Close on the heels of unveiling the Shri Ramayana Circuit, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation might soon launch several other trains on more heritage and theme-based circuits, according to CNBC TV18. The outlet also reported that one of the circuits is expected to connect religious sites connected with Shiva, with another route set in the Northeast being deliberated upon. The new introductions will be part of the Bharat Gaurav scheme that saw the launch of the Shri Ramayana Yatra last month—an 18-day train journey along a route that connects places of spiritual significance associated with Lord Ram. The new routes will most likely be budget-friendly and of shorter durations, with the fare including food, stays, transfers and cost of tour guides.
The Eiffel Tower in Paris—one of the world’s most visited sites—is caught in severe disrepair, with the iron frame of the 330-metre structure rusting away. According to CNN, the French magazine Marianne has referenced confidential reports dating back over a decade, stating that the 135-year-old metallic Parisian monument urgently needs complete repairing. The authorities, reluctant to close down the site even for a brief period for fear of losing revenue, are making do with an expensive coat of paint in time for the 2024 Paris Olympics, the publication added. Fears of irreversible damage to a landmark that’s globally synonymous with France and its capital are particularly pressing after the city’s 850-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral was nearly consumed in a devastating fire in 2019.
Several international events including the Sunburn Music Festival and Ironman 70.3—a triathlon-style series of races that have earlier taken place in the state—have received in-principle clearance from Goa tourism authorities. Intent on reviving the festival industry’s footprint in the coastal state after the pandemic, the officials have given the nod to Sunburn and the rest—with the condition that the event will be held with participation of Goan musicians. Other events in the pipeline that are being welcomed back to the state also need to showcase local talent and culture, tourism minister Rohan Khaunte was reported to have said.
Adding to the rising instances of fragile ecosystems introducing sustainability charges for tourists (Bhutan hiked its Sustainable Tourism Fee threefold and Venice recently introduced an entry charge), the Komodo National Park in Indonesia will charge Rp15 million (₹79,400) per four visitors per year as conservation fee to make up for the load on the ecology of the conservation area. In 2019, Komodo National Park had introduced a premium annual membership at $1,000 for tourists looking to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site. The new conservation fee includes the entrance ticket for the whole year.
“Backpackers or luxury tourists generate waste, reduce the limited availability of clean water, reduce oxygen, increase pollution, and the heat generated by the body has an impact on the behaviour of Komodo dragons, not to mention the need for additional security and patrols,” said Carolina Noge from the park management, as quoted by local outlet Indonesia Expat. The authorities have also capped the number of total annual visitors at 2,00,000.
A private operator in northern West Bengal has launched a bus service from Siliguri to Kathmandu, in cooperation with the North Bengal State Transport Corporation (NBSTC). The service will be operated on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from the Tenzing Norgay Bus Terminus and a ticket costs ₹1,500. State transport minister Firhad Hakim, who launched the service, added that a bus to Bangladesh is also in the works, and will be started once formal approval from the neighbouring country comes in.
Travellers across South Asia may soon have to look for alternatives for budget trips abroad, when push comes to shove for Thailand’s struggling tourism sector. In a concerted effort to revive its pre-pandemic reputation as a tropical paradise for travellers from all over the globe, stakeholders have been urged to focus on high-value experiences for inbound tourists. Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul recently stressed on the need to sell premium and forgo deals or discounts for foreign tourists. The country’s tourism industry is still recovering from a near-collapse in the two years following the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020—the total foreign arrivals in 2020 fell over sixfold and in 2021, the numbers plummeted further to a tenth of the 40 million recorded in 2019.
Prannay Pathak dreams about living out of a suitcase and retiring to the island of Hamneskär to watch films in solitary confinement. He is Assistant Editor (Digital) at National Geographic Traveller India.