Refurbished Golden Chariot back on track, but driving becomes more expensive

After a hiatus of about a year, the Golden Chariot luxury train introduced by the Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) is all set to make its comeback on the rails in a new avatar. But getting a ride on South India’s only luxury train is going to be a costly affair.

Since the beginning, traveling by train has been an expensive prospect, attracting mainly foreign tourists. Now ticket prices have risen further – by almost $250. A passenger has to pay $1,000 per night.

Officials from the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRTC), to whom the train is now leased, attribute the increased ticket prices to higher transportation costs. This refers to the cost that a private entity has to pay to use Indian Railways infrastructure.

“This year the transport costs are one and a half times higher than last year. The dollar exchange rate has also risen. Overall, this has resulted in a price increase from $750 to $1,000,” said Mohammad Mohsin, Deputy General Manager, IRCTC, rolling stock.

While there are different tour packages that cover two nights and three days and six nights and seven days, customers can also make bookings to go to other destinations in between.

In such cases, they can pay per day instead of booking the whole package. Between the October and April tourist season, the IRCTC has scheduled five Jewels of India tours, four Pride of Karnataka tours, four Majestic Karnataka tours and four Sojourn of India tours.

The first run of the renewed train will be flagged off on November 20 at 8:30 am

“We’ve gotten about 20 to 30 bookings for the inaugural train so far. Most bookings are from the UK, Russia and other foreign countries, while a few are from domestic customers. The total number of available seats is 80 and we usually accept a maximum of 60 bookings. We need at least 50% occupancy to operate on a loss and profit basis,” said Mr. Mohsin.

How to get more bookings?

When the KSTDC previously operated the Golden Chariot, marketing had proved ineffective as occupancy rates remained low. Now IRCTC has taken a list of measures to improve marketing and attract more domestic and international customers. “We sent our team to market the product at the recent World Tourism Meet (WTM) in Europe. We have also increased our focus on social media marketing and introduced a number of new tours to meet customer needs,” said Mr. Mohsin.

One such new initiative includes the two nights and three days Goa tour package. The Sojourn of India tour starts from Bengaluru and proceeds to Mysuru, goes to Chikkamagaluru and after covering Hampi, Goa will be reached.

“During December, tourists find it difficult to find hotels in Goa. At these times, booking this tour with us will help them,” said Mr. Mohsin. However, attracting domestic customers remains a challenge, officials agree.

While it was previously said that the train will depart from Baiyyapanahalli station, IRCTC officials are now reconsidering Yeshwantpur as an option due to its proximity to luxury accommodation options.

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