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Govt working on cruise tourism policy: Nitin Gadkari

LiveMint logoLiveMint 27-06-2017 Jyotika Sood

New Delhi: The government is working on a cruise tourism policy to increase the cruise liner traffic to India 10-fold to 700 vessels a year. The plan was spelt out on Tuesday by minister for road transport, highways and shipping Nitin Gadkari.

“Cruise tourism can be India’s economic growth engine and it has vast untapped potential,” Gadkari said at a workshop on an action plan for development of cruise tourism in India. “In a month, shipping ministry in collaboration with tourism ministry is going to bring India’s first cruise tourism policy.”

To start with, five ports—Mumbai, Goa, Mangalore, Chennai and Kochi—will be developed as cruise hubs.

The policy will aim at turning India into a hot spot of cruise tourism by addressing shortcomings that have impeded the sector’s growth.

Shortcomings include restrictions on movement of foreign liners. Cruise operators are also put off by taxes that are levied on vessels based on tonnage rather than the number of passengers on board. Besides, Indian ports and terminals are not perceived as being passenger-friendly.

The policy will aim at developing world-class port berths for cruise ships and simplifying security and immigration procedures for tourists. A cruise ship refurbishment industry will be developed in Goa and West Bengal to generate employment.

Gadkari said a joint group headed by the shipping secretary and the tourism secretary had already prepared a draft plan to promote cruise traffic. A final policy will be unveiled next month after it gets Cabinet approval, and an action plan will be in place in three months.

To be sure, some initiatives have already been taken to promote cruise tourism. These include a 30% rebate on all cruise vessel-related charges and a rise in the number of days a cruise ship can dock to three from one. Until February 2024, foreign flag vessels carrying passengers have been allowed to call at Indian ports without securing a licence from the director general of shipping.

India has a very small share of the world cruise tourism market, estimated at 23 million passengers in 2016. According to a study by consulting firms Bermello, Ajamil & Partners, EY and Finance for Cruise Destinations commissioned by the shipping ministry, some 120,000 Indians book a cruise each year. Statistics obtained from the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) indicate that a majority of India’s cruise tourists travel to Singapore.

“India has a strategic geographical advantage and I have always believed that we need to exploit this position to the fullest. Government initiating a cruise tourism policy will definitely be a game changer,” said Varun Chadha, chief operating officer at TIRUN, a cruise travel firm and exclusive India representative of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. “It will bring the sector into focus and get investment for building infrastructure across major port towns and also lead to huge employment.”

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