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.

India’s luxury Maharajas’ Express lures Americans

India’s famed Maharajas’ Express is making select stops on the US West Coast to showcase its luxurious amenities to North American travellers who want to experience Incredible India by stepping back into time.

The Indian Railways Catering & Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), which owns and operates the luxury train is hosting special events in Los Angeles (Nov 26), San Francisco (Nov 30), and Las Vegas to showcase Maharajas’ Express, according to a media release.

Awarded ‘Best Luxury Train’ by CNBC Travel in 2010 and named 1st runner up in the Readers Choice Award for Conde Nast Traveler in 2011, the train offers a range of five incredible itineraries between the months of September and April.

“The train is designed to transport guests into a more gracious age of train travelling,” said Rakesh Kumar Tandon, managing director, IRCTC.

“Interiors suffused with nostalgia, state−of−the−art amenities, a tastefully−crafted itinerary, and impeccable hospitality enable Maharajas’ Express to present India in a way never seen before.”

Each train carries 14 guest carriages, including one truly classic presidential suite that stretches thelength of an entire carriage. Every cabin has large windows, designed so that guests can savour every bit of magnificent India.

All passenger cars come with independent, cabin−controlled air conditioning, online water filtration systems, environmentally−friendly toilets, pneumatic suspension, live television, Wi−Fi Internet, CCTV cameras, hair dryers, electronic safe deposit boxes, bath tubs in suites and the presidential suite − almost everything one could imagine to travel in luxury.

The Maharajas’ Express features two fine−dining restaurants that each seat 42 people, and everyone on board dines together. For added zest, there is an exotic Safari bar and Rajah Club, with the choicest collection of complimentary, house brand spirits. Each train comfortably fits a total of 88 passengers.

Published in: on November 21, 2012 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Golden Chariot charts new route to stay afloat

Loss-making luxury train, The Golden Chariot (TGC), is charting new avenues to keep itself afloat.

Come November, a group of 50 students, faculty and alumni of Stanford University, California, will hold two lectures and a conference during the seven-day trip on ‘Pride of South’ route on the Bangalore-Goa stretch.

The train is also expected to host one of the “big fat Indian weddings” on board next year. Group series bookings are also being promoted, particularly targeting international universities.

M Srinivas, Project Director, TGC, told the Deccan Herald that TGC was compelled to shift gears, if it had to break even at least by its eighth year of operation.

TGC’s occupancy rate during 2008-09 was 24 per cent; 28 per cent during 2009-10, 37 per cent during 2010-11 and 36 per cent during 2011-12.

The train which has never run to its full capacity, received a maximum number of bookings this February with 70 passengers.

Srinivas said TGC had incurred a loss of Rs 10.76 crore in the last four years, despite launching another product – Southern Splendour, in March 2010.

While discussions have already been held with leading travel agency — Cox and Kings India Ltd — to promote the group series bookings, the TGC has also sold the “wedding on board” concept to the agency, which is said to be equally keen on the idea.

“We are sure to have a grand wedding on board next year. Cox and Kings has already started branding the concept. As part of the group series bookings, we have also tied up with the Great Rail Journeys, UK, who are specialists in escorted holidays by train.
The agency has made bookings for one whole year between 2013 and 2014. About 44 cabins have already been booked for January,” he said, adding that with these new strategies, TGC was envisioning a turn around in its business.

Railways blamed

Srinivas said the TGC would have made some profits if not for the “obstinacy” of the Indian Railways. He said before the launch of the train in 2007, the Railways backtracked from the revenue sharing model and started slapping haulage charges.

“If we were to operate on a revenue sharing basis (50:50), we would have been earning profits steadily. But the Railways has burdened us with heavy haulage charges which is seriously impacting operations of the TGC,” he said.

However, with three luxury trains — Palace on Wheels, Deccan Odyssey and TGC — building pressure on the Railways, it has agreed to give rebate on the haulage charges for the next three years.

Accordingly, the haulage burden on TGC will come down to Rs 27 lakh per trip from Rs 42 lakh a trip. Srinivas said this could only bring a temporary relief.

He said for the success of TGS as a tourism project, the government should constitute an independent authority similar to the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited.

He said a dedicated marketing fund or budget and a professional management were other prerequisites. Presently only three to four people are managing operations, marketing, accounts, and human resources, a responsibility to be shared by at least 15 people, Srinivas pointed out.

Published in: on October 27, 2012 at 6:42 am  Leave a Comment  
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Soon, royal train journey within reach

India’s most expensive and one of the world’s most famous luxury trains is all set to go uber posh and may cost less on your pocket. Maharajas’ Express, an 84-seater train, which costs Rs 10,00,000 for a seven-day trip, is will soon get more affordable albeit with a shorter itinerary. It will now be run by the Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).

The luxury train has 23 coaches, including presidential suites, with a passenger capacity of 84. It also has two fine dining restaurants and bars. All cabins have LCD TVs, wi-fi access, individual temperature control and full en-suite bathroom. There is one presidential suite, which comprises a full train car — the largest suite in a train across the world.

The royal train is likely to have a three-day itinerary, instead of seven days and the services provided onboard are also going to improve.

The train was earlier operated by Royale Indian Rail Tours Ltd, a joint-venture between Cox & Kings India Ltd and IRCTC. It featured as one of the most luxurious trains in the world in a recent list compiled by a US-based global rail travel society.

“We will be providing better onboard services and the itinerary is also expected to be shorter, making the train more accessible for people,” said a senior IRCTC official, requesting anonymity.

The IRCTC has launched a website for online bookings. “We’ll add new dimensions to luxury trains and bring down the package cost by shortening the itinerary. So, Royal India’s journey from Delhi to Mumbai and Classical India’s round-trip from Delhi with highlights, including the holy city of Varanasi, which cost around R10,00,000 is expected to come down to Rs 5 lakh,” the officer added.

Rs 1 lakh a night on Maharajas’ Express

KOLKATA: Get ready to tour India like a Maharaja provided you can pay Rs 1 lakh per night. On Saturday evening, railway minister Mamata Banerjee will flag off the Maharajas’ Express from Kolkata station — the next generation Palace on Wheels.

For the next six days and seven nights, the luxury train will move towards Delhi, stopping at Gaya, Varanasi, Bandhavgarh, Khajuraho, Gwalior and Agra.

This train is a joint venture between Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and Cox and Kings India Ltd. The tour is being promoted as ‘Luxury travel like no other’ and not without reason. The Maharajas’ Express will have 88 passengers (a normal III AC coach packs in 72) living in suites fit for a prince. All food and drinks are complimentary.

The cheapest rate per person per day is a whopping US$ 800 for a Deluxe cabin. The next two slabs are US$ 900 and US$ 1,400. And the Presidential Suite comes for US$ 2,500. The operators are clearly eyeing foreign tourists.

“The initial runs are familiarisation trips for the tour operators. Once they are satisfied with the service, they will sell the idea to their clients. Remember, there is a three-month waiting period for the Palace on Wheels. This train will be much more luxurious. We are sure that it will be a very successful venture,” an official said.

Every cabin has large panoramic windows to allow tourists to get a feel of the country. All cabins have individual temperature control, LCD television sets, DVD players, direct dial telephones, internet and electronic safe-deposit box. There’s even live television on board.

Golf to be included in Golden Chariot’s itinerary

Bangalore, Jul 23 (PTI) The Golden Chariot – the luxury train which takes passengers on a royal odyssey from the garden city to the heritage site of Hampi will now boast of an added attraction – golf.

The promoters hit upon this idea to cater to markets like Japan, which are opening up to luxury tourism ventures like the Golden Chariot. “Introducing golf will be an added incentive to travel to this part of the country and enjoy the sport which they are very passionate about,” Project Director Golden Chariot, Anand Menon told PTI.

Karnataka has quite a few number of golf courses to boast of. Right from Bangalore, Mysore, Chikmagalur and Belgaum, the state has a number of golf courses of international standards.

“By adding golf in the itinerary we are attempting to add to the very definition of luxury per se.