The evolution of the tourist transport business has an interesting history which becomes even livelier specially when one has been growing, observing, feeling, and participating in the process of its development.
Post partition, the tourism sector was in its infancy. For the people ‘tourism’ meant going to the hills in the summer months or going for pilgrimages to religious destinations. Dilip Singh of Simla Hills taxi Service was amongst the first to start a taxi service in Delhi, Kalka and Simla. Subsequently, other operators also started operating taxis, namely Pyarelal and Sons and Saran Motors. There were hardly any tourist coaches then and imported cars were used as private taxis.
In the late 1950s, a new breed of transporters led by I.S. Goel, Desraj Singh of Karachi Taxi Company, J.R. Chopra of Delhi Transport Service, Chand Singh and Dilbag Singh of Allied Motors, Lashkar Singh of All India Road Transport, Gurdial Singh of Adarsh Tourist, Ashwini Kumar of Autocrat Tours and others paved the way for good quality private taxis for guests of the government and for the few tourists who visited India. Most of the tourists came by ship to Bombay. They travelled to Delhi in large groups and in convoys of cars to Agra as there were no tourist coaches.
In the early’60s, due to the efforts of some of the above mentioned operators, separate number plates with DLY and DLZ were earmarked for tourist taxis. This set the ball rolling for tourist transport.
When I look back, I realize that I must have been among the privileged few to have experienced the thrill of driving the latest American and European cars. And what a thrill it was to speed down the roads of Delhi! Traffic then was sparse and everyone looked up on you as if you were a VIP. At times people used to wonder how a car’s windows could be rolled up in the peak of summer. Of course air-conditioning was a thing of the future then.
The first luxury coach, built on a Chevrolet bus chassis with a petrol engine, rolled out in 1964 for I.S. Goel and Company. The first indigenously built air conditioned coach came out only in 1969. In 1973, five air-conditioned coaches using Thermoking imported air conditioners from the US took to the roads in Delhi and were bought by KTC. DAS, SITA World Tourist and Adarsh Tourist.
At the same time there was a spurt of new luxury non air-conditioned buses for domestic tourists for which the hub was Lal Quila at Old Delhi. A large fleet of such buses were operated by International Tourist Transport Service, Patna Sahib Tourist Transport Service, Choudhary Bhagwan Singh, Bakshi Tourist Transport Service, Punjab Sahib Tourist Transport Service and many others. However, most of the coaches were used for school, office and staff transport.
In the mid 1970s, Francine Boura of Nouvelle Frontiers and a few other tour operators from Europe started long road itineraries for the first time in Rajasthan, M.P., Gujarat and U.P. This was the beginning of the arrival of large groups of visitors to India. This set into motion the enlargement of the tourist transport. Soon, most of the transport companies mentioned above began to venture into luxury air-conditioned coaches.
Tourism grew manifold in the early ‘80s with the projection of India as an interesting tourist destination in foreign lands and the tourist transport trade grew alongside. In the ‘90s technological breakthroughs took the quality of the coaches to newer frontiers. And today, in the 21 st Century, despite a temporary slow down in world tourism, the Indian Tourist Transporter looks towards a brighter horizon in the distance.
Thanks to the pioneers and their peers who paved the way for others to follow. For it was due to their enterprising skill and efforts that the tourist transport trade is positioned so high today.