IRCTC, the rail tourism body of the Indian Railways, is mulling a tie-up with Rail Europe, one of the largest global providers of international railway services, to increase global access to Indian luxury rail services.
The tie-up will provide customers across 50 countries in Australia, Asia, Africa and South America access to the luxury rail services like Palace on Wheels, which can be then booked on the Rail Europe website.
Rail Europe is a joint venture between French and Swiss national railways.
“We are still at the initial stages of discussion with Rail Europe. We are studying the different implications and looking at options for providing better value to our customers. Our basic aim is to provide customers with a one-stop shop for railway travel packages,” said IRCTC Managing Director Nalin Shinghal.
Confirming the development, Executive Director of Rail Europe India Gopi Iyengar said, “IRCTC approached us and we had a meeting two weeks back. We were also on a global lookout for expanding our railway product base. The luxury rail product in India interested us and we wanted to include that in our product base. This will also expand the global reach of these services.”
Foreign tourists constitute more than 90 per cent of the total customer base of luxury rail services in India which cost around Rs 16,000-Rs 17,000 per passenger per day.
India runs four such services, including Palace on Wheels and Heritage on Wheels in Rajasthan, Deccan Odyssey in Maharashtra and Golden Chariot in Karnataka.
All these services are joint ventures between Indian Railways and the respective state governments. Rajasthan Tourism department is now planning to introduce one more Palace on Wheels by the end of this year.
Currently, there is no one-stop shop for booking these rail tours. Customers who want to travel in them have to either book them on the state government websites or from travel agents.
IRCTC will also be making arrangements with the state governments to make luxury rail bookings available on its own website. Through the tie-up, Rail Europe is also looking at selling its own international packages on the IRCTC website.
Rail Europe currently has over 100,000 Indian customers bookings products from its website. The company expects its Indian customer base to significantly expand when its products are available on IRCTC.
“We are still studying the potential in the market,” said Iyengar. Meanwhile, IRCTC is also looking at promoting its other tour packages which it started selling last year. To that end, it has tied up with various travel portals like Makemytrip and Yatra to sell the packages on these portals.