Cruise tourism to triple with infrastructure development

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New Delhi, Aug 31 (UNI) The country's cruise tourism industry could grow three-fold if the government increases its focus on developing physical infrastructure, streamlining immigration and custom checks processes as the traffic from Indian ports is expected to grow to six lakhs by 2010 from the current 1.8 lakhs.

The study, titled ''Developing Ports as Cruise Tourism Hubs in India'', said there is an increase in the number of cruise liners entering India. For 2007-2008, almost 54 cruise companies have sought permission to enter the Indian cruise circuit.

''Not only are the international players taking interest but also the domestic players are coming forward and setting up operations,'' the Study said.

Kochi-based Pioneer Underwater Tours Pvt Ltd had recently announced its plans to enter the Indian cruise market.

For developing and promoting cruise tourism in the country, the study suggests promoting and branding 'Cruise India' as 'An Experience of a Lifetime'.

''Developing port ambience, repositioning cruise tourism and participating in international cruise exhibitions are some other measures that can help develop India as cruise destination,'' the Study said.

It also called for extending cruise tours to nearby destinations, enhancing participation of private players and developing India a round-the-year cruise destination.

Consumer trends indicate that the number of Indians opting for international cruises is on the rise and prefer short cruises over longer voyages.

The Indian ports handled 85,000 international and one lakh domestic cruise tourists in 2006-07. The expenditure per passenger stood at Rs 2,782 for the international travellers and Rs 30,000 for the domestic tourists.

The Study recommends that the prime focus should be on developing the infrastructure at the Indian ports as well as ensuring good connectivity of the port, availability of basic amenities etc.

It points out that some of the key growth drivers likely to promote India as an attractive cruise destination include exotic tourist locales, strong port connectivity, government support and the overall Indian tourism industry growth.

Poor infrastructure of the ports, high cost of developing infrastructure, low return on investment from the cruise business and lack of intensive promotional activities prove to be roadblocks, it added.

The worldwide cruise tourism industry was valued at more than 19 billion dollars during 2004, with the number of passengers increasing by more than 8.4 per cent.

This number is expected to increase to 20 million passengers by 2012, the study said.

North America is the biggest source market for international cruise tourism, while the Caribbean region remains the most popular cruise destination in the world.

The cruise tourism industry contributes about three billion dollars every year to the Caribbean economy.

In 2005, India, Indonesia and Malaysia were the top three source markets for the Asia Pacific cruise market.

India's cruise throughput of about 90,000 was the highest, followed by Indonesia and Malaysia with 55,000 and 41,000 cruise throughput, respectively.

UNI SR SG NS1224

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