Royal Rajasthan on Wheels, pegged as the last word in luxury train travel launched last week, has been stopped indefinitely because it has no takers.
After calling off the second trip scheduled on Sunday, authorities blamed the Mumbai terror attack in November last.
“Governments in the US and the UK issued advisory against traveling to India. So we lost a major chunk of the targeted market,” said JP Pathak, the man in charge of the train at Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC), which has launched the train.
Thanks to the travel advisories, tourists from the US and European countries and Australia travelling in India would not be able to claim travel insurance in their countries should anything happened to them.
“Top hotels in Jaipur and Udaipur are reporting around 15 per cent occupancy, which was unimaginable until the terrorist attacks happened two months ago,” said a senior RTDC official.
The Royal Rajasthan on Wheels offers luxury not even the legendary Palace on Wheels can match. At Rs 90,000 per night for the seven-night packaged tour of Rajasthan, it was also the most expensive train travel in the world.
After such a debacle of a start, authorities are on a blame-game as Rs 40 crore of public money has been spent on the train, of which Indian Railways has spent Rs 12.5 crore.
“There was no need to launch the train now because the tourism industry was badly hit due to terror attacks and recession,” said a senior railway official on the condition of anonymity.
The RTDC officials, on the other hand, maintained it was necessary to launch this season to get favorable response next season. “We were prepared to take some loss.... But we never expected to stop it,” said an RTDC official.
Industry players agree. “The timing of the launch was dramatically wrong. Such a niche product aimed at the crème de la crème, needed more planning, publicity and tie-ups,” said Anil Kalsi of Travel Agents' Association of India.
But RTDC is certain of a comeback. Sources said foreign tourists were enquiring for a trip on March 29.