It’s a four-decade old tour, yet it runs full house every day. The Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation’s (TTDC) day-long tour to Tirupati caters to 300 persons from the State daily, and this number goes up to 600 persons on weekends.
The tour, which leaves every day at 5 a.m. from the TTDC office on Wallajah Salai, returns by 9.30 p.m. after taking tourists to Tirupati, Tirumala and Thiruchanur. Tourists take the darshan of Lord Balaji by around 11 a.m., at which point those brought in as part of various tours by Andhra Pradesh Tourism and the India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), merge with the TTDC tourists.
TTDC Managing Director Sandeep Nanduri said the Corporation operates Volvo, AC coaches and non-AC buses for its tours. “The Tirupati tour has been our most popular tour and now, we also take tourists from Madurai and Tiruchi. People find our tours convenient since we provide breakfast, lunch and dinner and also our cottage to refresh themselves. Our guides are very able and we ensure the tourists’ bags and mobile phones are safe,” he said.
Former Manager (Tours) and Public Relations Manager N. Ravi, recalls that when the tour was started four decades ago, it was priced at ₹95 per ticket. “We used to be taken to the Dwajasthambam and then straight inside to have the darshan. It was TTDC that launched the Tirupati tour first, due to demand from devotees, especially those coming from other States and countries. The wait time for the darshan used to be, and is still very little in our tours and TTDC ensures that if a guest takes some time, the tour waits for them,” he said.
United States resident B. Kannan, who recently took the tour, said his family found it very comfortable to finish the temple visits in a day’s time. “The guides and tour managers ensure the comfort of the passengers. We had prayers to perform, which went off very well,” he said.
After the Tirupati tour, the eight-day long Tamil Nadu tour, three-day long Navagraha temples tour and the one-day Tiruvannamalai tour get the highest number of tourists, in that order. Recently, Tourism Minister K. Ramachandran visited TTDC’s workshop where its bus fleets are parked and maintained. He directed officials to ensure the 14 buses including an 18-seater are kept spic and span.