Change has come to state-owned Indian Railways. Come January, tourists can experience a world-class luxury package tour with enchanting train hostesses, Russian belly-dancers, multi-cuisine food even a star-studded Bollywood night thrown in for good measure, plus a lot more – all the frills that one normally associates with global tour packages.
The Railways’ service arm, the Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has tied up with Kolkata-based private tour operator I-Nova to offer tourists a package tour from Kolakata to Mumbai via Goa and back on a 16-coach luxurious train priced at a mere Rs.34,990 per head.
“With over a million tour operators in the country, we decided to think differently – we will be selling quality time to our tourists,” IRCTC general manager Vivek Srivastava told reporters during the launch of the project, named “Tolly to Bolly”, here Friday.
The tour will start from Kolkata’s main railhead Howrah Jan 2 for Goa and return Jan 11. “We expect 700 passengers – a total sell-out,” Srivastava said.
And, why not? “For starters, passengers will be issued boarding passes like those in flights – something totally new for rail journey,” Srivastava said.
“Then there will be all sorts of on-board entertainment – from folk singers, magicians, radio jockeys to discos.”
“The train hostess will serve multi-cuisine food to the passengers. There will be a medical team of doctors and nurses too. In every way we are trying to keep everything at par with international standards,” he said.
At Goa, there will be beach carnivals, rain dance parties, samba and salsa by Brazilian dancers, belly dances and ballet by Russian dancers besides a cruise party and sight seeing.
“At Mumbai, the tourists will be put up at five-star hotels – a facility that most tour operators offer but fail to keep. We will organise a star-studded Bollywood night for their entertainment as well,” said managing director Rajib Mukherjee of I-Nova Group.
“If we are successful in this Rs.15 million project, then next year onwards we will arrange at least four similar tours to different places in collaboration with IRCTC,” Mukherjee added.
Tickets will be available from Nov 9 at South-Eastern Railway booking counters, online and at three booking centres opened by I-Nova across the city.