Golden Chariot may not chug again this year as tourists prefer cheaper options amid pandemic
After experiencing lockdowns in two consecutive years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with travel restrictions imposed in most parts of India, tourists are not keen on niche travel, say officials
BENGALURU: Once a prime attraction for tourists to the state, the Golden Chariot has fallen on hard times and is unlikely to chug off this year.
After experiencing lockdowns in two consecutive years due to the COVID-19 pandemic and with travel restrictions imposed in most parts of India, tourists are now looking for cheaper holiday options, instead of niche travel, say officials.
While the IRCTC states that the train is to resume operations from February 2022, the tourism department is striving to restart trips from December. According to records, the train did two trips this year -- a six days and seven nights trip on March 14 and a short haul trip on March 21 of three days and four nights covering Bengaluru, Mysuru, Bandipur and Mahabalipuram.
Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation (KSTDC) Managing Director Vijay Sharma said this year attempts are being made to schedule the train in December, but nothing is finalised.
Officials from IRCTC have started booking for tickets for February on their website. “Having short haul trips will not be an economically viable option because of high haulage and operation charges. At present because of visa restrictions, vaccination rules and COVID-19, international tourists are unlikely to come to the state to travel. Also it has been seen that tourists are not keen on niche travel at the moment. They want to travel, but are preferring economical holidays. Everyone wants to save money. This is the problem not just with the Golden Chariot, but across all tourist options. So at present the train is kept under lock and key,” said an IRCTC official.
Tourism and IRCTC officials are now looking at the state government and the ministry for solutions on how to address the issue. The state government had invested crores of rupees to run the train over the years.
“There have been very few times that the Southern Splendour and Pride of South (the two versions of the Golden Chariot) have run at full capacity. We are fearing it may be unlikely for a long time because of the pandemic, the fluctuating COVID-19 cases, inter state travel restrictions and most importantly the fear among people. The biggest worry is the cost factor. We are unable to break even. We are mulling if the ticket rates can be revised,” an IRCTC official said.