JAIPUR: It offers travel in royal comfort and has attracted fantastic reviews and feedback from travellers across the world. And yet, the majestic Palace on Wheels has been seeing a steady decline in footfalls every season for the last six years.
Sources associated with the train’s operations attribute the falling numbers to non- aggressive marketing and lethargic publicity by the concerned officers. “It appears that the officers think that Palace on Wheels has become a big global brand and there is no need to go for aggressive marketing any more. Likewise, the number of staff in this train is just 50 against the sanctioned number of 65. That affects the services onboard. Another major reason is that the tour operators authorized by Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation (RTDC) have been the same for years and there is no official checking whether they are getting good bookings per season on not,” said a department source on the condition of anonymity.
The seven-day eight-night train service was started in 1982 to give travellers a chance to experience regal luxury. The train starts from Delhi and travels through Jaipur, Sawai Madhopur, Chittorgarh, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur and Agra. Apart from 14 saloons, each having four cabins with attached bath and shower, Palace on Wheels has two restaurant-cum-kitchen cars offering traditional Indian, Continental and Chinese cuisines and a well-stocked bar. The newly introduced spa saloon offers ayurvedic massage. Other services include laundry and doctor on request. Souvenirs and gift items bearing the insignia of Palace on Wheels and a coffee table book on the history of the train are also available.
However, footfalls have sadly been falling. The number of bookings on the train between September 2007 and April 2008 was 3601. It fell to 3425 in 2008-09, 2699 in 2009-10, 2364 in 2010-11 and rose slightly in 2011-12 to 2883. Between September 2012 till March 2013, 2562 people travelled on it, according to the figures available with RTDC.
Tej Singh Rathore, president of RTDC employees’ union, said, “The train has been a brand for the state and every foreign tourist attempts to book tickets for this journey. The declining number of tourists is certainly a matter of concern and authorities should come forward with measures and strategies to ensure that the numbers go up.”
Even chairman of RTDC, Randeep Dhankad, admitted that there is administrative mismanagement. “That needs to be rectified. We have some plans and hopefully for its next season, starting from September 2013, we would be able to lure more tourists,” he added.