Never mind the recession in the economy and the looming shadow of terrorism. The quintessential Indian tourist is setting off to winter vacations across India, albeit on a tighter budget than usual.
With the existing trains to a variety of locations already over-booked for the ensuing holiday season, Northern Railway has already had to augment services by 570 additional train trips to and from several important destinations, including Mumbai, Dehradun, Udhampur (Jammu), Guwahati, and others.
“This is the highest number of trips we ever launched in the first phase. We will add more to the list during the season, and by the end of winter, the number will be the highest ever. We started sensing the demand a month ago, and that’s why we launched so many trips in the first phase itself. Usually, we launch relatively moderate number and increase it as per demand,” said a senior railway officer.
While the special trains are originating from across North India, the majority is from Delhi to a host of routes that are otherwise serviced with heavy regular traffic. “The products (trains) have been designed looking at the clientele in each route,” he said.
Apart from two Special Rajdhani trains to Guwahati and a Special Shatabdi to Ludhiana, there are all-air-conditioned superfast trains to Dehradun and Pune, and superfast trains to Lucknow and Varanasi, among others.
The urban affluent tourist, hit by a slump in the stock markets and other investment areas, is opting for railways this winter, as per booking trends, said Raji Rai, president of Travel Agents Association of India. “We are going to meet Tourism Minister Ambika Soni next week to request her to get into a pact of sorts with the Rail Ministry so that people diverting from airlines to the railways get adequate premium railway products and services. The travel and tourism industry
will back this trend,” he said.
What about the horror of terrorism? “The impact of terrorism on domestic tourists appears to be almost negligible compared to foreign tourists. Public memory is short. So just like everyone else, the family tourists, too, have decided to go placers this winter, albeit with some restricted budget, hence the railways” he said. With mounting demand for trains to Mumbai this season, the Special Garib Rath from Nizamuddin will run four times a week.
Incidentally, on Thursday, the Indian Rail Catering and Tourism Corporation signed a pact with tour operators Cox and Kings to form a company that would run Pan India Luxury Tourist trains.