India’s cruise tourism overhaul will be an economic game-changer

India has acknowledged that its cruise tourism sector has plenty of untapped economic potential. Source: Shutterstock

INDIA is in the final stages of putting together a brand new cruise tourism policy that, once in place, aims to revolutionize the sector with a tenfold increase in cruise liner traffic.

The country’s tourism and shipping ministries reportedly reviewed a draft of the new policy last week, and provided feedback and suggestions to be incorporated into the final document. According to a report by Money Control, fine-tuning of the report prepared a panel of consultants comprising Bermello, Ajamil and Partners, EY and Finance for Cruise Destinations, will take another month or two.

India has acknowledged that its cruise tourism sector has plenty of untapped economic potential; with an impressive shoreline spanning over 7,500km, the sector is touted as a potential “game changer” for the country’s overall tourism industry.

During a June workshop titled “Action Plan for the Development of Cruise Tourism in India” in New Delhi, Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari noted that cruise tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of the leisure industry worldwide.

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A houseboat cruise on the backwaters of Kerala, India. Source: Shutterstock

He said the sector could be a major growth driver for the Indian economy as with reforms in place, it could generate hundreds of thousands of employment opportunities.

“The idea is to put India on the global cruise map, both for oceans and rivers, which is seen to create jobs and boost growth,” the minister reportedly said.

An official release on Gadkari’s comments quotes him saying that on a cruise ship, the average employee to passenger ratio is one to three or four.

“With India having the potential to cater to 700 cruise ships per year as against 158 handled this year, the cruise industry can generate more than 2.5 lakh jobs for 10 lakh cruise passengers, giving a big boost to the country’s economy,” the release says. One lakh is the equivalent of 100,000.

After the workshop, the ministry in July announced a raft of reforms to the sector, based on the recommendations of a global consultant appointed to draw up a “customer-friendly and hassle-free” logistics process for the cruise tourism industry.

Some of the key recommendations include building the necessary infrastructure, streamlining security procedures for passengers through the use of technology instead of manual processing, and providing an adequate number of access points for passengers.

According to Media India Group, infrastructure changes will include the development of ports in Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Goa and Mangalore to accommodate cruise vessels, along with hospitality and retail precincts to meet the projected demand. The government will also look into the development of a further 200 private, smaller ports to be used as passenger terminals.

The report said India currently holds only 0.5 percent of the global cruise ship tourism market. This is a drop from 2008, when its global share for passenger count stood at 2 percent. It is hoped that the reforms will eventually increase the number of cruise ships visiting the country from 70 per year, to 700.

SEE ALSO: Singapore ports welcome Indian cruise passengers

India has been mulling reforms to its cruise tourism sector for some time, with its Tourism Ministry releasing the ‘Cruise Tourism Potential and Strategy Study’ in 2005, detailing the rise of cruise tourism across the world, and highlighting India’s relative absence from the sector.

The study’s objective was to “develop an understanding of the features, characteristics, demands and trends related to the cruise tourism market so as to be able to develop appropriate strategies for developing the Indian Cruise Tourism market”, and addresses challenges such as ensuring the ongoing protection of the environment, as well as indicating an expansion to river cruises.

The recent arrival of cruise and resort company Genting Hong Kong’s luxury cruise to Mumbai is a sign of what may be to come for India’s cruise tourism market, as the country pushes to solidify its place in the region as an international cruise destination.

India currently competes with countries in the region such as Singapore, a regional cruise tourism hub that is also the most popular exit country for Indian passengers, with 100,000 embarking on cruises from the city state in 2016.

An estimated 23 million passengers booked cruises last year.