Colourful Kerala Rajdhani makes its maiden journey

Kerala-bound Rajdhani Express painted in the beautiful colours of its beaches, backwaters and enchanting art forms went on its inaugural journey on Sunday.

Updated: Jan 17, 2010, 17:54 PM IST

New Delhi: Kerala-bound Rajdhani Express
painted in the beautiful colours of its beaches, backwaters
and enchanting art forms went on its inaugural journey on Sunday,
hoping to catch the eyeballs of potential domestic tourists as
the train snakes its way to Thiruvananthapuram and back.

"Eventually, we hope to convert these eyeballs into
footfalls," Kerala Tourism Secretary V Venu said here, at the
inaugural-run of the Thiruvananthapuram-bound Rajdhani from
the Hazrat Nizamuddin station in the presence of Union Tourism
Minister Kumari Selja.

Wrapping the country`s fastest train in the new livery is
part of Kerala Tourism`s efforts to woo domestic tourists,
starting with those from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa
and Karnataka, states that fall on the Rajdhani`s route.

The train, having a new tag line, `Chalo Kerala` in Hindi
and `Go Kerala` in English, will journey through the heart of
India for a period of six months and is to continue until June
2010. The train is expected to reach around 85,000 commuters
who throng the railway platforms everyday along the route.

According to the data available with Kerala Tourism,
domestic tourist arrivals to Kerala last year touched 75 lakh
(against 7.5 lakh international tourists).

"Growing this segment is an important priority for us,"
Kerala Tourism Director Shivshankar said.

"Last year, due to the global recession there were
apprehensions about decline in international tourist arrivals.
So in 2009-10 we are following a structured plan to have more
of domestic tourists and for this a lot of activities are
being undertaken," Shivshankar said. The Rajdhani Express
campaign is one of them.

Kerala, described by travel guide Lonely Planet as the
state "where India slips into second gear, stops to smell the
roses and always talks to strangers," is already reaching out
to tour operators in smaller cities like Pune and Nagpur to
promote its stunning cliffs, pristine beaches and houseboat
cruises on the backwaters.

Besides the train livery, the state tourism department
has launched a Dream Season offer where travellers get
attractive hotel packages between March and October.

Shivshankar said he expects foreign tourist arrivals to
also rise and overall visitor numbers to increase five to 10
per cent.

According to India Brand Equity Foundation, a public-
private partnership between the Commerce Ministry and industry
body CII, foreign exchange earnings in US dollar terms during
the month of November 2009 were USD 1.2 billion compared to
USD 1 billion in November 2008.

Asked about travel advisories issued by some developed
countries warning their citizens about security risks in
India, Shivshankar said: "There are not of serious concern. We
have gone through worse."

The IBEF quoted the Euromonitor International`s Travel
and Tourism in India report as saying that "the Tourism
Ministry... has undertaken various measures, such as stepping
up vigilance in key cities and at historically important
tourist sites. It also deployed increased manpower and
resources for improving security checks at key airports and
railway stations."

As regards investments in the hospitality sector and
their demand for industry status, Shivshankar said most of the
investments in Kerala are by and large by local entrepreneurs.

"We do not have very big Marriotts or Four Seasons and
investments have not been a constraint."