Plush interiors on wheels, fine dining, and magnificent sites along the way — attractive as it may sound, these promises have by and large failed to lure tourists into the lavishly draped bogies of the luxury train Deccan Odyssey (DO). To revitalise the project, the Maharashtra Tourism Department Corporation (MTDC) is now mulling plans to add more venues to its itinerary, including a visit to dense forests teeming with wildlife.
Not only that, plans are also being drawn up to incorporate a trip to the borders of the neighbouring state of Karnataka. MTDC General Manager Kishori Gadre said, “When first commissioned, the train used to take tourists around Maharashtra to promote tourism in the state. There was also a day trip to Goa. But we have woken up to the need of bringing a change to the travel plans in order to woo tourists. Hence, after beaches and forts, forests will also be accommodated in our DO travel plan.”
MTSC is busy studying the feasibility and connectivity of the train route to the planned pit stops. “We are planning to take tourists to the Tadoba-Andhari Tiger Reserve, a unique ecosystem situated in the Chandrapur district of Maharashtra. The trip will be seven-day long,” said Gadre. At present, the DO journey flags off from Mumbai and meanders through the state, stopping at Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, Goa, Belgaum, Kolhapur, Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, and the Ajanta-Ellora caves, before heading back to Mumbai.
“The initiative was undertaken to help tourists explore the Konkan belt, which is known for its beautiful beaches and forts. But as the scheme got an average response, the department was forced to rethink factors like cost and availability,” said a source from the tourism department. “Now the department is also trying to aggressively market the train journey with the help of posters and advertisements. We are also studying the various break-ups with financial experts and will have a trial run of the same next month,” she added.
Commenting on MTDC’s plan, a tour operator from Fort said, on the condition of anonymity, “DO is not affordable for all. A seven-day trip for Rs 33,000 is quite prohibitive, as a result of which tourists prefer going to Goa. We have brought this to the corporation’s notice, and we have already asked for a change in the itinerary. Forests and wildlife will add to the value of the tour and woo tourists.” The operator revealed that last year, DO was almost taken off the tracks, with the high cost and the existing itinerary failing to attract clients.