Luxury trains get a boost from rupee free fall

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.

Rajasthan’s Luxury trains undergo makeover

Rajasthan will spend over Rs.1.47 crores on refurbishing two luxury trains – the Palace on Wheels and the Rajasthan Royal on Wheels – this year, a tourism official said.

The Palace on Wheels, a joint venture of Indian Railways and Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) is in for major refurbishment at an investment of Rs.1 crore, RTDC chairman Randeep Dhankar told IANS.

RTDC will also give another world-famous luxury train, the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, a makeover at an investment of Rs.47 lakh, in a bid to deliver a richer, royally enchanting experience to each guest, said Dhankar.

“Based on the feedback of guests, we have undertaken redecoration of the Palace on Wheels,” he said.
“The luxury tourist train will sport a new heritage look,” said Dhankar.

“We are undertaking modernisation of even minor things, including water purifiers in washrooms and other modern conveniences like superior communication and entertainment.”
“Even the dining car, the bar and the lounge will take on a wonderful new look.”
“The spa and health club will also receive major upgrades. We are working on plans to introduce more and more facilities to please our guests,” he said.

The Palace on Wheels tour covers Delhi, Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur and Bharatpur.
The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels takes guests from Delhi to Jodhpur, Udaipur, Chittorgarh, Sawai Madhopur, Jaipur, Khajuraho, Varanasi and the Taj Mahal.

“On quite a few occasions the Palace on Wheels has hosted richly royal weddings and for people who plan to wed the way maharajas did, we will be offering more once the train undergoes transformation,” the official said.

New carpets, tapestry, curtains, replacement of furniture and up-gradation of toilets in both the trains are also being taken up, he added.

He said the wooden floors would have richly luxurious carpets to minimise noise.–RAjasthan-s-Luxury-trains-undergo-makeover-.html

Grinding halt for ‘royal’ train soon?

After changing its colour thrice since its launch, the Royal Rajasthan on Wheels (RROW), a super luxury tourist train that can barely break even during its run, now looks at getting its haulage model changed. The fixed haulage charges, now applicable to luxury trains, are highly exorbitant.

Following a letter by chief minister Ashok Ghelot to railways minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, chief secretary C K Mathew and officials from the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) are slated to meet member traffic, Railway Board at New Delhi, in this regard.

‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’ – touted as India’s most luxurious train – is a joint venture between RTDC and Indian Railways. At the moment, the Rajasthan government owes Rs 30 crore haulage charges to the ministry and with RTDC running in losses, it seemed adifficult thing to run the train on the current model.

In 2010, the railway board had increased haulage charges from Rs 1,000 per kilometre to Rs 2,000. If the RTDC had paid Rs 30 lakh per trip as haulage charges, it has to pay nearly Rs 60 lakh per trip now. While the railway board had offered a discount of 40% since 2011, the objective of the meeting would be to negotiate with the board to consider extending the discount by two more years i.e. till 2009 when the RROW was flagged off. The RROW which is parked for the season is said to have run on 50% capacity last season and generated Rs one crore which barely covered running expenses and commissions to general sales agents (GSAs). For the next season, only 25 per cent tickets are booked.

“The haulage charges are exorbitant and we plan to propose to the railways to run the train on revenue sharing basis as the Palace on Wheels (POW). While railways get 56% of the revenue, Rajasthan’s share is 44% is far more logical,” said Vinod Ajmera, managing director of RTDC. Besides there would also be discussion on POW coaches overhauling, he said. The average life of the train coaches is 18 years but POW has already done 18 years, well past its life.

Unlike POW which has been running on fixed itinerary for years, RROW has since its inception been a “victim of officials and politicians’ whims and fancies”. A stark example is when the train was running in losses, it changed its colour thrice. “Initially, it was painted golden to reflect the colour of the sand. This was when BJP was in power. In late 2008, Congress came to power and with it the train’s colour was changed to dark yellow. And then, the train’s colour was changed to blue. Initially, the RTDC was reluctant to change the colour since it had already bought yellow paint. But the train finally had to be painted blue at a cost of over Rs 4 lakh to the RTDC at a time when the train was incurring a loss of Rs 5 crore every season,” a source said.

Moreover, while POW for years maintains the same well-researched itinerary, RROW is now contemplating changing the itinerary, which will also be one of the issues listed on the agenda of the meeting.

Orient Spa collaborates with luxury trains

Orient Spa, which is the span and Wellness arm of Nessa Group, has inked collaborations with two most famous luxury trains from the country – ‘Palace on Wheels’ and ‘Royal Rajasthan on Wheels’. This partnership is for providing extensive spa services to the travellers on board. These trains also have dedicated coach known as ‘Royal Spa’, where these spa services will be offered.

The numerous spa services will consist of Spa treatment, Ayurveda therapy, orient signature therapy, hot stone therapy, royal Thai aromatic massage, scrubs and facials.

Ms Sanjana Gupta, Business Head of Orient Spa Ltd, said, “Undoubtedly, Orient Spa is making rapid strides in the wellness industry, but this tie-up will definitely provide a huge fillip to our brand.”

Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Experience Indian Royalty on these Luxury Trains!

Trains in India are more than just means of transport from one place to another. In fact they take you through a journey of how the royals of the golden era lived. Major luxury trains of India take you to the period of Mughals and Rajputs while you relish the lifestyles of the kings of yore on board and listen to silent tales of glory and valor. The services provided on these trains are the best you can find anywhere. The royal and luxury trains of India are a perfect way to see India royally. These trains will sweep you away by their gracious hospitality. So step into an era of elegant traveling, embarking on a journey of your life. Listen to the stories these journeys have in store for about their past which leave you with a vision for the future. So hop on to take a luxurious ride through the exhilarating, unmatched, implausible, extraordinary, unique, inspiring land of India in royalty.

The Golden Chariot:

Surrender yourself to the charisma of mesmerizing stone architecture and exotic landscapes. The Golden Chariot is named after the famous Stone Chariot in Hampi which is also a world heritage site that travels through Karnataka where you can catch a glimpse of medieval royalty, soak in the spirit of contemporary Goa, feast on the heritage in Tamil Nadu and allow the God’s own country Kerala to cast a spell on you. This classic luxury train takes you on a trip to ageless historical heritage sites, resplendent citadels, wildlife and golden beaches. The seven nights and eight days colourful journey begins on Mondays from Bangalore and navigates through Mysore, stopping over in Srirangapatna, Mysore Palace; the Nagarhole National Park (Kabini) and ongoing to the historical sites of Shravanabelagola, Belur-the 11th century crib of Hoysala design and a world heritage site, Halebidu, Hampi and later entering into the triangular heritage site of Badami, Pattadakal, Aihole, and to finish, the Golden Beaches of Goa before ending in Bangalore.

Golden Chaiot

The Golden Chariot has also added a Southern Splendor tour itinerary with the bliss of guests undertaking this luxury travel increasing manifolds. Whether you pick the Pride of the South itinerary or the Southern Splendor stay aboard the Golden Chariot, a week full of exciting activity as well as rejuvenation for all guests is absolutely guaranteed. Be all set to get indulged by the competent staff and take pleasure in an extravagance train’s journey like never before.

Palace on Wheels:

Rated among the top ten luxury trains of the world, the Palace on Wheels happens to be one of the best ways to soak in the colours of India. The travel packages offered by the train take you on an unforgettable journey to the royal land of sand dunes and regal palaces visiting places where Royal Rajputs once lived in grandeur.

Palace on Wheels

Each of these saloons have cream yellow colour on its peripheral walls and bears the Coat of Arms (logo) of the erstwhile princely states. Apart from the 14 saloons, each 4 cabins have attached bath and shower, the Palace on Wheels has two restaurants cum kitchen cars offering traditional Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisine with the Chef’s special variety of the day. Its well stocked bar serves Indian liquor and variety of scotch, wine and cocktails. It has piped music in every saloon, and attractive games for children. The recently introduced spa saloon offers Ayurvedic massage to refresh you for the next day’s tour. Souvenirs and gift items bearing the insignia of Palace on Wheels and a coffee table book on the history the train are also available. The names of the saloons given are based on the princely states of Rajasthan- Jaipur, Jodhpur, Alwar, Bundi, Kota, Jhalawar, Dungarpur, Dholpur, Bharatpur, Jaisalmer, Sirohi, Bikaner, Udaipur and Kishangarh.

The Deccan Odyssey:

Travel athwart the heart of India, through the land of the valiant Marathas, voyage back in time, revive the luxury of an imperial age – all this on the Deccan Odyssey. The itinerary of this fabulous train takes you to serene beaches, magnificent citadels and majestic palaces letting you experience celestial tales that were imprinted on colossal rocks! The present capacity of the train is 80 pax The route has been fixed as Mumbai – Sindhudurg – Goa – Kolhapur – Aurangabad (Ellora) – Chandrapur (Tadoba Wildlife Sancturary) – Wardha (Sevagram)- Jalgaon(Ajanta) – Nashik and Mumbai. It is a one week itinerary that starts every Monday from Mumbai.

Deccan odyssey

The train has 21 coaches, out of which 12 are passenger cars accommodating 8 people per coach (10 passenger Cars, 4 coupes per coach – 2 Presidential Suite Cars, 2 coupes per coach), 1 Conference Car, 2 Dinning Cars, 2 Generator Cars with Luggage Store, 1 Staff, spare Car, 1 Spa Car, 1 Bar Car. The train has on-board facilities like T.V., Cable connection with central audio disc player, cell phones, Channel Music, Foreign exchange facilities, etc. The present capacity of the train is 80.

Fairy Queen

The oldest working locomotive, The Fairy Queen was built in 1855 and was completely hauled in 1996 and resumed commercial operations from 1997. The Fairy Queen rolled for the first time for the erstwhile East India Company.

The Fairy Queen has only two caches attached to it a specially designed air-conditioned car with fifty comfortable seats on which guests can recline and enjoy the ride from Delhi to Alwar and back. There is a well preserved pantry car for on board catering. The bonus lure on the train is the lounge in the front of the passenger coach. Its large window offering beautiful views of the Fairy Queen engine as it puffs away and steams transversely the countryside of Rajasthan on its way to Alwar. The lucky ones aboard reach the picturesque town of Alwar in Rajasthan the same day, from where the guests are taken to Sariska Tiger Reserve for an overnight stay.

Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

Palace on Wheels judged fourth among top 10 luxury trains

JAIPUR: Great news for tourism in Rajasthan. The state’s luxury train, Palace on Wheels has been declared the fourth best among the top 10 luxury trains of the world by the travel magazine Conde Nast. For 2009, the magazine had asked its readers to vote for their favourite train.

They were asked to rank each train out of 100 points. Palace on Wheels attained 83.94 points and was ranked fourth below the Venice Simplon-Orient Express (89.92 points), Eurostar (86.92 points) and Pride of Africa, Rovos Rail (84.25 points). There is no other luxury train of India in the top 10 trains. The newly launched Royal Rajasthan on Wheels (RROW) was not ranked since it is a new train.

The chairman and managing director of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC), Manjit Singh, said the announcement will give a big boost not only to the luxury trains of Rajasthan but also tourism in the state. He said the train was currently undergoing major revamp at a cost of Rs. 1.5 crore. The interior of the train were being redone. A spa was being added to the facilities in the train.

The CMD also said that the tourists will be taken for a Dubai-like desert safari when the train halts at Jaisalmer. More varied food will be served. For instance, Mexican, Thai and seafood were being added to the menu. The bar was also being upgraded and some of the world’s best wines and liquor will be made available.

Published in: on June 26, 2010 at 4:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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‘Heritage on Wheels’ train may turn into restaurant soon

After ferrying tourists to see the splendours of the Shekhawati region of Rajasthan for two years, the once popular “Heritage on Wheels” luxury train, currently consigned to the railway yard, may soon be transformed into a restaurant in Jaipur.

“It is rather sad that this beautifully-designed train is parked in a railway shed instead of carrying passengers. We don’t want the effort to go waste,” said B.K. Sharma, the general manager of the Rajasthan Tourism Development Corp that was running the service.

“A high-end restaurant is what we have in mind. With traditionally done interiors, this train-restaurant will be a unique concept in itself. We are confident it will attract both tourists and residents,” Sharma told IANS.

The fully air-conditioned luxury train service started operations in January 2006, with 14 lavishly decorated coaches, two restaurants and a well appointed bar-cum-lounge. But last December, it was left to idle away at a shed in Jaipur due to several reasons.

“We are exploring various options for a suitable spot where we can park ‘Heritage on Wheels’ in its new avatar. But what we know for sure is it will be inside the main Jaipur city,” said Sharma.

“We are giving final touches to the proposal. I feel it will come up for approval soon. Perhaps, after the elections are over, we will have concrete news to share.”

With the “Palace on Wheels” as a model, “Heritage on Wheels” was demanding a tariff of $300 per person per night for single occupancy, $200 for double occupancy and $150 for triple occupancy. The service covered three nights and four days.

The state’s tourism promotion officials said the service was suspended not just because of low occupancy but also because of a change from metre gauge into broad gauge on that sector. The service was running on metre gauge.

Some of the other luxury trains that operate in the country include The Deccan Odyssey, covering Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, Ajanta and Goa, and The Golden Chariot, covering Bangalore, Mysore and Goa.

With the new plan now for “Heritage on Wheels”, officials hope well-heeled tourists will start coming on board to get a taste the country’s rich heritage.

Published in: on May 8, 2009 at 4:57 pm  Leave a Comment  
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