Eyeing the untapped potential of cruise tourism, the government has taken earnest steps to develop and promote this segment aggressively. A cruise tourism policy is on the cards to help ease the business and propel revenue for India from this sector as well.
The Ministry of Tourism (MOT), in collaboration with the Ministry of Shipping (MOS), is working on a fast track mode to bring out a policy promoting cruise tourism in India. Rashmi Verma, Secretary-Tourism, Government of India, informs that in the year 2016-2017, a total of 158 cruise ships visited India over 103 ships in 2013- 14. Also, the number of cruise passengers disembarking in India increased from 80,645 in 2013-14 to 191,725 cruise passengers in 2016-17. With this policy initiative, the number of cruise vessels visiting India is expected to go up to 700.
Mahesh Sharma, Tourism Minister, Government of India, says, “With a 7500-kmlong coastline, India has taken some key steps to promote cruise tourism, which includes relaxation of policies and roping in global consultants. Cruise tourism is a high-end luxury tourist segment and local economy also gains from it.” He adds that as per the estimates in a draft report by consultants, for various scenarios in case of low growth, mid growth and high growth, the number of cruise passengers is likely to be 4.72 lakh, 27.18 lakh and 39.41 lakh, respectively, by the year 2042-2043 and the number of cruise ships could go up to 955 by 2042-2043.
A workshop was organised recently where representatives from MOT, MOS, Bureau of Immigration, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Department of Revenue (Customs) and international consultants, etc., came together. Verma says, “The workshop between the two ministries was a landmark event in promotion of cruise tourism in India. We have sanctioned projects in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa for infrastructure development at the ports. We also need to promote river cruising.”
Listing out the initiatives already being taken to promote cruise tourism, Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Shipping, Government of India, informed that modern cruise terminals are being developed at five major ports — Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore, Chennai and Kochi, which will include hospitality, retail shopping and restaurants. As many as 200 minor ports will also develop jetties for easy transportation of cruise passengers. “We offer e-visa facilities at all major ports; and have introduced e-landing card for the convenience of cruise passengers among other initiatives.” Gadkari also informed that the transportation potential of 111 inland waterways will also be tapped. Work will begin by the end of this year to develop 10 of these 111 inland waterways while work is already in progress in Ganga and Brahmaputra.
Ships are now allowed to stay for three days, up from the 24 hours designated earlier; and rules have been simplified. Easier standard operating procedure for cruise operations involving multiple agencies has already been issued. The government has allowed foreign flag vessels to call at Indian ports without securing a licence from the Director General of Shipping till February 5, 2024. Also, major ports will offer a minimum of 30 per cent rebate across the board on all vessel-related charges for cruise shipping and not levy any priority fee. Incentives to push cruise liners to make major ports as home ports include a rebate of 25 per cent in vessel charges, add to the existing 40 per cent discount for coastal vessels.