India records 300% rise in cruise tourism vi

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New Delhi, Sep 4 (UNI) India has recorded a whopping 310 per cent increase in cruise tourism visitors between 2002-2006.

Stating this, Union Tourism Secretary S Banerjee said cruise tourism was a relatively new but an emerging sector. With the Indian Government's recent approval of the policy on cruise shipping, the cruise sector's latent potential could now be tapped.

Speaking at the inaugural session at the conference on ''Initiative on Furthering Cruise Tourism In India'' here, he said India's cruise tourism potential was based on exotic and historic destinations, extensive coast lines, strong port positioning, and expanding domestic tourism sector. Its positioning in South East Asia would enable creation of cruise circuits that would include Singapore, Bangkok, Colombo and Dubai.

"It is a niche market and is primarily associated with great potential for stimulating economic growth and generating additional employment as borne out by the country's experience," he told the conference gathering organised by FICCI.

"As cruise tourism, when commercially packaged, includes all land destinations on the itinerary, apart from activities on the ship itself, the role of ports of call in the creation of the package becomes crucial, with the determining factors being investments in specific facilities and pricing. Both factors would need to be addressed for our regional share to acquire a higher global presence." Worldwide, tourism has emerged as a key player in development strategies. According to estimates, the cruise industry in the world in 2005, valued at 15.3 billion U S dollars, was expected to carry more than 17 million passengers by 2010, an increase of 70 per cent over 2000.

In 2000, cruise demand in the world was about 10 million trips with North America accounting for almost two-third of it, followed by the European market. India accounted for a small share of this demand.

A Crisil report, commissioned by the Tourism ministry for an overview of the sector in India, had emphasised that to benefit from its natural strengths, India needed to draw lessons from global precedents in the cruise sector and integrate it with lessons learnt over the past decade.

Other major recommendations included building cruise terminals, creating and positioning the product with the focus on capacity building and putting in place policies and institutions to support the sector.

Cruise tourism is a capital intensive industry and the strategic deployment of vessels is driven by the need to maximise yields. More than 50 per cent of the global cruise fleet was designated for European, North American and Caribbean cruising with Asia accounting for a relatively smaller market share of 7 per cent of the global fleet.

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