Luring day-trippers - Delhi's HOHO buses change gear
The children's laughter and chatter grow as the luxury bus rolls from Qutab Minar. The next stop is Lotus Temple for the bus, begun initially as part of a fleet to ferry tourists for the Commonwealth Games and now a well utilised vehicle for educational and leisure tours of the city for various groups
Once every child has boarded the blue-coloured Hop On-Hop Off bus of Delhi Tourism, the Guest Relations Executive turns on the music and the children pull out some cold drinks from an icebox as the bus moves on towards the next stop.
The HOHO service, as it is popularly known, was started in 2010 for the Commonwealth Games as a facility for the foreign tourists to visit the capital's major tourist attraction.
But the service has shifted gears and now also ferries individual and institutional groups looking for personalised transport for their own events. And the luxurious, air-conditioned buses, equipped with amenities like flat-screens and music system have become quite popular with Delhiites looking for a dekko of the city.
Ravi Kalra, who runs a school for underprivileged students in south Delhi's Vasant Kunj, agreed.
"Recently, we took our students on a picnic on a HOHO bus. It was the first trip these children had ever made in their lives and the service made it memorable," Kalra told IANS.
"The quality of the bus was much better than the private tour operators and the bus crew was wonderful. They explained everything about the various monuments and helped the kids learn so much about their own city," he added.
The quality of the bus and friendly staff are the main draw of the service, and when Pawan Mishra of the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D), had to fix up a city tour for his fellow M.Sc. students, he took a HOHO bus.
"The trip was wonderful. We were 34 students on the bus and the journey itself was as fun as the various attractions we visited throughout the city," Mishra told IANS.
"From parties-on-the-move to school trips, we host everything on our buses. Every bus has an experienced driver and a Guest Relations Executive who guides the passengers through the trip," HOHO official Abhishek Khairwal told IANS.
A HOHO bus can be hired at Rs.11,000 for a day, while it costs Rs.7,000 for a half day booking. The passengers can create their own itinerary or go along with HOHO's set route, he said.
"We also provide customised decorations, if requested, besides the pick up and drop facility; and the passengers can choose the route and duration of the ride while booking," Khairwal added.
The regular route of a HOHO bus covers 19 prominent tourist spots across the capital, including major monuments, museums and popular market places such as Red Fort, National Museum and Dilli Haat.
Khairwal said they get around 60 group bookings a month for the 14 HOHO buses running in the city.
The service is operated by a private operator - a joint venture of Prasanna Purple Mobility Solutions and Urban Mass Transit Company, for the Delhi Tourism department.