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Govt bullish on aggressive cruise tourism promotion

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The Government of India, identifying cruise tourism as a major industry driver in the future, will be leveraging upon this segment during the next few years. Recently, the Ministry of Shipping, in conjunction with the Ministry of Tourism, had announced reforms to the regulatory processes governing the cruise tourism industry in the country. The reforms – simplifying the rules and procedures pertaining to various aspects of cruise port operations like security, immigration, and customs – reforms are based on the recommendations of a global consultant engaged by the ministry to draw up an action plan for providing a customer-friendly and hassle-free logistics process for the cruise tourism industry.

At a recent event in Mumbai, Mumbai Port and Ministry of Shipping launched three reports ‘Mumbai Port SoPs for Cruise Operations’, ‘Roadmap for Sea Cruise Tourism’ and ‘Cruise Terminals in India’. Sanjay Bhatia, chairman, Mumbai Port Trust, said, “Now is the new era for cruise tourism. Mumbai recorded 60,000 cruise passengers, but the city has the capacity to attract 300,000 cruise passengers, which is an opportunity that needs to be utilised. India will soon launch e-visa and e-landing card for cruise industry.”

On national level, the shipping ministry and tourism ministry have identified that India has potential to attract 40 lakh cruise tourists annually. Whereas, the reformatory initiative is expected to fetch revenue gains of around INR 35,500 crore. Additionally, the number of cruise ships to India can also grow from 158 to 955 per year.

Also recently, Costa Cruises had announced its shorter (three and four night sailings) from Kochi and Mumbai. Nalini Gupta, managing director, Lotus Destinations (representative of Costa Cruises in India), said, “The shorter sailings have been introduced to customer demand here. Indians want to cruise, but they prefer shorter itineraries. The cruise industry in India is changing and the new initiatives will benefit the industry.”

Rashmi Verma, secretary, Ministry of Tourism, commented, “With the growth in experiential travel’s demand, the cruise segment will fit well in this segment. India’s potential remains untapped. We have a vast coastline. The growing affluence of the middle class is also a positive factor for cruise tourism’s growth.” She further pointed out that currently Indians have to sail from Dubai and Singapore, and more cruises from India can strengthen the country’s position in this segment. The Ministry of Tourism has classified cruises as niche products, which needs special attention.

There are also plans to develop more port destinations other than Mumbai, Goa, New Mangalore, Cochin and Chennai. New infrastructure development at Mumbai, at a cost of INR 300 crore, will be also undertaken.