train used to take tourists around Maharashtra to promote tourism in the state. There was also a day trip to Goa. But we have woken up to the need of bringing a change to the travel plans in order to woo tourists. Hence, after beaches and forts, forests will also be accommodated in our DO travel plan.”

MTSC is busy studying the feasibility and connectivity of the train route to the planned pit stops. “We are planning to take tourists to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, a unique ecosystem situated in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. The trip will be seven-day long,” said Gadre.

At present, the DO journey flags off from Mumbai and meanders through the state, stopping at Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Goa, Belgaum, Kolhapur, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, and the Ajanta-Ellora caves, before heading back to Mumbai.

“The initiative was undertaken to help tourists explore the Konkan belt, which is known for its beautiful beaches and forts. But as the scheme got an average response, the department was forced to rethink factors like cost and availability,” said a source from the tourism department.

“Now the department is also trying to aggressively market the train journey with the help of posters and advertisements. We are also studying the various break-ups with financial experts and will have a trial run of the same next month,” she added.

Commenting on MTDC’s plan, a tour operator from Fort said, on the condition of anonymity, “DO is not affordable for all. A seven-day trip for Rs 33,000 is quite prohibitive, as a result of which tourists prefer going to Goa. We have brought this to the corporation’s notice, and we have already asked for a change in the itinerary. Forests and wildlife will add to the value of the tour and woo tourists.”

The operator revealed that last year, DO was almost taken off the tracks, with the high cost and the existing itinerary failing to attract clients.

Travel by Maharajah Express to tour UP by train

Finally, there’s something on the tourism front for the city that Lucknowites can celebrate. For a city crammed with historical spaces, not to mention a unique culture, the complaint often has been that it hardly falls within the tourist map, with foreigners just passing through Lucknow on their way to better advertised places like Varanasi or even the Buddhist circuit. But hopefully, all that should change with this latest initiative of the Royal India Railway Tours, a partnership between IRCTC and a private tour operator, which is bringing a luxury train into the city as a part of its travel itinerary that includes Agra, Varanasi, Gwalior, Bandhavgarh and Khajuraho.

On the lines of super luxury trains like Royal Rajasthan on wheels, Royal Orient and the Deccan Odyssey, The Maharaja express too promises to give its guests a taste of UP, with a luxurious touch. As Nalin Singhal, director, tourism and marketing, IRCTC explains, “We have already brought in several tourists for on this train and so far the response has been enthusiastic. Our endeavour is to provide an experience which is away from the traditional tour one undertakes of India. Depending on the future response we may also consider increasing the number of destinations.” Interestingly, while there are other luxury trains that include Agra and Varanasi in their itinerary, this is for the first time that such a train has come to Lucknow. Also, the project sees active membership by Muzaffar Ali, who has for long championed for greater efforts regarding tourism in Lucknow. Says Singhal, “The kind of clientele we are catering to – premier foreign tourists – can be great ambassadors for tourism and naturally help encourage others to consider destinations like Lucknow.”

Awasthi, director, UP Tourism firmly agrees with, when he says, “Such an initiative can be really advantageous for Lucknow especially since Lucknow traditionally has never been a tourist destination. It will help create an opening for the city among tourists who generally stop by on their way to the Buddhist circuit. We are willing to provide every help and support they require.”

Thomas Cook to charter Deccan Odyssey

Beginning November 18, Thomas Cook India will launch “The Indian Maharaja” for foreign tourists covering the cities of Mumbai, Aurangabad, Udaipaur, Jaipur, Agra, Ranthambore and Delhi.The seven-night itinerary will attempt to show India in a snapshot with the core intention of promoting Brand India as an ideal tourist destination.

“The Luxury Trains are charterers of the Deccan Odeyssey while we are the exclusive sales and distribution partners. For us it is a fairly pioneering move. It’s the first time we have taken a risk on the inventory and to be operating rather than working as just pure agents,” Thomas Cook (India) Ltd, Executive Director–Travel Businesses, Rakshit Desai, told PTI here.

Thomas Cook India has a strategic alliance with The Luxury Trains, which in turn is party to contract with MTDC. “The train is about 75 per cent sold and has done better than we had planned. There is nothing left to sell for the months of January, February and the Easter (April) departures. We have got some capacity to sell in November-end and December,” Desai said.

Published in: on November 9, 2009 at 3:08 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Golden Chariot to target domestic market

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”, Anand Menon, Project Director Golden Chariot, said.
“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 said.
“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 lakh 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, commences the sojourn from Bangalore 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. The train incurred an initial loss of Rs 2 crore mainly due to the operational cost of Rs 20 lakh per run paid to the Indian Railways, Menon said.

However, compared to trains like Deccan Odyssey in India and Euro Rail and Orient Express which have been operating from the past 25 years, the Golden Chariot “is still in its infancy”, he said.

The train has been adjudged as “one of the top six trains of the world” by a leading global travel magazine “Condenast Traveller”, which officials said was “definitely an achievement”.

“In about two to three years time, we definitely are looking at substantially contributing to Karnataka tourism”, Menon said.

To woo the foreign travellers, “Santhes” (village markets) are being planned at historic stops of Belur, Halebid and Mysore to introduce tourists to rural art and crafts on one platform.

“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 bookings”.

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.