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Cruise tourism in India gets a thrust

September 7, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

Essel Group’s purchase of luxury ship Pacific Jewel, launch of new cruise services between Mumbai and Goa by Sea Eagle Cruises, formation of India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA), launch of ships and ferries on river Ganga and a business-friendly government are heralding a quantum leap for nascent India cruise tourism.

Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, Government of India, said: “Apart from 7500 kilometers of coastline, India has 20,000 kilometers of river ways. We have eased all rules that were a hindrance and are aggressively developing infrastructure on both. With a big potential for cruise tourism in India, our target is to have a combined number of 10 million cruise passengers from sea and river cruises.” The Minister was speaking at the Global Cruise Conclave organised by India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA) at Mumbai on 30 August.

India Cruise Lines Association (INCLA) is launched to be a voice to create vision documents, engage with the government and attract more cruise ships to develop the industry. INCLA executive committee has 10 members that include responsible government officials, international cruise line and tourism representatives.

Jurgen Bailom, INCLA Convenor and President and CEO, Zen tourism & Cruises, said: “Cruise tourism has been the fastest growing outbound segment since a few years from India. Hence time is opportune for stakeholders to come together to create a unified forum to present their cause.”

Standard operating procedures with immigration counters are set-up at five ports of Mumbai, Goa, New Mangaluru, Cochin and Chennai. Development of international cruise terminal with public private partnership (PPP model) at a cost of INR 30bn is underway at Mumbai port and will be ready by March 2019. An 800 hectare garden is being created on Mumbai’s Eastern seafront with a marina, recreation and accommodation facilities. Kochi cruise terminal is being upgraded with INR 260 mn. Cruise terminal with modern facilities at Chennai was launched in July 2017. The Ministry is extending 20 percent subsidy for building cruise ships in India.

Subhash Chandra with Minister Nitin Gadkari

Subhash Chandra, Chairman ZEE and Essel Group, said: “It’s a good time for India cruise industry as all elements are positive- a pro-active government, enthusiastic investors and growing number of cruise travellers. Indians are travelling abroad for cruise experience. Home porting will provide an opportunity to experience cruising locally. Our cruise ship will begin services from November.” Essel Group is venturing into cruise business as Zen Cruises.

200,000 Indians cruised last year and 120,000 of them from Singapore. 365 cruise ships deployed all over the world carried 27 million passengers in 2017 and 100 new ships are expected to join by 2027.

Mark Robinson, Chief Commercial Officer, Global Port Holdings, said: “India still doesn’t have a dedicated home grown cruise brand and set itineraries to explore multitude of wonders that this vast nation has to offer. Timing is perfect after what neighbouring China has achieved not for itself, but for the entire region. Within the fastest growing economy globally, we have the power and the ability to create the multiplier effect for the county’s financial health as well and bring the global spotlight on the Asian region, complementing the story of China.”

Advantage for India home porting are that it’s a multiple port cruising destination with impressive cultural offering, has extensive rail network and growing air access to connect to inland attractions, There is a rise in demand for experiential holidays and a government enthusiastic on developing the segment.

Sanjay Bhatia, Chairman, Mumbai Port Trust, said: “We’ve reduced port tariffs substantially along with other four ports of India. We’re looking forward to extend any kind of support.” Two mega floating hotels are being built near Mumbai port to entertain individual and group guests for meals and celebrations.

Nalini Udai Gupta, Managing Director, Lotus Destinations that represents Costa Cruise in India, said: “Many of our clients are from middle class, showing a growing demand from the huge segment of India. Selling cruises is a good option for travel agents as all they have to do is book their clients and put them on the ship and the ship takes over all other arrangements.”

India has multi generational travellers with the world’s lowest average for cruise travellers at 37 years. Angriya, first luxury cruise liner of India by Sea Eagle Cruises, is scheduled to start sail between Mumbai and Goa from first week of October.

Indian Ministry has set-up river traffic control systems at key places along Ganga. There’s a new cruise on River Ganga at Varanasi and many more are in the offing. Foreign players have shown interest to set up manufacturing of hovercrafts and seaplanes.

Minister Gadkari said: “Our action plan is to create awareness through regular interactions with stakeholders, carryout Bollywood promotions for film shoots and encourage meetings, incentives, and conferences onboard cruise ships.”

Written by Anand & Madhura Katti

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