What has Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC), known as the common man’s vehicle, to do with the state’s booming tourism sector? A lot these days! A few have expected the buses of the state carrier to be such a crowd puller when it came up with the Budget Tourism initiative two years ago. After all, travel is usually associated with the luxury means of transport like flights and air-conditioned trains. But the distractors were proved wrong big time. The pocket-friendly trips to captivating tourist spots across the state have captured the imagination of backpackers.
And recently, the Corporation has decided to take the ‘Budget Tourism’ to the next level, by crossing the borders. The public carrier is gearing up to run pocket-friendly leisure trips to a number of popular tourist spots like Ootty and Bangalore. The KSRTC officials informed that talks in this regard with the concerned authorities of the two border states have been completed.
Kerala ‘travels’ with KSRTC
The KSRTC’s ‘Budget Tourism’, which has started a new revolution in the state’s tourism sector, gradually began to rake in profits, giving the loss-making entity a new lease of life. The authorities hit upon the idea of offering pocket-friendly trips to popular tourist locations across the state, targeting local travel enthusiasts, while seeking to increase the non-operational revenue as part of desperate attempts to stay afloat.
If you suddenly feel like going on a sightseeing trip to refresh your mind, just select a tour package and head to the bus stand. And you can hop on the waiting bus and traverse to the calm nature’s lap, and that too without burning a hole in your pocket. Who could resist such an offer? This is why Kerala is travelling with the KSRTC.
Revenues shoot up
When the project was conceived, criticisms began to pour in from several quarters. The sceptics questioned the rationale behind a loss-making entity embarking on leisure trips. And it’s for them that the corporation is now illustrating the figures. The project was rolled out two years ago. The earnings in the first year were just Rs three crore, but thereafter, it skyrocketed to cross Rs 16 crore in the last fiscal. A total of 4182 services were operated during this period, carrying 31.10 lakh visitors, while covering over one lakh km in distance. And with the authorities planning to launch an ‘Online Tour Booking’ facility next month, the number of tourists hopping on the Budget Tourism buses is only set to go up.
Not Just 100 but 200!
While the KSRTC conducts services to a total of 100 tourist spots under Budget Tourism, the trips altogether cover at least 200 tourist centres, with multiple locations falling on the same route. The misty hill station of Munnar tops the list in terms of both the demand from the part of travellers and the maximum services operated by the KSRTC. The next biggest attraction is the package that includes a cruise on a luxury ship off the Kochi coast where the visitors would be greeted by stunning sunset views among others. Though the cruise ride starts from Kochi, the rush is such that the services from various depots would be fully booked on the first day itself. In the package, the KSRTC promises a five-hour cruise abroad luxury liner ‘Nefertiti’, named after the legendary Egyptian queen.
What has made the tours so popular is the rolling out of numerous packages from all the main depots. The same has facilitated visitors availing the package to travel to the nearest depot and embark on exciting tours.
Cost-effective yet memorable
The KSRTC Budget Tourism project offers affordable travel and lodging, which entices people to book tour packages without giving a second thought. A few old KSRTC buses have been converted to sleeper dorms and stationed at tourist destinations. They have basic amenities, including a lavatory and washroom. Ten such buses were converted into ‘hotels’ in Munnar and four buses in Sultan Bathery. And it only costs Rs 220 for a night’s stay. Compare this to several thousands of rupees to stay at a medium hotel room. The KSRTC authorities plan to set up similar accommodation facilities at almost all such tourist centres, including Kumily and Thekkady, to where it conducts the popular services.
Safety another factor; all can travel
Through ‘Budget Tourism’, the KSRTC is not only offering cost-effective trips but the safety of the beneficiaries as well. For instance, if a private tourist bus develops a technical snag en route, then another bus has to be sourced from the place of origin of the tour package, a time-consuming affair. Also, the visitors might be left stranded at isolated places at night. There are no such issues with the KSRTC. Upon a bus breakdown, another bus in good condition can be brought in a jiffy from the nearest depot and the journey resumed.
Another feature of Budget Tourism is that it provides an opportunity to all, those who don’t own a vehicle and those who can’t afford to rent a vehicle or stay at a big hotel, to visit scenic tourist locations. Thus, leisure trips are made affordable to the common man, and that makes them popular.
After sea cruise, an enchanting rail journey awaits visitors
The KSRTC is also looking to join hands with the Railway’s tourism wing IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Promotion). A good number of tourists from the state are already availing of the rail packages. However, the IRCTC currently has a booking facility only in the state capital. It’s here that the KSRTC plans to chip in. It will provide the booking facility in all its depots across the state. The corporation has also come up with packages to facilitate hassle-free travel for tourists arriving in the state from outside as part of the IRCTC tours to visit various places here.
‘Tour Week’ rides to get the show on the road
The RTC Budget Tourism Cell is operating additional leisure trip services as part of the ‘Tour Week’ celebrations on the occasion of World Tourism Day. And there are a number of takers for the special tour packages being dished out from September 21 till October 1. What is special about them is that many of the services are chartered to connect the South region with the North. The Kannur trip via Gavi-Kumily-Cumbum is the most prominent of them. The first of the tour services, starting from Kannur to Idukki, was conducted on September 22. Similarly, the packages from various districts to Wayanad, and the tours to Ranipuram Hill station in Kasaragod, known as Malabar’s Ooty, and the famous Bekal Fort are luring travel buffs in large numbers. It’s time to hit the road with the holidays and the weekend in sight. Are you game?